Work is Not Everything

Guest Blog by ELP Student Anant Akash – Computer Science – College of Engineering – Class of 2018

First things first, who am I. My name is Anant and I am student at the University of Michigan. This summer, I am embarking on what is my fourth internship and really the first out in Silicon Valley. This blog post is not about how to get a job at a startup. Or how to be optimal at work so that you get that sweet return offer. Or how to network better. That is your mission and there is this thing called the Internet that can help you with that. This blog offers a different perspective on a Silicon Valley internship, my perspective on how my life has been, and how I have chosen to spend my summer.

When I moved out here for internship, I knew one person in Silicon Valley who worked at the company I worked for. And I can say that I was scared, alone, and helpless … but I won’t. What I will say is that coming out here from Michigan gave me a fresh start. A clean slate on which I could write anything I wanted to. I had had a pretty terrible year in school and this was the opportunity to reinvent myself. And I did.

I started scouring Eventbrite, meetups.com, Facebook, companies’ events pages, and all manners of resources online. My biggest resource was a Bay Area intern Slack group, which has become the greatest thing in my life. All my closest friends out here are, from ones I met through the group and the new people I meet through it every day. I very much would like to thank Stewart Butterfield for creating Slack and Shelley Vohr for starting it in the first place. I hope to keep it going next summer and making it even better for future generations of interns.

Through my 6 weeks out here, I have met NFL players to VCs to CEOs to musicians and artists and a dizzying array of interns who are so smart and driven, it would make anyone feel small. The trick is to let go of the feeling of self importance. I am most likely not the smartest person in the room nor the most connected. What I can be is the most open person in the room. Be willing to talk to anyone, be it the Lyft driver, or the security guard, or the events manager at Uber HQ. Frequently when I go to any meetups, I just go and talk to the person no one else is talking to. You would be surprised how many great people I have met that way.

This life is not for everyone though. I am at work at 8 am, out at 5 pm, then in the city by 5:30 pm and usually attending events or meetings up till 10:30 pm, finally reaching home past midnight, almost everyday of the week. Sometimes, I come in late to work and leave early and have to hear it from my boss. I am living paycheck to paycheck and am making way less money than I did last summer. But I do it not to make connections or becoming a networking master, I do it because I like doing it. It is the same philosophy as when starting a company. If you are not passionate about going out and meeting people and have to force yourself to do it, you will not be able to stick with it. I used to be a very introverted person and it has taken a lot of effort for me to enter any venue and go straight up and introduce myself to someone.

What this has led to is that now I am a resource to others who also attend intern-focused events. If anyone is looking to do something after work, I am usually ready with a list of companies/meetups where something is going on.

Most interns I know spend most of their time at work. They work anywhere from 9-11 hours a day, hoping to impress their boss. I know, because I used to be that person. I would work and work, not leaving the office for lunch and just going home and collapsing on my bed. But this summer, I decided not to do that. I decided to do two things: 1. go out and 2. meet strangers. Simple as that.

Work is not everything. Trust that people are inherently nice and be open to meeting new people.