Priya Shah: Nothing is above your pay grade

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guestpost / Wednesday

As we move towards the meat of the 2nd week of A Summer of Learning, I’m starting to see certain themes come up frequently. I think today’s post puts a lot of them together. On to the post:

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be a part of Sid’s Summer of Learning. I am Priya Shah and I’m from Ahmedabad, India. Sid and I became friends at Northwestern University, where I’m studying Economics and Computer Science. This summer I am working as a software engineering intern at American Express in New York City.

I’ve been looking forward to this summer for a long time. The source of this excitement was the general idea of working in New York City but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Has it lived up to the hype? So far, it’s been better than I could have imagined. However, I don’t think that the reason behind that is necessarily my internship or the city that I’m in. Sure it doesn’t hurt to be in the city that never sleeps, but I think that I’ve made some conscious decisions that have really contributed to the quality of my experiences. Some of the things that have worked for me have been:

Set learning goals for the summer

This has gone through multiple iterations as I explore, learn, and reflect throughout the summer. However, I believe that forcing myself to have a direction has helped me immensely. I tried to have a few goals for both categories – career and personal. This has been essential in driving conversation with my colleagues as well as allocating my summer time.

Learn ‘off’ the job

Regardless of which city you’re in, there is always something to explore around you. I have a growing list of places I want to visit and activities I want to do in NYC. I started checking stuff off my list right away – I didn’t waste my first weekend “settling in”. I also do a little bit of research for this. As tempting as it is to just go somewhere and wander, it is not always the best idea. When I’m working all week and only have the weekend to myself, a little bit of planning has really helped me make the most of my free time in the city. Most days after work I have tried to run to a new place (about 1-2 miles away). It has been a great way to learn more about the city while also getting a work out in.

Nothing is above your pay grade

At my internship I have emailed everyone from Group Presidents to Executive Vice Presidents. I thought to myself – the worst thing that could happen is that I don’t get a response. However, people are more willing to help than you’d think, especially when you’re an intern. I have gotten responses from every one of them answering my questions and they have also recommended and connected me with other people in the company that I should meet with. As a result I have had some very interesting conversations with people from a range of diverse job roles. Branching out of the technology department has also helped me get a better perspective on what I want to do with respect to my career.

Echoing off of what Sami mentioned last week, I believe that learning is constant and its sources are often unexpected. It just depends on whether or not you take advantage of it. As long as I try and have new experiences, I am incessantly learning about myself and everything around me. My summer has been off to a fantastic start and I’m looking forward to see what kind of experiences the rest of my time in New York is going to bring. I hope that you find my learnings useful and have invaluable experiences of your own!

Thanks to Priya for writing this week’s guest post! I really liked how she turned around the “Nothing is below your pay grade” advice on its head. This is something I will try to emulate during my own internship. The next two days have some really interesting stuff coming along and I hope you’ll enjoy them. 


  1. Pingback: Lessons from my Internship: Week 2 – A Summer of Learning

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