Given an extremely high priority item as an intern, chewed out for underperforming. Is this normal?


I'll try to make this as brief as possible, I really just want to know if this is an indication that I'm either not cut out for this type of job or if I'm doing something wrong.

I should start by saying that this project was told to me last second, as in I had already started by the time the project was decided for me. It had no plans, no checkpoints, just a project description for me.

Well, that project was one that one of the managers dubbed a "Very high (priority 0/1) " project to work on over this summer. It is a .Net Core API that does an important function that is needed for the company and I was expected to develop, code, and deploy it to Prod by the end of summer (at least that's what I assumed my expectation was, no plan or expectations were laid out for me). That's pretty much all the details I was given and I was set free. The project sounded like it was going to be a bit, and it included me scoping out libraries to use and implement them into the application. But hey, I was down for a challenge. My manager claimed he would do a one-on-one with me for progress weekly, but that never happened once or twice and they were very brief.

Now, over the past 7 1/2 ish weeks, I thought I've been doing pretty well. I have a very refined application, and deployed it to our CI/CD pipeline, and was currently working on finishing up the pipelining and doing one other thing before I called the project "done" (barring QA and stuff). I figured I was doing a great job learning an entire tech stack and developing a real application.

I had done one demo 2-3 weeks back showcasing the functionality, given massive amounts of feedback (like a lot) from the said manager, and moved on from there. He helped me with some of the templates, and I noted to him that while I enjoyed this whole project, it did feel a bit stressful with the amount that needed to be done.

... then today happened. I'm in the office 5 days a week, and admittedly today was not the most productive day. A mixture of burnout, depression, and just general blueness happened and I wasn't able to get a ton done today.

Apparently, somebody noticed this, because the said manager contacted me asking for a demo of a working deployed solution the next day. And reminded me that if I'm not ready for that then I've failed to set that expectation (this is completely out of the blue, btw). He "expected" the pipeline to be done and was doubting that I've actually been doing anything the past two weeks. Oh and also pointed out that if I were on his team as a full-time engineer, this all would've come up sooner as a performance issue. Did I add that he explicitly said he's treating me like a junior FTE?

Anywho, we go back and forth and I explain that this whole thing has been a little overwhelming and out of the blue, and tell them that I was feeling a little burnt out trying to get all of this under wraps in time to which I get a response of "you're not doing enough work and I haven't seen progress today. This is just a pep talk, don't worry, I'm just treating you like I would a junior FTE" (I have never been wanting to work less on this in my life).

I reiterated that I felt overwhelmed and burned out a bit, to which I just got general life advice because I guess he was done with the conversation.

I will say two things:

Yes, I did not work hard today. That is my bad, but I am human and I can't be a productive cog all the time.

I do need to improve my communication, I know this. Not to defend me, because it's crucial, but I didn't even know that I was expected to report blockers/plans to him, as he's not even my manager (same dept but different manager). I kinda feel like I was left to figure out literally all the customs and what should be done by myself, and was not given any expectations on what I should do.

I don't know, I don't wanna defend myself too much because there's a good chance I could just be being a slackass, but I wanted to know what you guys thought.


Wow, they really raked you over the coals, didn't they? This is a management disaster. What a mess. Take care of yourself, ok? It's just an internship.

I'm sorry they set you up to fail and showed you all the worst parts of the job. Your next job or internship will probably be a breeze by comparison.

I think you did the right thing by sending the message to your own manager. Hopefully, he can set things straight upon his return. Make sure you mention that crap about treating you like a junior. You're not. You're an intern, not a mind reader.

Until then, ask for expectations at every possible opportunity, and over-communicate. Ask for a mentor if you don't have one. And if it's wearing you down too much, remember you don't owe them anything. An internship is for learning. If they aren't teaching, they aren't holding up their end of the bargain.

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