Not all internships are created equal, especially in tech. To save you time sifting through thousands of possibilities, we crowdsourced Figma users on Twitter for their most rewarding UI/UX internship experiences. The diverse results impressed us. More than a few Silicon Valley heavyweights made the cut, such as Facebook and Palantir, but several on the list came from unexpected places — like Canada’s e-commerce giant Shopify and Nigeria’s remote paid internship Hotels.ng.
So, what attributes made these internships so memorable? Some Figma users named the catered lunches (and dinners and breakfasts and snack wall), others the generous compensation. But most people who responded on Twitter cared far more about the meat and bones of an internship — whether a company helped them practice the craft, run real user tests, and learn from their mistakes with the guidance of more seasoned professionals.
For example, a few designers loved Shopify’s focus on mentorship for the interns. The company assigns a staff member to each and every design newbie, ensuring no one falls through the cracks. Spotify does the same, with a designated mentor/manager advising throughout the entire program.
At Figma, the collaborative design platform, we want to make design accessible for anyone to learn. That’s why we are and forever will be (pinky-promise!) completely free for students.
Racking up quality internships is key while cruising along on student loans. During this nascent phase of your design career, here are a few internship programs worthy — and deserving — of your undivided attention, even if the company foosball table calls.
Click on each heading for more information pertinent to the company’s program. Happy internship hunting!
Shopify places interns in cross-department teams so they’ll learn how to effectively communicate and collaborate with all team members from conception to execution. Design interns work on deployable projects, such as Timeline, and a staggering 80% of interns either return to Shopify or go full-time.
Out of the 21 responses we received, 14 were about Hotels.ng, Nigeria’s leading hotel booking site. By partnering with the Akwa Ibom State government, they’ve instituted a remote paid internship for local residents to learn UI/UX design. It works like this: Anyone can apply, but interns are cut from the program if they don’t successfully complete tasks. The interns who last the full three-months are often snatched up for full-time positions either by Hotels.ng or other local businesses.
We’d be remiss not to include Facebook. Here interns receive an astonishingly high monthly stipend, reportedly $5,600 per month on average, and are treated with the same respect and responsibility as a full-time employee. A former FB intern told Business Insider that the social media giant is like a “college campus on steroids.”
At Spotify, you’re not just another employee — you’re dubbed a band member. The ten-week long internship with the Goliath of music streaming services places you in tight-knit squads with the constraints of two-week long sprints.
Yuki Asakura’s Medium post on what it’s like to be a product design intern at Spotify confirms they’re “design-centric” and “visual craft is a prerequisite.” And one Glassdoor review bemoaned they were “gaining weight from all the free food.”
Futureforce, Salesforce’s cutely named internship program, is where you’re sure to work on meaningful projects, according to former Salesforce intern Bailey Brauneker. Social events outside of work connect interns with executives, as well as the occasional baseball game. Each intern receives up to seven days of VTO (Volunteer Time Off) and one anonymous reviewer on Glassdoor said, “it’s a really good company to learn design systems.”
Uberites swim in full health benefits, unlimited vacation days, Uber credits and an intense yet rewarding work culture.
Aaron Z. Lewis on being a product design intern at Uber: “I was consistently surprised by how much access I had to the higher-ups at Uber. But the even crazier thing was that they listened to what I, a 20-year-old intern, had to say.”
Dubbed the tempestuous sounding “Maelstrom,” IBM’s design internship program in Austin leads about 15 young designers along four unique tracks: design research, visual design, UX design and front-end dev.
Maelstrom’s program lead, Devin O’Bryan, swears its success stems from an emphasis on emotional intelligence.
Glassdoor crowned Airbnb as the #1 company to work at in 2016, no easy feat for a company only a hair over a decade old. The emphasis on design is everywhere, from their gorgeous SF office to the two co-founders who originally hail as designers themselves.
Known for being progressive, innovative and close-knit, Airbnb appropriately offers its interns travel credits. One Glassdoor reviewer raved, “Airbnb spoils you will all of its perks, making it difficult to work anywhere else after!”
At Square, interns have wiggle room to explore a wide-range of problems dependent on their changing interests. The company is also known for its work in leveling off the gender disparity still so prevalent in tech.
Louie Mantia remarked on Quora that his experience at Square “was more than just being a UI designer, it was being an artist at times.”
Palantir Palantir, the private company working on counter-terrorism with the federal government via big data analysis, lets product design interns focus on problem-solving rather than on “reinvent[ing] the button stylesheet,” according to former Palantir intern Hayden Bleasel. Instead, their open-source style guide Blueprint gives designers more time to, as Bleasel puts it, “expose financial fraud, eliminate slavery, coordinate disaster relief or discover new medicines. It’s unreal.”
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