A Ridiculous Internship

I haven’t posted in a while so I figured I’d talk about this. I always like telling this story but it’s way too long for microblogging so I’m glad I have a place I can finally post it in its entirety.

So in 2017 I graduated from university. I took three months off where I didn’t do anything and just vegged out and played videogames. Eventually I needed to find work. I started by applying for stuff way out of my experience levels because I figured carrying myself with the confidence of a mediocre white dude would get me somewhere. Turns out it didn’t, and I had to start lowering my expectations.

After over 200 applications, I found an internship for a software company in Denver. It looked like what I was hoping to do as a job and had a little bit of money, and I had to start somewhere, so I applied. Less than twenty minutes later I got a LinkedIn Message (ugh, I know) asking me to come to the office to see them tomorrow.

The next day I went to see them. It turned out they didn’t actually have an “office.” They worked in one of those open-plan, shared spaces, where annoying startups pay for overpriced small rooms in a gentrification-in-progress neighborhood so they can go to work with their dogs and drink shitty coffee. I had come in a suit, which they made fun of me for. This was pretty annoying because I’m black, and I knew if I dressed in sweatpants as they had I would be criticized for being too casual.

They asked me a few questions, and how “committed” I was to the job. There was a lot of business philosophy talk, and how revolutionary the app they were making was going to be. I felt like I was being talked down to the whole time. In retrospect, those should have been warning signs, but I was desperate and couldn’t afford self-respect, so I let them prattle on and, suitably impressed by my ability to nod and smile, they welcomed me aboard.

This was the beginning of the end.

God…there are so many stories I could tell. I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess first would be my dress. I was constantly ridiculed for wearing dress shirts and pants and looking relatively presentable. Besides the race aspect I mentioned above, it’s also worth noting that I like dressing well, regardless of what’s going on that day, so that always bothered me. They’d also make fun of me for bringing my own lunch, which was a level of weirdly elitist that I wasn’t expecting.

My work was boring as well. I was basically turned into a corporate PR machine, forced to plug 3 articles into a twitter account that bought bot followers and was followed by bots. Nothing I did was worthwhile or interesting, and my boss was looking over my shoulder 24/7.

I was constantly told I’d get more work to do and become a more integral part of the product we were creating, but that never actually happened. Not to say that I wanted those things, I could not have cared less about the product, but I needed experience so I could feed myself and pay rent. Instead, I was given more and more menial tasks that had zero impact, or planned projects that went nowhere.

Speaking of. My boss. He was 19. I came to learn he was the head boss’ son in law. His daughter-in-law “worked” there as well – I used quotes because she was just there to puff her resume while she was in school. She was paid more than me, because of course she was.

There was also a cool designer that I hung out with most often. He had worked at ESPN before and wanted to try something smaller. It wasn’t worth it, as he’d soon find out.

The head boss was literally a lecherous old man. He was a constant stream of sexist remarks about people around the open office, and once used the n-word to describe a group of black people who were standing outside the window. He drank during the day and was extremely unfocused. I’d get work from him, do it, be told it was wrong, and then give it back to him unchanged and have it accepted.

My son-in-law boss was the biggest piece of work. He had extremely bad anger problems and they manifested themselves at work. What got me close to quitting at first was one of his bigger outbursts. He constantly clashed with the head boss – who, admittedly, egged him on with his attitude – and during a meeting on the product’s direction, he really snapped. Literal screaming, throwing markers and whiteboards, the works. What was most worrying is how…normalized it was, I guess you could say? When this first freak out happened, the designer just walked out of the office for a smoke. I followed him out and he told me that this was the fourth outburst he had in the time that he had started working there. Apparently, they had gotten complaints from the building.

But it gets better. After this outburst, he met with each of us one by one to apologize. I sort of glazed through his apology, but one part stuck out to me.

“You know if you anything you need to talk about, I’m HR, and [Wife’s Name] is HR, so you can come to us.

E…excuse me? My Boss is also my HR? My Boss’ wife is HR? To be fair, at least they were honest about HR as a concept being a bunch of bullshit, but still! The designer was the only person I could talk to with any sense of confidentiality! It was something I noticed often with engineers as a whole: they felt like they could do everything. Who needs copywriters? Who needs an HR department? We can do math, of course we can do that!

Eventually, that designer left. He wanted to use the product for more altruistic things, which didn’t align with our investor’s goals (those goals being: money). After pitching the idea and getting a no, he quit. I got his email address before he left – which is great, because he got to be my reference for the internship, haha.

I wasn’t far behind. The second outburst my boss had was even worse than the first. He broke another whiteboard, screamed even louder, mentioned that “every new employee leaves because of you!” to the head boss, and had his wife running out of the office in sobbing tears. I had enough. It was too similar to the abusive living situation that I had been in before, and I wasn’t going to take it at work too. I walked out of the building, got in my car, drove away, and never went back.

You’d think that’d be where it ended. You’re wrong! They didn’t even think I had quit! I got a few emails asking how my work was going from home. I had queued up everything I needed to do for two or three weeks, so it looked like I was still working when in reality I was knee-deep in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. After a few days they finally got the hint and left me alone.

It turns out that even I have limits. Honestly even though it was a ridiculous situation, I don’t entirely regret it. It’s a great story for parties.

Some things aren’t worth it, even for money!!!

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