How To Thrive During Your First Tech Internship: What I Learned Interning at a Rapidly-Growing LLMOps Startup

Shreya Sridhar Berkeley

Shreya Sridhar

SWE Intern

SWE, AI, ML, FAANG, startups — with all the coveted tech jargon you’re bound to hear during recruiting season, it’s easy to get bombarded and discouraged. I know I was. As a junior in college, I was in the middle of the most notorious and pivotal semester, one that would determine my internship for the last summer before graduation. Okay, I might have been a tad melodramatic there, but that’s really how it seemed, with everyone around me echoing similar sentiments. In this do’s-and-don’ts guide, I’ll share my experiences navigating the recruiting process and, more importantly, how I made the most of my internship at Arize, providing you with valuable insights and an edge into the journey.

A bit of background about me: when I was recruiting for 2023 summer internships, I was a junior at UC Berkeley majoring in Computer Science with two prior internships under my belt. Those internships were at larger, traditional companies, and both were great experiences. However, living in the Bay Area and hearing the constant talk surrounding tech start-ups coupled with the generative AI and LLM revolution, I was left with a severe case of FOMO. This propelled me to make it my mission to secure an internship at an AI startup.

Phase One: Getting the Internship

Do: Show Up

Recruiting for start-ups is very different from the typical Workday application→HackerRank/ CodeSignal assessment→ Interview(s) screening process. My biggest piece of advice is to go to career/ start-up fairs, hackathons, and any other events involving emerging companies or products. These events are a great way to network with visionary leaders, showcase your skills, and keep abreast with the latest innovation. Face-to-face connections are particularly crucial in start-ups as their smaller size necessitates ensuring that each employee shares their core values to help build the DNA of their growing company.

My experience: One weekday after getting back from an especially grueling day of classes, I was so close to ignoring the post I had seen for a start-up fair and calling it a day. But if I hadn’t printed out my resumés and walked across campus, I would never have met Aparna Dhinakaran and Jason Lopatecki, Arize’s founders, with whom I shared a very inspiring conversation. Although these fairs tend to draw large crowds of hungry students, there is something exhilarating about being surrounded by brilliant people and ideas. Rather than feeling beat after the fair, I found myself feeling quite the opposite – enthused and re-energized at the prospect of joining a start-up like Arize. So make sure to ask yourself “Why not?” the next time an opportunity comes knocking. Chances are you’ll answer exactly why you should just do it.

Do: Show initiative

There’s a reason “initiative” is a word you’ve heard time and time again, and that’s because people acknowledge and appreciate proactive individuals. This couldn’t be more true for start-ups as their employees are self-starters themselves. After making connections at an event, be sure to follow up with the opportunities that excite you the most. Since startups are significantly smaller than traditional companies, they probably don’t have a hiring team who sends automated emails to all applicants. This means you may need to make the first move to get a follow-up, whether that’s in the form of a LinkedIn request or thank-you email. Also remember that showing initiative doesn’t stop at recruitment – maintaining the same level of proactivity throughout your internship as well can be fruitful.

My experience: I was thoroughly impressed with Arize’s product and could tell just how passionate the founders were about their mission in ML Observability. I made sure to reach out about pursuing an internship with Arize and continually expressed my interest.

Don’t: Think you have to know everything to apply

You don’t need to know everything about an area that a start-up specializes in to show interest. However, you should take on every topic as a learning opportunity to conduct your own research both for your own learning and to show initiative. Make sure to read through any resources the start-up you’re applying to has, including their site, blog, LinkedIn posts, etc. Then, ask questions during follow-ups and interviews where you are genuinely curious to fill in the gaps in what you studied. Interviews can be an opportunity to not only showcase why you would be a good fit for the company, but to understand more about the product or service the company provides. Additionally, making sure to apply what you’ve learned from one interview to the next ensures you aren’t asking the same questions again and again. Finally, it’s critical to ensure that you are technically proficient in what you claim to know by taking necessary steps to stay updated (such as practicing LeetCode, brushing up on data structures, and understanding the data science lifecycle).

My experience: Although I had taken some AI and Data Science coursework in college and built models before, I had no knowledge of or experience with deployment within the ML lifecycle (which is not usually explored in coursework but vital in industry), monitoring models in production, or the need for ML observability. However, I did use this wonderful thing called the Internet to learn more about these very topics before my interviews with Arize. This helped me understand the product better and set me up well to have productive and fulfilling conversations.

Phase Two: Getting the Most Out of the Internship

Great, with a lot of hard work and some luck, you have managed to snag an internship at an ML startup! Now, the real work begins…

Do: Become a sponge

During your first few weeks at a tech startup, expect to be inundated with a deluge of information. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, embrace the opportunity to become a sponge and eagerly soak up as much knowledge as you can. Trust me, this will pay off throughout the rest of your internship. It provides you with a solid foundation that boosts your confidence and consequently, empowers you to ask insightful questions and contribute meaningfully in team conversations.

