Twice a year, Y-Combinator — the world’s best startup accelerator — gives about 200 new startups $150k to move their operations to the San Francisco Bay Area. Why? To try and build the next billion-dollar company. Every so often, the stars align and household (or “officehold”) names are born like AirBnB (Winter ‘09), Dropbox (Summer ‘07), and Stripe (Summer ‘10).
Between the finite number of companies accepted into the program each batch and the potential of one of them to be the world’s next unicorn, interning at a Y-Combinator startup can be equal parts challenging, rewarding, and life-changing. I’m an “Everything” Intern at Flo Recruit (Summer ’19), and we build recruiting event management software that helps companies keep track of their in-person interactions with candidates.
Here is an overview of what an average day looks like for an “Everything” Intern at a fast-growing, Y-Combinator startup.
7:30am: My alarm goes off, and I check my email to see if any of our east coast clients have messaged me with questions about our product and services. If things seem light enough to handle at nine, I get ready for my morning jog to clear my mind before a full workday.
8:30am: I try to make it back to my apartment by 8:30 to have enough time to recheck my email. I also peak at any new Slack messages on the way to our “Bay Area office”, which is coincidentally the living room of the apartment I share with the Co-Founders.
9:00am: I arrive at “the office” and by now, Katherine, Flo Recruit’s CEO and my boss, is usually already in her first or second meeting of the day. I send my goals for the day in Slack along with the rest of the team and get started.
As “Everything” Intern, my responsibilities cover a wide range of technical and non-technical areas. I always start the day with sales by identifying and reaching out to potential companies and decision-makers within their organization to set up demos of our software.
10:30am: Working at a startup of any size also means being a part-time firefighter. By now, I have usually been Slacked or visited by a team member (and sometimes even Katherine) to help resolve a problem within the company or for a client. Typically, these are small brush fires like a client needing me to answer detailed questions about our product functionality. However, every so often we’ll have a massive blaze that turns into a 3-hour long sprint of working on a specific feature to be ready for a demo that the Katherine is currently en route towards.
12:00pm: By now, I am ready for lunch, which means going over to the company kitchen and making a sandwich or a microwave meal. If I make it just right, my ham and Havarti sandwich is just as good as the meals the 5-star chefs at Facebook and Google whip up throughout the day.
From what I’ve heard and observed, working through lunch is the norm for most startup teams. I usually spend this time managing our social media presence with one hand while eating with the other. This often includes interacting with clients on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn (Follow us @FloRecruit, pretty please!) and building Flo Recruit’s presence and brand.
12:30pm: Once I finish lunch, I start working on content production. Usually, I spend this time designing new social media graphics, thinking about future social media and branding campaigns, or writing blog posts like this one.
2:00pm: Every Monday and Friday, we have company-wide standups where everyone shares what their plans are for the week or what they have completed, respectively. This is usually an excellent opportunity to hear about what everyone is working on and see which cool projects I can be a part of when people need an extra hand.
3:00pm: The last part of my day focuses on the last of my three responsibilities as “Everything” Intern, product management. This is, by far, my favorite aspect of my job as it allows me to show my creativity while testing my critical thinking skills.
One of Flo Recruit’s main competitive advantages is how easy to use our product is (seriously, it is the entirety of the testimonials section of our website!). This means that thinking and executing on the UI/UX aspects of our product is a critical job and the fact that I get a part in that as an intern is equally remarkable and rare.
Since Flo Recruit is a startup, the role of Product Manager is more all-encompassing than what you’d usually see at a Google or Spotify. I spend time evaluating customer feedback, planning the feature, talking with our engineering team (A.K.A our Co-Founder and CTO, Atreya) to create a timeline, and working with our UI team to design mockups in Figma. Once the feature is pushed live to our platform, I get to spend my evenings doing the most stereotypical intern task of all… running quality assurance.
7:00pm: On a good day, I can finish all of my assignments by seven, and I update the team via Slack.
However, a lot of the fun as a Y-Combinator startup intern happens after work hours. After a long week of work, many of the founders in the batch will get together for intimate parties and crack open a few… root beers. In all of my experiences, they have been extremely welcoming to interns, so it is an excellent opportunity to meet some really cool people. Who knows, you could be potentially rubbing shoulders with the next Brian Chesky or Kevin Hale.
9:00pm: On nights when we don’t go out, and the work backload isn’t too heavy, we’ll have #FloFamily company dinners. I have been known to throw down in the kitchen, so sometimes I’ll really embrace the “Everything” in “Everything” Intern and become the company chef for the night.
Final Thoughts: Outside of the day-to-day occurrences, interning at a Y-Combinator startup comes with some awesome perks like being able to attend exclusive dinners and roundtables with Y-Combinator Partners and prominent founders from around the world. Furthermore, the network of current and future founders that you build is practically unrivaled. In the few weeks that I have had interning at Flo Recruit, I have learned so much about what it takes to run and grow a startup and I am now equipped with the skills and connections to build something people love.
Flo Recruit is giving away $500 in Amazon gift cards to a few standout summer interns to help you get ready for this new school year. If you interned at any company this summer, send this short form to your direct manager to have them recommend you for Flo Recruit’s Standout Intern Spotlight or if you are a manager reading this post, feel free to nominate a standout intern on your own. A few lucky students will be featured in Flo Recruit’s next blog and receive Amazon gift cards.