The phrase “we take our jobs seriously, but not ourselves” describes Smith Micro’s Productivity and Graphics team fairly well. I should’ve known I was applying to an intern’s paradise when reading the internship description. The first point listed in the described responsibilities was “0% coffee making / boredom, 100% enthusiasm, creativity, solution orientation, and realization of ideas.” When looking for more information on the Productivity and Graphics team, I stumbled upon this blog post about their awesome work environment. Even my interview with Tori Porter, Smith Micro's Director of Online Marketing, E-Commerce & Social Media, was relaxed.
I can’t express enough how much I love this internship. As I tried to think about what I wanted to say in this blog, I realized not once have I ever woke up and thought, “I don’t want to go to work today.” I’ve replayed that sentence many, many times over in the past. Sure, I’d love to sleep in an extra hour or two most mornings but I have never actually groaned about the thought of coming to work at Smith Micro. It's a great help that the Manga Studio, Poser, Anime Studio, MotionArtist, ScatterShow, StuffIt, and Sock Puppets users are so friendly. They express their love for our products so freely you can't help but appreciate them all. Being able to share their incredible illustrations, animations and other creations with our software is very rewarding.
Everyone on the Productivity and Graphics’ team is so easy-going and works well with each other. Meetings cover what needs to be discussed without the dry, excruciatingly serious atmosphere I pictured company meetings could entail. All the different personalities make collaborations pretty interesting, actually. Having access to all meetings and calls has given me a better understanding of company practices, more than I would have experienced interning anywhere else. When I asked Steve Yatson, VP of Operations for Productivity and Graphics, how the internship program benefits Smith Micro he shared, “It's a great program. We regularly get a fresh perspective on our daily comings and goings, on our products, and on our people. Our products and our people benefit tremendously from our interns offering their ideas and opinions.” Similarly, Ulrich Klumpp, Senior Director of Engineering and mentor for Software Engineer Intern Ryan Cori, shared with me, “Everyone’s been around for so long that we use a lot of jargon. Although working together as such a tight team is beneficial, it can be risky because you get used to running in a certain way. Having an intern is valuable because it provides a chance to recalibrate and ask ourselves if times have changed.”
Ulrich, who began as an intern, explained to me that he picks right-sized tasks for his interns that will at some point ship in some shape or form. “It’s a mutually beneficial task you can show on a resume. ‘Look what I did.’ It’s pretty cool and very valuable.” There are a lot of important projects that can’t happen because of time crunches and other projects taking priority. With an intern, the goal is experienced gain. There are loose deadlines and it’s not detrimental if it is not completed. Ryan Cori shared his side of the experience, “The web design project was just beginning when I first started interning here at Smith Micro. I had no experience in web design or starting any real-life project. The teams here are so small that when I got on the team for this, I was really the only one writing any code for it. I could get some help from my supervisors and they gave me specific requirements, but I managed how I went about my duties. Along with learning web design I am getting some experience managing and problem solving in the real world. It’s been a sometimes daunting, but invaluable experience.”
Although I was told my work would be pretty independent, I didn’t expect to be as in control of our social media as I am. Being able to work so freely makes me forget I’m an intern. This experience had put out of my mind the fact that I haven’t finished college yet. I feel like that chapter of my life is already behind me and I’ve become a member of “the real world.” Ryan Cori and I are the only interns here at the moment. He pointed out, “Most of the time a software intern works as an assistant on a pre-existing team that does one small part of a larger product. You're kind of a small fish in a big pond. Being at Smith Micro I got something totally different.”
Steve added, “The goal of the program is to say goodbye to an individual who's grown personally and professionally, and send them on to the next chapter of their lives with a greater amount of confidence, experience, and more tools for success. Mentoring is probably the best benefit. There's a sense of satisfaction when you share your skills and experience to give someone a nudge down the career path. We were all there once, and someone helped each one of us in some way.” I was incredibly thankful when Tori took the time to go over my resume and LinkedIn profile with me. She has been an amazing mentor throughout my internship and the advice I’ve received from her has given me a great advantage.
Logan Roberts, Marketing and E-Commerce Specialist, interned here before being offered a permanent position. Her experience mirrored Ryan’s and mine. “Going from an intern to a full time employee was not that much of a transition because as an intern I had my own projects that I was solely responsible for and there wasn’t someone holding my hand along the way which made the transition less abrupt and probably easier. Certainly going into this internship last year I wasn’t expecting to have the level of responsibility that I did, but it was great and really made me feel as if I was contributing to the team.”
Jordan Bentley, Associate Product Manager, started at Smith Micro a year ago as Product Management Intern. “As soon as I got an opportunity to build out a product plan, or research potential features and as I spent more and more time developing product ideas, collaborating with teams, and using my technical knowledge to drive innovative thinking, I knew that I was in the right place. It was precisely this position, and P&G’s need for assistance in product management, that turned a one-sided search for my first 'real' job into the feeling that this was where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there.”
Logan added, “I don’t think it’s ‘normal’ in most internships to have the level of responsibility and trust that we have here at SMSI pretty much right out of the gate, I think for the right people it really works, if you’re highly organized and motivated then it’s great opportunity to learn A LOT in a small amount of time!” It’s very impressive that Jordan is Product Manager for MotionArtist, ScatterShow, and Sock Puppets immediately after graduation. “What I didn’t realize at first, and have come to realize now, is that most the other people who work here have had similar experiences. Not exactly like mine, but they are here because their lives and callings compel them to be, and we are all interconnected in that, in a way that companies with transient employees simply could not realize,” shared Jordan.
For this internship to count as university credit, I share my experience with other interns through discussion questions. There are a few that are experiencing more of the "excruciatingly serious" that I had imagined. When I answer discussion questions most of the responses I get are, “you are so lucky!” and I know that I am. Ulrich pointed out, “Ultimately it’s about building a relationship with people and with educational organizations. You gain relevant experience that you can’t obtain in an academic environment.” This has been an incredible experience that has benefited me in more ways than I had expected. The knowledge I have gained from this internship has helped mold me into someone who can very confidently apply to jobs after graduation. I am extremely thankful to the entire Productivity and Graphics team for making my experience so memorable. I cannot speak Smith Micro's praises enough.