From Intern to CTO – An interview with 10gen’s Eliot Horowitz

April 17, 2013 in 10gen, Coding, Community Internship, Guest Post, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, MongoDB, Networking, Pictures, Slideshow, Technology

It’s one of the many reasons I love the working culture at 10gen; where else would you find the CTO of the company happily sitting down to chat to the intern?

Eliot Horowitz, co-founder and CTO of 10gen, knows all too well the perks and pitfalls of intern life. Though now head of a 75-person engineering team, Eliot began his professional life when he was 19 years old, when he undertook a summer internship with DoubleClick, a company co-founded by Dwight Merriman, 10gen’s Chairman and fellow co-founder.

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Before he jetted back to New York, I had the chance to ask Eliot about his time as an intern, and to enquire about any advice he would offer prospective and current interns of today:

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IOAI.com In Print – P-oint Magazine

March 28, 2013 in Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, London Living, Networking, Personal, Pictures, Uncategorized

IOAI.com in P-oint Magazine

IOAI.com in P-oint Magazine

 

Insightofanintern.com has officially made it into ‘the real world’, having had an article printed in P-oint Magazine.

Welcome To Miami – 10gen All Company Meeting

March 8, 2013 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, Conferences, Intern Guide, Intern Training, MongoDB, Networking, Personal, Pictures

An Intern Goes Snorkelling

Just a over a  month ago I was catching my flight back to rainy London after a week in Miami. The 10gen All Company Meeting, and the mixture of work, sunshine, sea, sand and new friends afforded me one of the most enjoyable and eye opening experiences of my life. 

The concept behind an all-company meeting, especially for a growing company like 10gen which boasts an ever-increasing global presence, is to bring together all staff in one place for an opportunity to share new initiatives, company victories, upcoming challenges,  highlight employee accomplishments which reinforce the company’s values and culture and, vitally, unite the team around a common sense of purpose.

As an intern, the meeting allowed me to understand my placement company in more depth and to finally put faces to the names of those I interact with on a daily basis via email. It was great to be able to talk at length with members of the team in different departments, and to find out exactly what their jobs entailed – I was overawed by the enthusiasm and dedication I witnessed from all areas of the company. It forced me to think long and hard about where I’d like to be in 5 years time, and how I could use my degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Bath to forge a career path about which I would feel just as passionate and empowered by my work as those I met in Miami.

Of course, there was a huge amount of silly fun to be had too. The annual team building challenge did not disappoint, as we were tasked with building Lego sumo robots. Really.

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I was in a great team (though rather light on the engineers) whose robot, named LegoLass, came in at a nifty second place. Our robot’s special move won it particular support from the crowd, and earned it the nickname ‘Humper the HR Violation’ – I’ll leave that to your imaginations.

There’s not much more I can write without potentially violating company privacy policies, so I’ll leave you with some photos from my time in Miami.

A Job of Many Hats – Interning for a Startup

February 13, 2013 in 10gen, Afterhours, Community Internship, Community Marketing, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, Introduction, London Living, MongoDB, Networking, Slideshow, Social Media, Technology

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Deciding to pursue a position within a start-up can be a nerve-wracking choice. Before you accept an offer, examine the positives and negatives of startup employment. With these issues in mind, you can make a sound decision – oh, and be ready to spend a lot of your time explaining to relatives/friends/strangers just who exactly your company is, and what you do. Repeatedly.

No Job Description

Fond of having a structured role with set tasks and responsibilities? Then working for a start up probably isn’t for you.

If, like me, you are walking into an entirely new role, then chances are you will have the opportunity to carve your own position and influence the direction of your internship – you really do receive a great deal of autonomy. Great for those who flourish in a more haphazard environment, but not so good for those who look to organisation and structure to guide their working day.

Learn By Doing

Unlike larger companies, where  you may have to endure hours of official training, in the start-up world it’s ‘sink or swim’. I absolutely love that from the moment you walk in through the doors, you’re treated like an integral member of the team and are expected to roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty.

In a start-up, everyone must pull their weight for the company to succeed, and as an intern you will be no exception to this rule.

low-pay-packetLow or No Salary

Young companies are generally unable to offer the same kind of financial package that a large company can, and you’ll tend to work harder and get paid less while at a startup compared to your comparable role within a larger company. Of course, this isn’t always the case – many start ups offer a competitive internship wage, and many larger companies neglect to pay their interns at all.

Many Hats

It seems the ominous phrase “other duties as required” becomes the norm, and you may find yourself performing duties that are not even close to your expected responsibilities  – for example, I have just taken over the role of Office Manager after coming onboard as a Community & Marketing intern. It’s all hands on deck, and thus startups offer fantastic opportunities to wear multiple hats and really get to know what it’s like to run an organization.

Passionate People

There is a certain energy and determination present in the start-up environment unlike anywhere else I’ve worked. Startups are almost invariably made up of passionate, excited people who are working there because they truly want to be working there, and it’s something special to be a part of that.

