succeeding as a remote intern at shopify (and what makes shopify so great)

I didn’t originally plan on working this winter; I was in the middle of my internship at Square last fall when I received my offer for Shopify’s winter 2020 internship. I was supposed to go back to school full time, but after going through the interview process and seeing the project I was placed on, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

The interview process was quick, the recruiters were highly responsive to my emails, and they found the perfect team for my interests and goals. They were also extremely flexible around my needs as a student, and were open to me taking a couple of courses while I was working full time. Two weeks after coming home from San Francisco, I started as a backend developer intern at Shopify!

Once I started, though, I was surprised. I expected a lot of technical growth, as that was the point of the internship after-all, and I definitely got that. What I didn’t expect was the amount of personal growth I got — since starting at Shopify, I’m more driven, outgoing, and confident. Somehow Shopify managed to recruit some of the most inviting and talented people I’ve ever met. A sense of community here is very big, and despite how large Shopify is, it still somehow feels cozy.

The intern program itself is especially strong. The recruiters worked hard all term to organize events for all of us to get together, such as lunches, workshops, and (most notably) intern summit.

Winter 2020 Shopify Interns and Recruiters at Intern Retreat! I’m up front with the peace signs ✌️

Then, about two months into my internship, the office was nuked and we all had to start working from home.

so how did going remote work?

At first, going remote didn’t seem too bad. We didn’t expect to be remote for too long, so we (the interns) thought we’d see each other again soon and we’d be back to our regular routine in no time. Plus, it was nice to not wake up super early and hopefully catch the bus that never comes on time.

Then, very quickly, it sucked.

I was staying up way too late, so I was waking up super late. I was much less productive. I wasn’t eating well (I definitely took free lunch for granted). The interns stopped talking to each other as much. Overall, all the momentum I’d built up over the term till this point stopped, and I wasn’t having as big of an impact as I wanted to.

it didn’t stay shit for too long though.

Obviously the key to remote work is building a good routine. But, I wanted to build a good routine the laziest way possible.

how do you stay productive?

It’s easy to lose track of your sleep schedule, and for me that meant I was sleeping much later than when I was still in the office. I’ve found letting myself get all the sleep I needed helped me stay focused and energized throughout the day, even if that meant I was sleeping in. Don’t force yourself to wake up super early if you’re not getting enough sleep — health comes first!

The biggest barrier to my productivity was distractions: working on personal tasks, chores at home, or not working at all. In order to stay productive, I needed designated periods of time when all I was allowed to think about were the tasks I’ve been assigned. An app which helped me a lot in doing this was Focus Keeper. When the timer was on, all I was allowed to think about was work. Having designated ‘distraction times’ let me put off those distractions until I was allowed to think about them.

how do you stay connected?

Being disconnected from other interns didn’t last too long either. Our recruiters quickly started scheduling game nights again, and set up Donut, a slack app which connects you with another random intern every week. Shopify as a whole is very welcoming, so it’s not hard to reach out to anyone and start a conversation. There are lots of fun channels to find too — everyone in the #animal-crossing channel have been going to each others’ islands since the game dropped.

My favourite part about Shopify is how big the internship program is. As easy as it is to keep to yourself while you’re at home, it’s so important to take advantage of all the cool people you can meet through Shopify. You never know what you can learn from who, so stay open to those opportunities to connect.

how do you interact with and get help from your team?

The dynamic between me and my team changed quickly too. I made sure to schedule all my meetings on my calendar and blocked out hours for grind time so my teammates knew what I was doing.

Meetings and asking questions over slack didn’t change as much, and continued to be productive. But, it’s easier to feel like you’re asking too many questions when you’re not pairing face-to-face. My lead and mentor have been careful since the start of my internship to help me get unblocked without completely giving out how to fix an issue — asking questions often is a good thing, and remember your mentor has the best interest for you and your professional development.

how can you show you’re still getting a lot done?

Take advantage of regular one-on-ones with your lead and mentor, or schedule them if you feel like you need one! Be transparent about what’s been going well and what’s been slowing you down, and talk yourself up when you’ve completed work you’re proud of.

What do you want out of this internship? a return offer? or contributing a very complex task? The goals you’ve set for the internship are up to you, so figure out what you’re working for and remind yourself of this when you can’t find motivation to work.

now i have another four months to go (plus hopefully more).

Ultimately, finding what works for you takes time, but my advice is: don’t force yourself to do the most just because you think that’ll make you more productive. Find a natural pattern for your day which you don’t have to force. If it’s easy, it will be maintainable, and if it’s maintainable, you won’t be stressed to keep it up.

I’ll still be sticking around Shopify this summer, but with all the support I’ve gotten over this term, I know I want to stick around longer.

Feel free to reach out to me in LinkedIn if you want to learn more about my experience at Shopify!

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