What I learned from working at a design firm for 8 weeks
Product Design Intern
6 min read
August 9, 2019
Preparing my campaign for president of Princeton undergrad involved a vast amount of graphics and social media content, as well as website creation. This got me very interested in the design process and creating digital experiences to inspire people. So, after exploring possible internship options, I decided that working at a product design and development firm would be the best fit for me. Upon further research, I came across Perpetual, a software design and development company based in New York City. This seemed like a great opportunity to apply my interests in the tech industry, as well as to gain more structured experience in UX and graphic design. I have been a Product Design and Marketing Intern at Perpetual over the summer.
When I joined the team, something that immediately stood out to me was the friendly company culture. Not only was there a tight-knit group culture, but I noticed how well everyone was able to work together and do their part to come together and deliver the final product. While also working in a fast-paced environment to meet client deadlines, the team would often still take the time to pause and catch up with each other over coffee or matcha breaks. This was a good way to unwind and to take a breather from the business of the work day, and to spend some time getting to know each other in a context outside of the office.
My typical day included several different tasks ranging from preparing marketing materials to attending client meetings and strategy sessions. Through the product management projects, I learned how to strategically manage timelines that are both realistic for the company, yet also support the existing team to be able to exceed the client’s expectations in delivery time. Additionally, I was exposed to various project management techniques, such as Agile and Kanban.
Working closely with my UX Design mentor, Joann, on the team allowed me to channel my creative side through several projects. These involved helping with ongoing projects, as well as designs where I had more flexibility, such as creating marketing materials from scratch.
Through the marketing aspect of the internship, I was able to learn valuable skills in writing content that is clear and concise, and how to use social media professionally. I was also able to push creative boundaries, not constrained with specific product requirements or specifications. Leading up to this, I didn’t have any formal experience working in either tech or design, so this initial exposure provided crucial insights into the industry.
In addition to these technical skills I also gained important soft skills such as close collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and project management. In this specific industry, close collaboration and teamwork are required to make the product come together-- everyone must do their own part of designing and developing, and additionally coordinate with others to make sure the product is successful. Every aspect of the project must be carefully planned and accounted for. Through this, I learned effective workflow and time management.
After this experience, I realized how different the corporate world is from the academic world. Going into my last year at Princeton, my previous work experiences have been mostly academic. I am now seeing the importance of taking ownership of the work you do in the real world, especially through such a hands-on role working closely with various departments of the company. While there are still deadlines to meet, they have a larger impact than getting marked down a few points on a paper. This gave me a new perspective on the work I do, both academic and non-academic.
My advice for students searching for internships is to research & reflect carefully about what you want to get out of your internship experience. While searching for internships, I would recommend not mass-applying to every position you see open, as well as not choosing one company over the other just because one might have a better brand name. And, most importantly, I would say to come in to any experience with an open mind & eager to learn more.
For my post-graduation plans I will look into more product & strategy roles, and potentially working as a full time UX designer. I am thankful for this experience and for the opportunity to learn from the Perpetual team. The culture, leadership, and patience of everyone here has played an important role in both my personal and professional growth. This internship has given me first-hand insight into how things work in the industry, with many perspectives to consider as I embark on my professional career after graduation.