Flexible Schedule

Regular office hours? What’re they? “Nine to five” is a fiction at most startups. This is really a ‘glass half full/empty’ situation, because although you may find yourself still sat in the office at 10pm, you are equally as likely to enjoy the prospect of a lie-in on days when you just need that bit extra. Holiday also works on a far less formal, more flexible basis.

Working for a start up also means you’ll probably have the opportunity to attend a plethora of events – there’s not many people to go around, so even as an intern you will be counted as a crucial part of the team.

Out Of Business Riskclosed-out-of-business

Time for a reality check; an overwhelming number of start-ups will not survive past the first year. Obviously this is a substantial risk, but one which can pay off far beyond what you might expect, but can also leave you updating your CV and trawling the internet for vacancies within a breathtakingly short time.

Wealth Of Experience but Less Specialisation

Though you may not be pulling in the big bucks yet, working at a start up is valuable in another way; your hands-on, multi-functional experience will be a real asset for your long-term professional growth.

However, one thing I’ve certainly found is that you may experience some frustration when it comes to honing specific skills – when you’re doing a billion and one different things, it’s difficult to become the marketing/sales/engineering/consulting/etc guru you expected.

Friends, not Colleagues

The nature of a startup means you will continually be meeting new people and building relationships – and you’ll grow to see many of your colleagues as friends.

Feeling Valued

It can be frustrating being a little fish in a big pond, and start up culture, generally, removes many of the hierarchical barriers experienced in larger companies. For example, when the CEO of 10gen came over from California, he ensured that he and I had an in-depth one-to-one; probably a very unlikely situation in larger companies.

I also have the chance to travel a lot more than I might otherwise – during my internship so far I have been lucky enough to take business trips to places such as Aarhus and even Miami. Being  part of a smaller team means playing a bigger role.

Little Perks 

The dedication seen at startups comes hand in hand with the need to curate an enjoyable environment, and an attempt to cultivate a healthy company culture (read more about that here). It’s the little things that make life worthwhile, and in 10gen those include jeans, popcorn, beer, and office juggling competitions.

Personal Pride

The exhilaration of being part of a successful startup produces pride and a sense of accomplishment that is extraordinary. You will never regret the long hours, hard work and smaller paycheque.

IOAI.com – Now A Featured Blog

February 12, 2013 in Afterhours, Community Marketing, Introduction, Networking, Personal, Slideshow, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Technology

Shareaholic-Channel-badge

I am happy to announce that InsightOfAnIntern.com has been selected as a Featured Publisher by Shareaholic –  the leader in making content discovery & sharing on the web. Look out for IOAI.com appearing in their Careers Channel as of tomorrow!

NaBloPoMo Entry 2: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

November 2, 2012 in Afterhours, Intern Advice, Intern Guide, Intern Training, Introduction, London Living, NaBloPoMo, Networking, Personal, Slideshow

 

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
A.A. Milne

 

A lot of my spare time today was spent thinking about what to choose as the answer to November 2nd’s NaBloPoMo blog promt; If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

During the last few years I have had the good fortune to travel to many new and exciting locations; from moving out of my safe little hometown of Aberystwyth to study at the University of Bath, landing a placement year in the Big Smoke of London and jetting off to the far corners of Europe for pleasure and for work. In the years before, I have explored parts of China, Australia, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and even the old US of A.

Each had its very own magic – an unidentifiable yet wholly tangible undercurrent which was entirely different from one country to the next, even if they were geographical neighbours.

Yet, whilst every single place I have been to has ignited my curiosity in its own way, I realise I am one of those people who will be a perpetual traveller. There is too much to see out there to be sat in one place for very long, too much to learn to tie yourself down to one spot. Don’t get me wrong – I look forward to the day when I one day have a home of my own, but I know I will always have ‘itchy feet’ and will be hankering for the next adventure.

It’s because of this personality trait that I came to the conclusion of today’s entry; for me, the place where I would choose to live is in the moment.

It seems to me that living in the moment is the single most important thing you can do with your life. If you are going through each day focused on the past or worrying about the future, how much are you really living your life?

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NaBloPoMo Entry 1: Tell us your favourite quotation and why?

November 1, 2012 in Afterhours, Intern Guide, Introduction, London Living, NaBloPoMo, Networking, Personal, Technology

‘Strong animals know when your hearts are weak’

– Hushpuppy, Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)

 

Words have a profound effect upon me; I can be sat on a crowded subway train, catch a fleeting glimpse of a phrase on a station advert, and have goosepimples for the rest of the journey. They can ruin my day, or lift me up in a moment of need.

Thing is, I tend to get them wrong. My interpretations of such verbiage, particularly those which mean the most to me, are often later revealed to be misconstrued and misinterpreted; as was the case with my latest literary scavenge – you may agree with my interpretation, or take from it your own.

