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Unsure about software internship

  1. Jul 30, 2012 #1
    I have a chance to work for a very small software startup in San Francisco that develops mobile games. They're doing pretty well as a startup even they only have 7 employees (one of their apps has over 1,000,000+ downloads on the Android market and high ratings = 4.7)

    However, I'm also debating accepting an internship at Delta Airlines in Atlanta doing Java development. This internship is paid (about 2.5k a month, whereas the SF one is not), and involves working with an already highly established company since Delta is the world's biggest airlines.

    Working for the startup:

    -It's in silicon valley and that's where I want to establish my career as a software engineer
    -Would be working in a strong entrepreneurial environment/could possibly watch the company grow and have higher shares if I stick around

    -Unpaid/would also have to pay for an apartment to rent
    -Not sure if it's as good experience as working for Delta since it's only a startup
    -Could end up being a long daily commute to work

    What do you guys think about the pros of working for a software startup in Silicon Valley? Should I stick with the Delta internship?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2012 #2


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    Hey CyberShot.

    This is a pretty interesting situation and choice you have.

    Without thinking about the fact that you don't get paid with the startup, the most important question I think you should answer is whether you want to get into a startup environment or a non-startup environment.

    The startup environment would provide you with a really great experience IMO if you want to get a feel of what this is like and if you are interested in startups (particularly if you are thinking of your own or doing a joint venture with someone else in the future), then this is a great opportunity.

    The other reason why I am saying this is that the startup you are with is actually producing stuff so it's not like you are joining a venture where the idea is very vague and nothing has actually been produced, so with this taken into account, I think it really is a good opportunity to at the very least get exposure to this environment and see what things are like.

    But ultimately, the best thing about an experience like this will be for you to decide whether working for a larger, more highly organized place is more desirable or whether you like the atmosphere (and the uncertainty) that a startup would provide.

    I wouldn't if I were you, think about stock-options, loss of potential 2.5K at this moment because there is a much greater opportunity and that is to get a sample of the startup atmosphere with someone that currently is producing something real.

    The other reason why I'm suggesting this is because this is not a job offer but an internship and if it was a job offer, I wouldn't rush to give the same kind of advice as I am for an internship.

    If however you don't like the idea of startups altogether or if you think that the above doesn't apply, then maybe you could consider the other option.

    Good luck!
  4. Aug 2, 2012 #3
    Do you think committing to a startup internship will limit my options for working with more established companies like Google down the road?
  5. Aug 2, 2012 #4


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    To be honest, you'd have to ask them or get credible information on what these companies look for.

    The thing is that the startup climate and culture is a lot different to ones that are bigger and need to have a beuracratic (sp?) climate: it's just what happens when a business gets bigger and especially (and this is important to note) when a company goes public (as google has).

    Apart from technical knowledge and experience, the thing that you should research is the kind of culture and corporate protocols that someone like google would have.

    In a startup, there's only going to be say a dozen people and the way you will work with other people is going to be extremely different to a company that employes thousands of workers and this is the main point I am trying to emphasize.

    If you want to work for Google, you should try and find out the kinds of people they hire: I do know that they like PhD kinds in various areas (computer science, engineering, statistics etc), but you should get a real idea of what the work and the protocols are like before thinking about a decision like this: it's to save you and the people that are looking to hire time on both sides.

    One thing I will say is that for getting a job at a place like google, you would want to very good technically and probably have a good analytic mindset: check out the coding competitions that google runs (if they still run them) and look at the kinds of challenges that they put in these competitions, and see if you are still interested.

    But even amidst this, it would be handy to know why you want to work for google? Does the stuff that google does (pattern recognition, data mining, linguistic applications, search theory in terms of algorithms, UI, and so on) actually interest you?
  6. Aug 2, 2012 #5
    You can do what you want, but personally, I wouldn't even consider working for a company that was unwilling/unable to pay me. Rule one of business is "no cash"="no work"

    If you are not going to be paid, then you are better off starting your own company or volunteering in a hospital or doing some non-profit volunteering.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2012
  7. Aug 2, 2012 #6
    No. Any experience is good experience.

    Also if you are *really* lucky, then the startup you are working for might end up tomorrow's google or facebook.
  8. Aug 2, 2012 #7
    I would hazard a guess that an established company would have a very specific role or project for an internship. They may be little flexibility involved in this role, and thus less of an actual learning experience.

    The start up company may offer a less defined role, allowing you greater flexibility in your work. Should you wish, this could translate into a greater learning experience involving a lot more effort but a bigger payoff in skills acquired.

    Of course, you should really contact each company to see what they have in mind for the internship. Also, money is a defining factor since you may not be able to work for free.
  9. Aug 2, 2012 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    It is important that the startup have a bona fide internship program, that is consistent with US and California Law. This is not a trivial thing, and I would be very surprised if such a small company got it correct.
  10. Aug 2, 2012 #9


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    The situation could be the reverse. A big company may give you opportunities to see something of the whole range of their activities, not just what the project you are working on. Even if the company doesn't do that, you are unlikely to be the only intern there, so you can do your own networking to find out what the others are up to.

    On the other hand a 7-man company might just be looking for some cheap (i.e. free) labor, without having really thought this through. Aside from the legal issues that V50 mentioned, it would be worth checking to if you are their first intern - if so, they may be on as much of a learning curve as you.
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