Hands-on practice is a great way to learn, so if you have time during your first couple weeks of onboarding, try to test out your start-up’s product and experience it from a client perspective. It’s a great way to show your curiosity about the product, and start-ups usually value feedback from a new viewpoint.

My experience: In my initial weeks at Arize, I dedicated time to learning about the company structure, culture, and tech stack. With the aid of Arize’s multitude of resources (docs, blog posts, guides, and the platform itself), I learned about Arize’s product, ML observability, and the ML toolchain in general.

Don’t: Mistake casual setting for a laid-back work environment

Folks at start-ups tend to dress more casually than those from traditional companies, swapping collared-shirts for T-shirts and slacks for jeans. Due to the flatter hierarchy, many also make themselves much more approachable – leading to a more inviting and “chill” environment. However, do not mistake kind, unpretentious people for being relaxed and laid-back.

My experience:
Some of the hardest workers I have seen in my professional life work here at Arize. A start-up team’s commitment to excellence drives the company’s success, making it a perfect blend of a friendly and highly productive workplace.

Do: Embrace the culture

Each startup has its own specific culture that makes it special. It pays to learn about a company’s core values, seeing how others exemplify them and following suit. Although most companies share values – like integrity, empathy, and diligence – start-ups notably may have additional values like openness, where they encourage interns to reach out to and network with anyone. This differs greatly from a company with thousands of employees and a more stratified company structure.

My experience: Two specific Arize mottos are “DO, not SAY” and “Keep a learning mindset.” The former is important in proving to your team that you are someone who keeps their word. While words are powerful, sometimes that’s all they are, so you must back them up with your actions. I made sure that whatever I was saying in my daily standup, I was actually doing. Standups are great at keeping you on track, but it’s important to make sure to always give honest updates and deliver on any promises made. I cannot stress how important the latter motto (which is a recurring theme throughout this post) is. At the end of the day, you are an intern, meaning you are there to learn. Be humble, explain what you don’t know, and learn as much as you can in your time there, because you probably won’t get many opportunities like this.

Don’t: Let your previous experiences cloud new learnings

You were selected to be an intern partly due to the knowledge you’ve accumulated through previous experiences, such as coursework, personal projects, and previous internships. That being said, while it’s essential to apply what you already know, it’s equally important to maintain an open mind and embrace unfamiliar challenges to strike a balance between the old and new. It is also important to note that concepts you’ve learned via coursework or a different company may not extrapolate correctly in all cases.

My experience: While I’m a big believer in object-oriented programming (OOP), I learned why certain projects may benefit from a functional programming approach. If you are unsure why a start-up does things differently from how you expected, be sure to ask why so you can continuously expand your knowledge base.

Do: Take ownership of your projects

Having frequent check-ins and open communication can showcase your work ethic and style as well as help you deliver what is expected of you and more. Voice your opinion for choices you make, and seek feedback to iteratively improve your work.

My experience: Arize is an ML observability platform, and customers send their data to Arize to monitor models in production. With the growing customer use cases and their wide variation, it is not always practical or scalable to manually create specific edge cases to test out new platform features.

During my time at Arize, I developed a solution to address this: the Model Data Generator automates the generation of model data that can be easily customized by developers to emulate specific use cases and issues seen in the real world, relating to issues in data drift, performance, and quality. Throughout my project, I designed tech specs for each milestone and had tech spec reviews with my manager.

Don’t: Confine collaboration

Although you will probably have your hands full with your assigned intern project, be sure to venture out beyond your specific team. A startup is a great place to easily meet new people from diverse backgrounds and careers. Take advantage of the relatively flatter hierarchy to connect with individuals from different teams.

My experience: I not only spent time working as an Application Engineer supporting the Fullstack team, but also learned how critical other teams – such as Product, Marketing, Customer Success, and Sales – are to the success of the company. In the process, I was able to build my business acumen and intuition. Talking to these different teams and learning about parts of the business other than tech put the work I was doing in perspective and will always be handy knowledge to keep down the line.

Do: Enjoy the time well-spent

While you will work diligently to prove your fit within the company, also remember to have fun! Try to meet or connect with people in a social setting at least once. It’s fun to learn about other’s interests and various lived experiences, which can also help you envision your place among them.

My experience: As I am writing this post and reflecting on my experience, I realize just how much I really learned over this past summer. It’s a lot! Whether it’s adding to my knowledge about tools and languages like Python, Git, and Jupyter or getting an introduction to entirely new concepts like embeddings and LLMs or learning about the start-up’s business model, I learned and did so much in such a short period of time – and that’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity!


Of course, none of these lessons or successes would’ve been possible without the great team at Arize who I have had the pleasure of working with this past summer. I would like to extend a special thank you to Manisha, Kiko, Gurmehar, Adam, and Jack who helped guide me through my internship and project.

I am so grateful to Arize for the chance to dive into this rapidly-growing space and to gain first-hand knowledge in AI and machine learning. When else are you going to get the chance to connect with leaders in the industry, ask questions without any expectations on you, and get paid to learn?

Good luck Arize, I’m rooting for you!