Taken from Benh Zeitlin’s beautiful debut feature ‘Beasts of the Souther Wild’, this ambiguous line is spoken by a six-year-old African-American girl named Hushpuppy (a stunningly committed performance from newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, I might add) during apocalyptic events set at the time of Katrina – though fittingly reminiscent of recent weather crises, as well as the potential catastrophic effects of climate change in the future.

At an incredibly emotional point in the film, this utterance jerked me into a state of clarity; it spoke to me of the true strength of character required to admit vulnerability. That in order to be a ‘strong beast’ (interpreting this as inner strength) you must first learn to open yourself to the world around you.

Something which, I admit, I do not find comes easily to me. The importance of vulnerability is one which I’ve only recently began to discover. In the past, I have been quick to see vulnerability as a weakness; a state of exposure which opens one up to manipulation and hurt, and only for those with too little backbone themselves to remain stoical and secure.

Here’s the caveat: The practice of opening to vulnerability is not for wimps – quite the opposite, in fact. It requires inner strength, discernment and clear boundaries.

In fact, the strongest and happiest people I’ve ever met are those who are comfortable in their vulnerability, who leave themselves open to all emotions and experiences which life throws at them, and do not shrink in fear from them as I so often do.

The state and strength of vulnerability does not mean taking stupid risks; it involves strong boundaries and a take-no-prisoners attitude toward challenging situations. It involves cultivating compassion for others, and opening yourself to empathy. It involves giving help when it’s needed, and asking for it when you’re in need.

At some point, most of us are forced to reclaim our vulnerability; whether we want to or not. It seems to me, if you don’t choose to consciously reconnect with your vulnerability, it will eventually come around from behind and wreak far greater damage than it might have if you faced it head on and took control of your own emotions and the situation. But when you allow yourself to consciously enter the state of vulnerability, you find that at its heart is peace; a self-confidence and self respect that can quietly turn your life on its head.

I still have a long way to go, but I will always keep with me that ‘a strong beast knows when your heart is weak‘.

Women – Their Own Worst Enemies?

October 16, 2012 in Afterhours, Huffington Post, Intern Advice, Introduction, Networking, Personal, Sexism, Slideshow, Social Media Marketing, Technology

For years there has been talk of ‘men keeping women down’, but is it the bitter truth that women remain their own worst enemies?

With women holding so few key roles and leadership positions in boardrooms around the world, you might think we’d spend time building each other up rather than tearing each other down. But it seems that despite constant calls for more stringent gender equality measures in the workplace, it can often be women themselves sabotaging progress.

In 2010 Kelly Valen released a hard-hitting book entitled ‘The Twisted Sisterhood’, which revealed that almost 90% of the 3,000-plus women who took part in her survey frequently felt “currents of meanness and negativity emanating from other females” and that almost 85% of those who took part in the 50-question survey admitted having suffered “serious, life-altering knocks at the hands of other women”.

Valen went on to say that there was a distinct undercurrent of meanness and negativity plaguing our gender, and that these secret, social battles are waged, in many cases, by the very same women singing the praises of girl power, feminism, and female friendship in their lives”.

It’s a ‘Man’s World’ – so why aren’t we women helping one another?

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5th IOAI Article On The Huffington Post

October 15, 2012 in Community Internship, Community Marketing, Huffington Post, Intern Guide, Networking, Personal, Sexism, Slideshow, Technology

A fifth article from IOAI.com has been published by The Huffington Post – this time on their US site as well as their UK one.

The article, entitled ‘The Tech Industry Is One Of Subtle Sexism’, was also featured on the front page of their tech section as well as in their ‘Women In Tech’ feature.

A Follow Up: Sexism In Tech Aftermath

October 8, 2012 in Afterhours, Community Internship, Community Marketing, Conferences, Huffington Post, Intern Advice, Networking, Personal, Sexism, Slideshow, Social Media Marketing, Technology

Last week was a bit of a crazy one for IOAI.com.

During my time at the wonderful GOTO Aarhus conference in Denmark, I published a blog post discussing the presence of subtle sexism within the tech industry. The blog post, which was originally about yours truly blowing off steam and venting frustration, proved popular in the Twittersphere, receiving over 1200 hits in one afternoon, hundreds of re-tweets and even making it onto the front page of The Huffington Post US tech page, as well as being featured on their ‘Women In Tech’ section. The post is now number eight in the UK Google search for sexism in tech.

The responses I received from across the world were numerous and varied.

Whilst making the rounds, the article seemed to inspire other women in the tech industry to come forward and share their personal experiences with me, and I would like to take a moment to thank them for this – it was truly inspirational. I received emails, comments and tweets from tech ladies; some of which made me furious, some of which made me laugh, and a handful of which made me cry. I certainly wasn’t alone in my experience, and indeed my encounter with the blight of sexism in tech appeared to be amongst one of the most mild.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, I actually came away from the experience feeling incredibly positive about the role and future of women in tech.

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