Caden Damiano

Major: Web Design and Development

FamilySearch, Lehi, UT

UX Design Intern

Written by Megan Nielson

 

Caden Damiano didn’t need an internship for graduation, but decided to pursue one anyway. That decision solidified his success. I sat down with the senior, who is studying web design and development, to talk about his internship with FamilySearch.

Last year, Damiano received an email from the Career Development Center saying FamilySearch would be recruiting on campus. He understood the value of developing decision-making skills and intuition to help him excel in his field. Damiano competed for a position for his professional security, and he was hired as a UX design intern at FamilySearch, where he’s had the opportunity to work on a large design team and learn from seasoned experts. Damiano’s internship was extended, and it has allowed him to continue working while he finishes his education.  

Keep reading to find out what his experience has been like, and the advice he’d give students to help them land (and keep) great internships.

In addition to gaining intuition and decision-making ability, what other benefits is this internship contributing to your future career?

A lot of companies won’t even consider you if you don’t have prior experience. It’s really hard for junior designers to break into the industry. It’s almost like acting. It’s not as hard as making it as an actor in Hollywood, but the industry’s not designed for you to succeed — you have to break into it. That means a lot of hustling, going to networking events, building your portfolio up.

You need to have a body of work that shows you’re good. And because of that — because I got my internship and stayed on part-time, by the time I graduate I’ll be at FamilySearch for a year, and that looks good on my resume. My likelihood of getting a job, well even right now when I apply to places, they get back to me and set up interviews. The ease of the job hunt has been increased since my internship.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve worked on?

FamilySearch creates tools to help you map out your genealogy, or family history, so it’s some very complex problems.

It reaches a lot of people, and the content on the site, you know, the genealogy records, really resonates with people. It helps people feel like they belong, so any project is very fulfilling.

One I’ve been working on for most of my internship has been helping FamilySearch break into China. Our product doesn’t currently cater to Chinese users because there are mental models of how they perceive the family and their genealogy is a lot different. It’s been really rewarding to get to do some digital anthropology, learn more about how their thinking works. You’re almost like spending less time doing the design work and doing a lot of the discovery work — gathering evidence, being a psychologist or anthropologist. It’s a fun career because you get to spend a lot of time learning.

It’s cool because I feel like if we’re successful and I spent all this time working on making something that works with how they perceive their genealogy research, we’ve made tools more accessible internationally outside of a Western culture. I think it’s really awesome because there’s a lot of people out there that don’t have access to those resources because of the difference in culture. If we succeed, more people are gonna learn more about their families, have a sense of belonging and stuff like that. It’s cool.

What an amazing experience. What advice do you have for students who are looking for internship experience?

Don’t leave your internship search in the hands of your institution. One, it limits your options. In the end, it’s relationships with people in the community that you are trying to break into that is going to help you in your career.

Here’s an anecdote: there’s this community called Product Hive, they’re on the MeetUp app, and you can go meet up and network with people. That’s probably the biggest ROI: hanging out in that community, going to the meet ups and meeting people. I feel like my job prospects because of it are very good.

So if I wanted to leave FamilySearch, I have a body of mentors that are willing to advocate for me at companies because I took the time to go to the community.

As a student you should audit your time and see if your activities are giving you a good ROI. It takes time to build relationships with mentors. You should be starting as a sophomore. Be strategic.

Just for clarification, how did you find this community and networking events?

Tell your readers to download the MeetUp app.

It’s funny how many people don’t know about it. Download the MeetUp app, and then look up meet ups that have to do with what you’re interested in, and just start going to these events and meeting people.

That’s great advice. I never would have thought to use that for professional purposes. Now, let’s say they’ve networked, they got the internship — what advice do you have for them once they’re doing their internship, in order for them to be successful?

Don’t act like an intern. Act like you already work there as a full-time employee, which means take initiative.

In a book by Seth Godin called Linchpin, it talks about how there’s employees in companies that can come up with next steps. They don’t need to go back to their boss and be like, “Oh, what else do you want me to do?” I think a traditional vanilla intern will be asking their boss what they can do to stay busy, and a full-time employee just knows what to do next because they’re good at their job. And that’s what it means not to act like an intern. Just do your job like you’re getting paid full-time and you have benefits and you have all the incentives. Because then all of a sudden you start to fit in and then people will think they don’t want to lose you because at that point you become indispensable.

That’s what happened at FamilySearch. I was very embedded on a project and it just got to the point where they were totally fine with extending my internship because I’ve put so much work into a project. I saved them time because I wasn’t bothering them all the time being like, “Oh, what do you think of this? What should I do next?”

You just did it.

Just did it, like a full-time employee. And you know you’ve definitely won if you get to extend your internship. Anyone should try to extend their internship. You shouldn’t just do it in the summer. If the company can be flexible while you wrap up school, you get the benefit of more experience while you finish school. And most internships pay better than campus jobs.