Ask the hiring manager: Autodesk internship tips

Chris Willetts
Chris Willetts 5 min read
Chris Willetts stands next to an exhibit in the Autodesk Gallery holding a sign that says "Internship Tips"

I’m a Senior Manager of Engineering based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m a hybrid employee, so when I’m not working from home, you’ll find me at our amazing office in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

I first started at Autodesk back in 1998 as a high school intern, spending the summer working as a software engineer on the AutoCAD team. My project was to update the version of AutoCAD used by beta testers to send anonymous product usage metrics back to Autodesk.

I came back for three more internships throughout college, this time working on our Subscription Center web portal. I learned a lot about web technologies, databases, and how software development happens in the real world, and got a taste of Autodesk’s culture. What I found was a diverse group of bright people all working together toward a common goal — and having fun along the way!

At the end of my last internship, I agreed to continue working part-time until I graduated. I worked remotely one day a week on Fridays since I had no classes that day. After graduation, the director of my group offered me a full-time position as a software engineer.

A scan of Chris Willetts' Autodesk badge from his internship in 1998
My Autodesk badge from my high school internship in 1998!

When I started full-time, I helped develop some of Autodesk’s earliest features that connect our desktop products to our data centers. I later moved to our cloud group to build services that are used by our cloud products. Throughout my time at Autodesk, I’ve experienced the freedom and support to try out different teams and roles.

Today, I’m part of our Developer Enablement group. We build platforms and tools to make software engineers across Autodesk happier and more productive. As part of my role, I get to interview and hire interns to work with us during the summer.

As an intern on my team, you can expect to work on something real. Something that will go live in production and actually be used by our customers. Some of our recent intern projects included building an advanced cloud deployment pipeline and redesigning an interface used by engineers across the company. Pretty exciting stuff!

When it comes to hiring interns, I look for eagerness, a willingness to learn, good communication skills, and an understanding of computer science fundamentals. Self-taught skills are just as valuable as things learned through formal education, so don’t forget to highlight them in your resume and in interviews, too!

If you’re looking to get an internship at Autodesk, here are some things you should keep in mind:

1. Start by learning a bit about the company

A good way to do this is to follow Autodesk on LinkedIn and other platforms (as well as our @AutodeskLife accounts!). Not only will this help you tell if an internship at Autodesk is right for you, but it will also help you tailor your resume to the company when you apply (do this!). In addition, it will help you prepare relevant, specific questions for the interviews (do this, too!).

If you’re interviewing for a technical role and have worked on an open-source project or have some individual projects you are proud of, put a GitHub link on your resume – I always check these out! But if your git history is limited to one lone commit for a school project, it’s probably best to leave it off your resume.

2. Remember: You’re interviewing us, too

When you are being interviewed, you are also interviewing the manager and potential teammates, so you want to get a sense of how the team works together. Ask them what a typical day would look like for you as an intern. Ask the team what they think of the company and team culture, too. The people you interact with will likely be a more important factor in what you get out of your internship than the project you work on.

3. Once you start your internship, speak up!

Your coworkers expect you to be there to learn, but they will take your ideas seriously, too. When I was an intern, I realized my position uniquely freed me up to speak my mind in conversations with colleagues and senior leaders. Autodesk works hard to support a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up, but the temporary nature of the job (and me being new) made it feel even safer to share my ideas. It was a huge confidence boost to see my ideas taken seriously.

4. Ask a lot of questions

Channel your inner five-year-old and ask “why” a lot. Why are things done the way they are? Why did the team choose a particular tool or technology? Asking questions like this will help you get a better understanding of how things work in a real-world setting. They also remind your manager and team that you are curious and engaged. And through these questions, you may uncover something that can be improved.

5. Use your internship to build your professional network

Autodesk’s internship program offers a lot of opportunities to network with other interns and senior leaders. Reach out to people who have roles that sound interesting and ask to set up one-on-one meetings. Your manager can help with introductions, too. A great question to ask these people is how they got to where they are now in their careers. Their answers might surprise you!

6. Incorporate your experience into your education

During your internship, think about what courses you could take back at school to develop the skills you see being used around you. Each internship I had influenced my academic path. For example, in one of my summer internships, I worked a lot with Oracle databases. So, the next semester, I enrolled in courses to improve my understanding of database fundamentals.

Autodesk is a great place to work, with so many opportunities to learn and grow. I feel good about the company and our impact on the world, and I’m proud of what our customers accomplish with the tools that we create. Whether you’re an intern or a full-time employee at Autodesk, you get to play a role in shaping a better, more sustainable world.

Best of luck to you on your internship journey!

Learn more about Autodesk internships and early career opportunities here.