Ask Questions: An Intern’s Guide to Success
This post is by Cody Clark, a Technical Writing Documentation Intern at Informatica Corporation’s HQ in Redwood City. He is a rising senior at Cedarville University where he studies Professional Writing and Information Design. When he’s not writing for Informatica you can find him reading outside or scouring San Francisco’s streets to find the musician responsible for the distant music.
I pulled down on the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. I was locked out. My housemate was out of town for Memorial Day Weekend, and I was barefoot, keyless, walletless, and phoneless. Armed only with A Clash of Kings, I was stranded in the back yard on my first day in Redwood City.
My first day at Informatica didn’t feel much different. In spite of everything I thought I knew, I felt like I was still trying to unlock a door with a paperback book (figuratively, this time).
While it took a fire truck, complete with flashing lights, and three firefighters to help me back inside my house, finding help at Informatica is much easier and, thankfully, a lot less dramatic!
Early on, I almost got into the habit of starting all of conversations with, “This is probably a stupid question…” but my mentor quickly stopped that. “This is your first time using these tools. There is no stupid question.” My mentor was right; there is a definitive line between being stupid and being unfamiliar. “If you don’t ask questions, how will you learn?”
Since then, I’ve asked my fair share of questions and have learned about Informatica and its products, Hadoop and its distributions, our publishing tools and procedures, and so much more. Tutorials became basic tasks; basic tasks became change requests; and change requests became projects. The learning curve is steep, but it’s also fast. Fast enough that a couple of my articles are already live on the Knowledge Base!
Although I feel like I’ve already learned a lot, I know that I’ve just barely scratched the surface. My target audience consists of system administrators and Informatica users, many of whom have certifications and years of experience I won’t achieve for decades. I have to learn more if I want to write anything that will add value to their experience, and I have less than twelve weeks to do so.
Luckily, at Informatica, I’m surrounded by people who genuinely want to help me learn. My mentor, manager, and coworkers are actually happy to answer my every question. From writing in DITA to reusing content to versioning publications to tailoring resumes, no question is too basic. What I love most is that my coworkers also teach me about life outside of work. They explained the pros and cons of grad school and shared the best questions to ask a potential employer, but they’ve also taught me what to feed carnivorous plants, where to find the best windsurfing, and who makes the best hard licorice.
My coworkers have as varied backgrounds (programming to psychology to linguistics) as they have interests (gardening to sailing to the Giants). Not only are they passionate about both work and hobbies, but they are also ready to share. I can’t imagine a better work environment. I may be just a few weeks into my internship at Informatica, but I’m sure of two things: I have too much left to learn about everything to stop asking questions, and I will never put my keys down again.