Hear from one of our summer ’20 interns, Cagla Kaymaz, and her experience with an entirely remote internship. This piece was originally posted on HBS’s recruiting blog.
When it became clear that my summer internship with Maverick Ventures, an early stage Venture Capital firm based in San Francisco, was going to be remote, I had a lot of questions on my mind.
- What would it be like to work with a team I had never met in person?
- Having never worked in VC before, would I be able to pick up the necessary skills to succeed in a new role and build meaningful relationships with the team and the entrepreneurs?
- Would I enjoy this experience?
I had some previous experience working remotely, but being new to VC and to Maverick, this was uncharted territory.
Meeting with Goats and Horses
Maverick Ventures is the venture arm of Maverick Capital. The team focuses mainly on investments in tech and healthcare across a variety of different verticals, and my first day with them got off to an unexpected start. During our investment meeting, a seemingly random user account joined the Zoom call. When the user turned on their video, it was revealed to be a video stream of goats and horses (literally)! Matt Kinsella, Managing Director, had used a service called Goat-2-Meeting in an effort to liven up the video conference call — this was my first cue into the company culture, and a sign that the Zoom life might not turn out to be that bad.
Opportunities without Boundaries
The Maverick team ensured that the interns had exposure to many different parts of the venture life. This included everything from sourcing to due diligence to portfolio management, and an advantage of the virtual internship is that none of this was physically constrained. I met with 50+ entrepreneurs over the course of 12 weeks across all different geographies and verticals, including mental health, subscription services, railroads, dentistry, enterprise security, e-commerce, and more. For example, I was able to meet with an entrepreneur located in San Francisco immediately following one based in Tel Aviv.
As a prior operator, I was excited to work with a portfolio company over the summer and was lucky enough to work with ColdQuanta — a cutting-edge neutral atom-based quantum company headquartered in Boulder, CO. Not only did I get to work with an incredible team, the remote experience allowed me to get a virtual tour of one of the CEO’s hangars in Montana, something that would have been nearly impossible to replicate if the internship were in person.
Additionally, one of the items on my “wish list” for my summer internship was joining a board meeting. Thanks to video conferencing, and the Maverick and startup teams’ willingness to have additional observers, I was able to meet this goal — and then some! I joined board meetings with four different companies that were located across three different U.S. states and India. These were opportunities that I likely wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of if I were working out of the office in San Francisco and had to travel to each meeting.
On day one of the summer internship, the Maverick team set the tone for company culture and even amid everyone’s hectic schedules we were able to fit in activities to get to know each other.
One of the best parts of working on a team are the conversations that happen offline, and this was something I worried would lack during a virtual summer internship. While it wasn’t 100% perfect, there were a lot more offline conversations and learnings that took place over email than expected. We shared:
- Book recommendations (including The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, the Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards Heuer, and a Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine, to name a few)
- Podcast suggestions (Invest like the Best is now a personal favorite)
- Random videos or articles that piqued our interest on that given day (a whole thread on Step Chickens and the Rise of TikTok ‘Cults’)
The team also got creative about bonding events, which is something I’d recommend to other companies looking to bring new employees into the fold. For example, we had a Maverick-wide poker tournament (nothing like losing money that bonds you), and organized a wine tasting experience across the country (using a delivery service where each person received the same individual glass of wine). During events like this I got to meet my teammates’ children, partners, and pets, which made me feel like I knew these people even though we’d never met in person.
Walking the Walk
Towards the end of my internship, I got a phone call that my mom (who lives in Turkey) had a potentially life-threatening health emergency. When I explained the situation to the Maverick team, they told me to prioritize my mom and work if and when I felt ready. I did ease back into work after a few days, but continued to work from Turkey the rest of my internship. The experience was incredibly stressful, but the Maverick team really lived up to the “family first” mantra that many teams claim, but few actually follow through with — it is something I will forever remember.
A Memorable Goodbye
Just like my internship started with an unexpected surprise, it ended the same way. The team got Joey Fatone from the band *NSYNC to read me a going away message on Cameo, which put a smile on my face thousands of miles away. This gesture showed how people-centric and awesome the team is, and how they made the best out of the given situation.
Reflecting on my summer experience, while I think it would have been helpful to be co-located with the team, my remote internship turned out better than I could ever have imagined. Zoom fatigue is real and the lines between work and life are easily blurred, but nonetheless this proved to be an incredible summer full of learning, meaningful relationships and laughter. The Maverick team made sure that the interns had the best summer possible and the remote environment enabled experiences that would have been nearly impossible to replicate if the internship had been in person.