This summer I interned as a software engineering intern at Prelim, a tech startup based out of Seattle. Throughout this internship I learned a vast amount and gained many insights into not just software development in industry, but also about the daily challenges of running a startup.
To rewind a bit, I discovered Prelim through a fair organized by the M&T staff as part of the M&T Summer Impact Internship Award Program. I had been seeking internship opportunities, but as COVID-19 began to impact the US economy, many companies either cancelled existing internship programs or chose not to hire interns. I struggled to find compelling employment opportunities. Luckily, the Impact Internship Program provided a platform to engage with multiple Y-Combinator companies across different industries. I followed up and sent my resumes to a handful of the companies and was fortunate to be offered an interview with a few companies including Prelim.
I interviewed twice with who would be my future boss and did not think I did well in either of the interviews. However, this only made me more excited about the opportunity to work at Prelim once they extended an offer. From the start of my internship search, I delineated two important goals. I wanted to learn as much as possible and be challenged enough to stretch myself. It became apparent that Prelim would provide the best opportunity to achieve this goal.
Although I have never met any of my five teammates (which was the entire startup) in person, I had a fantastic time in this remote internship. I had an enjoyable mix of two types of tasks. I had small tasks that made me really understand the dynamism and “putting out fires” experience of working at a startup. I frequently had tasks where a customer requested a feature, it was assigned to me, got reviewed, and was pushed into production–all within the span of a week. This gave the internship a flavor of excitement and intensity.
Moreover, I worked on two major features that were a bit more long-term and similar to the experience a software engineering intern might have at a bigger tech company. One of them was a templates feature that supported both Prelim and our customers. Since Prelim aims to make banking technology simple and accessible, we strived to make interaction with our technology seamless. The feature I worked on enabled us to create forms quickly (from a template) especially when demoing the platform to banks. Additionally, current customers could create frequently used forms from a template in seconds. This was one of the tasks I learned the most from as I worked up and down the stack from dealing with the storage of the templates in the database to working on how template previews would be displayed.
My boss once explained to me that to truly succeed long-term, either in software engineering or otherwise, you need to be learning consistently, and take on the risk of failure for worthy goals. In this, I feel I am on the right path. My biggest takeaway from this experience is that I have to keep expanding my knowledge and skill set. Given the time pressure or just plain difficulty of the tasks I had, I developed a habit of analyzing the information gained per time spent. Since my goal was usually to best solve the problem I had in a reasonable time, it wasn’t possible to spend as long as I may need to fully learn a concept. I learned to make judgement calls about what I specifically wanted to learn and what was the best and fastest way to gain that knowledge.
Overall, it was a meaningful, fun, and learning-filled experience. These lessons I learned and the fantastic experience I had, was possible through the M&T Summer Impact Internship Award. I am grateful to the organizers for being proactive and sourcing the opportunities they did.
Tomiwa Akinyele (M&T ’23) is from Lagos, Nigeria and is pursuing a BSE in Computer Science and an Undeclared BS in Economics from Wharton.