Making the Most out of Your Summer Internship at a Digital Agency

We are excited to welcome ten new software engineering, design and marketing interns on our NextGen (‘Intern’) team this summer. Our intern program has grown dramatically in the past few years. In fact, last summer we had 9 interns on our team. Of that, we were able to offer 3 full-time offers at CQL. In the next month, Tyler Luce will be full-time here at CQL; he started in the NextGen team and we are very pleased he is staying on. We are excited about what these bright minds will bring to us and what we can do for them.

Today at CQL we had the opportunity to sit down with, Chris (software engineer) and Abby (user experience designer) who were part of our NextGen program over the last year and have become full-time.

We thought they might have relevant advice for all those taking on summer intern jobs around the nation. 

CQL: We know going from student to intern to full-time can be a tricky process. It is not only having to adjust to consistently being awake between the hours of 8 and 5, but also being the newbie in the work place where everyone else has more experience. Chris and Abby gave us some great insight on the transition and where they are right now in their career.

What Are the Top 3 Things You Learned as an Intern at CQL?


  1. Take responsibility for your own work, and be able to admit when you need help or did something incorrectly. We are all learning everyday.

  2. Manage your time - as an intern you don’t have someone telling you what to do at every minute. Be self-sufficient and always be learning. In addition, practice estimating how long a project will take, to insure you are giving appropriate follow through.

  3. Always communicate - it is important to take responsibility and take initiative, but remember it is always okay to ask for guidance and direction.


  1. Communicate efficiently - It is easy for me to talk to another designer, but I learned how to talk business and specifically to tech people. It is important to utilize all “hats” of business.

  2. ‘Admitting when you are wrong’ is a skill that is hard for everyone, but the reality is we are young and learning; therefore acknowledging when you are wrong and taking ownership is imperative.

  3. Understand when you should push back and when you should let an idea go - as an intern there any many business professionals who have been in the industry or with a specific project for awhile, so work to be content with not always having to be right.
“Companies don’t always invest in design, but design is business. The two work hand and hand everyday”-Abby

Can You Take Us Through Your Student-To-Intern-To-Full-Time Journey?

Chris: I attended Grand Valley State University and studied Computer Science. Then I was a Software Development Intern, which moved me into my full-time position as a Software Developer. I create and manage the software side of the products for our clients. I work on the whole product, from back to front.

Abby: I attended Kendall College of Art and Design and studied Digital Media. I was then a design intern for a year, and then was hired as a User Experience Designer. My position focuses on researching behavior and seeing how a person acts and why they act that way. It is my job to use research and analytics to produce a solution. By studying a user’s behavior, websites and apps, I am able to help our clients to promote more efficient, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing solutions.

How Have Your Tasks Changed or Stayed the Same?

Chris: My role has stayed pretty constant. I am doing similar work, but the projects I am working on are more challenging jobs that hold greater weight. My position is constantly evolving and I am actively learning everyday on the job. A big part of my job is staying up to date on new software and technology because it changes so frequently, and we are using it in different ways on diverse projects.

Abby: My job has gotten more exciting. When I was an intern, I always wanted to do more, but classes and homework were always limitations for my desires. Now, I have the ability to be the design lead on projects and take on more long term projects. I have enjoyed being able to be more present and involved with my work and designs as a full-time employee.

What Advice Do You Have for Our Current NextGen Team? We Have 10, This Summer!

Chris: Use all of the experience you are surrounded by everyday to learn. School is a time to learn the facts and the concepts, work is a time to apply them. In the real world you get to see why and how things work, you are putting knowledge to the test. Being an intern is a unique opportunity, and you will take away what you put into it. Ask for help and play with what you are capable to do and learn. Internships are the perfect time for development, because you don’t have high demands, and you are in an environment to soak in a plethora of information.

Abby: Try your best to get involved in as many projects as you can and speak up when you have an idea. Never be afraid to ask if you need help and if you are interested in a project get involved or learn from the work they are doing. In addition, I have really enjoyed the company culture here at CQL. Try to make relationships with your co-workers because it is important and will add value not only to your career, but to your life as well.

“Intern=Learn, Full-time= Act”- Chris

Is There Anything You Learned in College That You Find You Use Daily in Your Job?

Chris: In my job, I use the foundations I learned from math and science everyday. When I was learning them in the class room it was hard to imagine how I would carry these into a profession, but they acted as the foundation. Though, while school is a crucial step of the learning process, experience is key. I have learned the most through working, trial and error and mentorship. The biggest difference between college and having a job is you are no longer just doing it for a grade or just doing it to get it done. You are working on projects that carry weight and depth for real clients.

“Don’t take anything for granted, experience is key, and opportunity is key. Working outside the box is in”- Chris

Abby: In school you learn the fundamentals, the basics. Then, you get a job and you are put to the test; you have to have time management, balance your work and have follow through. In college there was always a sense of urgency to just get it done or meet a deadline, and while this is still important, quality holds a higher stake. As a designer, I have to be willing to step out of the box, and have passion about my work; therefore, it can not just be about getting it done, it needs to be about creating something.

“The things we create are positively impacting the lives of our customers. We are not just creating something that is cool, our customers are our partners” -Abby

What Do You Enjoy Most About Your Work?

Chris: Problem solving. I am normally given a problem that is most likely new and something nobody has done before. The challenge is not only solving the problem, but putting an innovative twist on it. My job is like constantly solving a puzzle and that is what I love. It keeps me passionate about my work and job. It makes the work enjoyable and stratifying. At CQL, our teams are creative, they explore new things all the time and they make dreams a reality. 

Abby: My job is to be creative, to stretch the envelope of design. I am constantly saying “what can’t we do, what can’t we create.” At a technology company, developers can typically develop anything and as a designer I try to follow that mantra with my creativity and designs. Every day I try to embrace the growth and the challenge my job entails.

“Art influences technology and technology influences art, it is rewarding and refreshing” – Abby


While our NextGen team for the summer of 2017 is full, if you are interested in future internships in software engineering, user experience design, data analytics or Digital Marketing, do not hesitate to submit your resume.

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