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From BuilDesign Intern to Employee: Team Members Share Their Experience
June 14, 2018 |

BuilDesign is Phase2's multidisciplinary internship program. Now in its fourth year, program is built on strong mentorship from Phase2 employees and a robust and well-rounded team of interns working together to learn how to excel in a digital agency.

In May 2017, me and five other interns out of the BuilDesign program became full-time employees at Phase 2, and in that first year, we’ve all developed and accomplished a lot. Ryan Conklin made enormous contributions to Phase 2’s new front-end development tool Particle, I presented at Drupalcon about Cthulhu and back-end Drupal, Biggie Powell became a front-end lead on a project and mentored a new developer, and so much more. Given how much we’ve grown we decided to set up a panel at P2con to discuss and reflect on our first year as Phase 2 employees. As Phase 2 gears up for another BuilDesign program, we thought it would be helpful to preserve some of the discussion and insights this panel invoked. Before jumping in though, let's meet the panelists.

Joanna Anderson

Position: Front-end developer

Background: Studied youth development and psychology, Salesforce Admin

Preferred work music: A little bit of everything, but currently obsessed with Spanish hip-hop/R&B.


Ryan Conklin

Position: Front-end developer

Background: Accounting, Energy Efficiency Consulting, Real Estate

Preferred work music: I don’t think I’ve effortlessly dodged the question “what kind of music do you listen to?” so many times in one weekend before.


Ryan Loos (me)

Position: Back-end developer

Background: Studied history and business, Apple tech support

Preferred work music: Chiptune/electronic music or albums I know backward and forwards


Biggie Powell

Position: Front-end developer

Background: Studied Sports medicine, service industry

Preferred work music: I listen to a variety of music but hip-hop is usually my go to. I like to get pumped up when I work.


Aimen Khakwani

Position: Front-end developer

Background: Studied web design

Preferred work music: I generally switch it up. Bollywood, or any pop that's more chill and not too loud/disturbing.


Our diverse paths all converged at Epicodus, a coding boot camp in Portland Oregon, which then led to the BuilDesign internship and eventually a job with Phase 2.

How have your responsibilities and goals changed in the last year?

The first subject of our panel was the evolution from intern to employee, how our responsibilities and goals had changed over the year. There was a consensus that we definitely had more responsibilities, but we also gained more trust from our fellow employees. Being full-time members of the company we had actual skin in the game. Also, our goals had evolved and become more focused. We went from just focusing on being able to get our work done to wanting to actually give back to the company in the form of things like mentorship and blog posts. Furthermore, now that we have more experience, we each have a clearer idea of what kinds of things we want to focus on (for instance back-end v front-end). One thing that has stayed the same for us though is how much we continue to learn. It’s pretty clear that in order to be a successful developer you need to constantly be updating your knowledge and skills regardless of what level you’re at.

Do you feel like you know what you’re doing yet?

The short answer was generally yes, we feel pretty comfortable in our roles. It’s an interesting question because imposter syndrome (when people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud") is so pervasive in developers at all levels. It’s important for our skills to progress, but it’s even more important to recognize that we will never be done learning and to accept and overcome feeling like an imposter. Aimen Khakwani insightfully pointed out that “At the end of the day, we always figure it out. Whether that means through research, trial, and error, or reaching out to all the incredible people around us.”

The Future of the BuilDesign Program

As our time came to a close, the panel became a general discussion about the future of the BuilDesign program. The feedback from the panelists was pretty clear, this program meant a lot to all of us and we all want to contribute to its next iteration in whatever capacity we can. During this discussion, Matt Niblock, Director of Talent Acquisition, asked us what advice we would give to the next generation of interns. On the practical side, Ryan Conklin heavily recommended building and actually deploying a site, “I often learn just as much getting a project on the internet as I do making it,” he said.

We all recommended taking advantage of all the opportunities Phase 2 offered. Joanna Anderson said, “definitely take advantage of the opportunities they're providing. Even if you're sure you want to be a developer, try out the product management track and see what work is involved for that job. it's an easy way to try out the job see if you actually like it or not. “



In his three-years as a Drupal developer, Ryan has contributed code to over a dozen different projects for clients ranging in a variety of industries including energy, sports, education, and finance. Ryan focuses on the creation of back-end functionality, primarily in PHP.  He has also written several blog posts, contributed to Phase 2’s tools--Particle and Octane-- and worked on proposals and demos for clients. 

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