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What I Learned From My Internship at Twitter

This past April, between the demands of a packed schedule and midterm season, I secured my dream internship: a chance to work at Twitter in their San Francisco headquarters.

Between debates around workplace diversity, Glassdoor rankings, and a highly publicized quarterly earnings report, it was an exciting time to be at Twitter. While I once again sit in my Syracuse apartment more than 2,000 miles away from my summer home, I still carry with me countless memories from my time in San Francisco. Here are some of the most important lessons learned from my summer at Twitter.

The Role

I was hired as a “Technical Program Manager,” but even when starting in June I was unsure of the role’s nuances and responsibilities. At Twitter, Technical Program Managers (TPMs) own large, cross-functional programs and projects that require coordination among an array of teams. TPMs ultimately own the deliverance of key, company-wide efforts.

But, like many companies with a rich startup history, TPMs at Twitter always do the job at hand, often acting more like a Product Manager for smaller efforts. As an intern, I was lucky to dive into all facets of the role, assuming the responsibility of both a TPM and PM at different times.

Twitter is Massive

Twitter employees gather in the commons. Pic by me.
Twitter employees gather in the commons. Pic by me.

In essence, Twitter seems simple. Indeed, it is beautiful that the product works so effortlessly. But, each time you press the “Tweet” button, you are interacting with a dizzying array of services to send your thoughts out to the masses. Twitter is a massive network of thousands of distributed services, powering everything from tweet distribution to authentication to analytics.

It makes sense that thousands of engineers work to maintain the product each day. And as an intern, I had full access to observing this beast in action. I left with a new appreciation of what it takes to power the world’s largest social companies and a firm grasp on still only a small fraction of the services that power Twitter today.

Internal Culture Can Flourish Beyond the Startup Years

Twitter's LGBT group @TwitterOpen marching in the SF Pride Parade. Picture by me.
Twitter’s LGBT group @TwitterOpen marching in the SF Pride Parade. Picture by me.

In Silicon Valley, there is a well known disdain among many as they watch once proudly hectic startups grow into more structured, corporate beasts. Twitter is by no means a startup anymore, with 3,000+ employees distributed across more than 30 offices worldwide. But, that does not mean culture need be sacrificed. Twitter has successfully preserved a wonderful startup culture, while also working hard to adopt the structure needed to succeed at scale.

Indeed, during my internship Glassdoor rated Twitter as the #1 company for culture and values–quite a feat! I also watched as tech companies around the Bay Area released and were subsequently lambasted for their dismal diversity numbers. Twitter was no exception, but it was exceptional to see how much the company cared about improving internally.

Professional Development Matters

While small startups offer an allure to many, they cannot match the level of professional development available at larger companies. At its current size, Twitter is able to invest heavily in the worker bees it employees. Twitter University is an internal program of classes and talks free and open to all. In addition, HR works hard to provide interns with a program geared towards career development. In short, Twitter ensured I took as much from internship as I gave to the company. This type of employee investment is something I have learned to value at larger companies.

It’s All About the Food

In the Bay Area, where tech companies of all sizes are in an endless arms race to out-perk one another, Twitter easily wins the battle over best cuisine. With two cafeterias, a full time kitchen staff, and three full meals served every day, Twitter makes sure its employees are well fed. I ate some of the best food of my life at work this summer. But beware, the “Twitter twenty” can sneak up on you very fast!

What’s Next?

I left Twitter having made many great friends and valuable professional connections. I grew professionally and personally through the experience, and I am forever thankful to my family at Twitter for the opportunities they provided this summer. I know wherever I land next, I’ll have many people to keep in touch with for years to come.

Did you have a great internship or work experience this past summer as well? Share it in the comments below!

Billy Ceskavich

Billy is an Engagement Fellow and Masters candidate in the iSchool's Information Management program. He's an avid fan of consumer technology and the startup space, having worked in the industry both in Syracuse and Silicon Valley. He's active on Twitter (@ceskavich) or can be contacted directly via email (bceskavich@gmail.com).

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