Design is a profession where people learn by doing. The best designers are making all the time. They have personal side projects; they’re constantly inventing and reinventing. They cultivate a practice of self-reflection and iterate tirelessly. As an outcome of this practice, they become good designers because they’ve taught themselves how to be good. At Khosla Ventures, we believe the best way to gain employable skills is to learn by doing, which is why I’m pleased to announce the launch of our Design Internship Program.
We’ve cultivated internship opportunities with some of the most interesting startups in our portfolio and are working with the top U.S. design schools to invite students to apply. For students who want to pursue a career making technology, services and products of the future, there is no matter way to learn than by doing.
In contrast to school projects, real world settings introduce a whole range of challenges that make design hard that many people don’t fully understand. What often gets in the way of delivering great design is not lack of skills or knowledge, but the context in which the work is being done. Maybe there is too much design by committee and there is no clear decision-making process or owner. Or maybe the designer isn’t empowered to make design decisions stick; after all, when design decisions are a matter of creative judgment, whose opinion is the one that matters? Maybe there isn’t a robust collaboration between design and engineering that leads to useful, innovative technological solutions directed towards fulfilling people’s needs. Even organizational politics or inertia just makes change hard.
That’s why so much of what it takes to be a good designer derives not just from hard skills and knowledge but soft skills that are rarely taught: empathy, taste and working with other people. In the design profession, the soft skills matter at least as much as the hard skills. Soft skills are what designers invoke to work effectively with collaborators and stakeholders, to empathize with the people they’re designing for, and to bring inspiration and delight to these people through the experiences designers create.
Some designers struggle to land jobs because they haven’t gained enough real-world experience collaborating with cross-functional teams to build something greater than an individual working alone could ever do. This is why we believe coursework would be interwoven with internships so that knowledge gained in an academic setting could be applied, and one’s experiences in the workplace would then inform future studies.
While many startups would love to hire interns, it can be really hard to connect with students. Early stage companies often don’t have the brand recognition or resources to reach out to top schools to attract students for internships. Yet, they are often great environments for students to gain real world experience.
Khosla Ventures aims to help solve this problem by connecting startups with design students. In doing this we hope to create a win-win situation by advancing design education while assisting our companies.
We are now accepting applications for summer 2015, for any student interested in user research, visual design, interaction design and front-end development. Applicants are considered on a rolling basis, so apply now to be considered for these opportunities.