Dear Interns…

September 10, 2019
Henry Rutman, Technical Writer
 min read

Dear Future Ridgeline Intern:

Congrats on landing a role at Ridgeline!

When I first heard about the opportunity at Ridgeline in Tahoe, the only thing I knew of Nevada was the Las Vegas Strip. I’m a native Chicagoan, after all. Apparently I was out of the loop, as every person I told about the internship carried on about Lake Tahoe’s beauty and all the outdoor activities that come with it.

At first, I was skeptical. A role at a fintech startup in a fairytale location like Incline Village sounded too good to be true. So I was prepared for anything.

What followed was unforgettable. My internship was a crash course in startup culture, company communications, the fintech industry, and Tahoe. If you’re like me, you want to know what to expect before you arrive. So I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

The environment is casual.

As I shuffled in on my first day with the rest of the interns, I was wearing what I thought was “standard business attire”. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find just about everyone in jeans and t-shirts. The casual office caught me off guard given Ridgeline’s focus on the finance industry, but Ridgeline is not your traditional company.

Everyone wants to help, especially your sponsor.

Ridgeline’s culture is founded on and maintained by kind, intelligent, and hard-working people. Your sponsor, in particular, is an amazing resource for navigating the company.

When I arrived, I didn’t know where to begin. My sponsor helped bridge the gap between myself (a documentation intern) and software developers by making introductions and inviting me to meetings. This was super helpful. Not only did it provide context about my work, it quickly helped me meet people.

You’re not expected to know everything when you get here, so be sure to take the initiative to ask your sponsor for guidance and help.

This applies to life outside of work too. Ask your co-workers about the best hiking trails, beaches, restaurants — anything. Every Ridgeliner was in your position at one point. There’s a ton to explore, and it can be hard to know where to start. But Ridgeliners love to share their experiences and recommendations, and there are always activities to join in on.

A culture of collaboration.

As the documentation intern, I was given concrete goals but had a lot of freedom to explore and experiment. Documentation affects all departments, so I chatted with as many teams as possible to better understand their needs. This was nerve wracking at first. Ridgeline is a focused company filled with hard-working people — asking so many questions seemed like it could be a distraction. What I quickly learned was that collaboration wasn’t just welcomed, it was expected. Everyone, from Engineering to Marketing, works together all day long. So don’t be shy. Come in ready to ask questions, give your input, and listen. It’s the best way to deepen your understanding of Ridgeline’s inner workings and an essential part of the culture.

Expect to do real work.

As part of my internship project, I was asked to research and pitch software to improve internal communication and information sharing. I’ve only presented a handful of times, so I was nervous. I was also surprised to be given, you know, a real decision to make.

My recommendation (Atlassian’s Confluence, by the way) was considered and eventually approved. As an intern, I didn’t think my opinion would be weighted as much as it was. The full-timers would often quote the CEO: “Hire the best, treat them well, give them a big job, and get out of their way.” That’s not lip service. Ridgeline will give you a big job and get out of your way, even as an intern.

Our work culminated in a Demo Day where the interns showed off their summer projects. The scope, quality, and overall importance of the work was kind of mind blowing — I’ve heard so many horror stories of internships full of busy work, browsing the internet, podcasts, etc. Not at Ridgeline. We all worked on core pieces of the product and business operations. From global search to a mobile app for realtime pipeline monitoring, Ridgeline’s intern projects had a purpose.

The whole experience helped me build confidence in myself, my work, and my ability to articulate ideas. You should come in expecting to make an impact.

Lunch is a key social hour.

From the hours of 11:00 am to 1:00 pm each day, a flurry of hungry Ridgeliners scurry in and out of the office to grab lunch from the local spots (most walkable from the office). Pro tip: lunch is an easy opportunity to hang out with the full-timers. I monitored the #lunch Slack channel constantly so that I could tag along with those going out. I also asked people out to lunch. I said it before…don’t be shy. And document the ridiculous lunch conversations you’re bound to have in the #OverheardAtRidgeline Slack channel.

Get involved in the post-work fun.

Days rarely end at 5:00 pm. Team-building events like the Reno Rodeo and Ridgeline’s storied summer blowout party made it easy to feel connected to everyone at the company and the community of Lake Tahoe itself.

The interns also started our own traditions. Billiards after dinner, late-night trips to Susie Scoops, and weekend beach trips brought us all close together. Lake Tahoe’s beauty is best enjoyed in a group setting; take full advantage of any opportunity to get to know your co-workers, and especially your intern class, as we all hoped that we would work together again someday.

Productivity tools help make things happen.

Slack, Google Calendar, Jira, Team Drive. Tools like these ensure that the team collaborates effectively as they work toward bringing a product to market. Most were new to me.

Slack is the best (and most used) tool for quick communication within the company. Ridgeline teams are in constant communication to help keep everyone on the same page, and Slack helps everyone review documents, set up meetings, answer questions, and share articles or information. I found channels on topics like #design, #technology, and #strategy very useful when trying to learn about Ridgeline’s business.

At the same time, plenty of other channels cater to people’s fun side, with my favorite being the #music channel, which was constantly flooded with songs.

Enjoy the climb.

My summer internship at Ridgeline helped me sharpen my communication skills while giving me the confidence to explore projects I found interesting and valuable. Rather than reading documents about product development, I learned about it directly from Ridgeliners. I didn’t just observe meetings, I participated in them. I made my Ridgeline experience meaningful by working (and playing) alongside brilliant people on projects that made a difference to the company.

Hopefully it’s obvious by now that your internship is an opportunity to do amazing work while having some mountain-town-fun along the way. A wild summer lies ahead of you in Incline Village — get ready to make the most of it!

I’m back at school for my senior year and am always happy to talk more about Ridgeline, even between classes, So feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to know where to get the best burritos in Tahoe.

- The DocFather

P.S. Ridgeline is big on nicknames. I earned mine by defining our initial documentation strategy and writing our first-ever technical documents.

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