Skip to main content

Being An Appian Intern: Real World Experience and Mentorship

Appian App Icon Emilio Cano and James Sterchi


Emilio Cano joined the Appian Engineering team for the summer and was most excited for the technical challenges. After three months, he’s leaving with different takeaways than he expected; things like how a software company operates, the different career paths in tech, and the positive impact of having a mentor.

At Appian, interns are split into small groups and matched with a mentor. This program is organized by AppianRise, our Affinity Group that supports professional development for employees early in their career. 

Emilio and four other interns were paired with James Sterchi, who started his career at Appian right out of college and remembers what it’s like to join your first workplace. Emilio and James shared their experiences, what they learned, and what advice they’d give to future interns.

Meet Emilio Cano

  • Environmental Engineering student, Princeton University 
  • Machine Learning Intern, Summer 2022

Meet James Sterchi

  • Associate Solutions Consultant 
  • Mentor, AppianRise

What was your first mentorship group meeting like? 

Emilio: After our first week of orientation sessions and meeting so many people, I was expecting another meeting of sitting back and learning when we met James. I could tell immediately it had a different vibe. He didn’t have a slideshow prepared and didn’t spend a lot of time talking. 

It was very personal, tailored to our group, and James genuinely wanted to learn about who we were and what we liked to do. We set up weekly Tuesday meetings where there was no agenda, which was great! In our group of five interns, there were two Sales interns, two Engineers and one in Marketing.

James: I started the first meeting by asking: What do y’all want to get out of your term this summer? This group is for you, however you want to use it. We found out pretty quickly that it would be most beneficial to focus on social events and getting to know each other beyond our day to day work. They were all pretty excited to be paired with interns from different teams so it was also about learning what other departments do to give a more holistic view of Appian overall.
From that first meeting on, we just had a blast. I think the open, casual approach really worked well because we didn’t just sit around and ask everyone what they wanted to do when they got older — that’s what everyone asks students! Sometimes we’d play ping pong, or go for a walk around the office. By creating this open environment for genuine conversations to flow, it often led to deeper, more meaningful discussions.

Walking around our HQ office in McLean, Virginia.

What was your favorite meeting or event? 

Emilio: One of our group members, Aidan, loved rock climbing, so one night we all went rock climbing which was really fun! He taught us about bouldering and led a few activities. After this event, I became closer friends with everyone in the group and the meetings became something I was really looking forward to each week.

In one meeting, James walked us through what his day to day looks like and how he creates demos for other companies. Another time, the Sales intern scheduled a cold call during our meeting! We all actually got to hear how he talks about the Appian platform to potential customers. Since I’m on the Engineering team building the product, it was super cool to see how other teams and customers actually use it!

James: At the end of the summer, a few of our mentee and mentor groups got together for an escape room and dinner. We were at this long table and the interns were asking anything and everything that came to mind— rapid fire questions about Appian, our experience, career advice, etc - things of that nature.

I could tell they felt comfortable asking us all about our experience. It was really nice to see that level of transparency with everyone. I definitely need to give kudos to my intern group for how enthusiastic everyone was throughout the summer, and to AppianRise for organizing the program. It was a really stellar group and I feel like the mentors learned as much from the mentees as they did from us.

Aidan, one of the interns, is a big rock climbing fan so one night we went out and he taught us all about bouldering. 

What were the main things you learned over the summer?

Emilio: I got a lot more than just the technical learning, thanks to the mentorship program. I learned about the context behind how our Appian platform is used across teams and with customers. That kind of deeper understanding and view of the product is something I haven’t gotten with past internships. 

It’s so different coding at a software company than coding for class projects! In school, you get the scaffolding and the one file you write your code in, and that’s it. When you’re working, there’s so many other variables. You have to be aware of what other people are working on, how all the files connect, and things are always changing. Knowing technical languages and tools are only one part of working as an Engineer, and there’s so much I took away from the summer about the actual experience of working at a software company with a team.

James: First off, I learned how to absolutely race through an escape room.

All of us after we set the Georgetown Escape Game Record!

But in all seriousness, I learned TONS from the mentees. I would try to stay quiet and listen for most of our meetings as they always had insightful things to say and experiences to share.  I learned new ways to message Appian (my job) from Raif. I learned the inner workings of our product from Jacob and the impact of data science on sustainability from Emilio. I was taught advanced climbing techniques from Aidan, and I could write a whole book on what I learned work ethic wise from Frankie. They thought about things differently than I did, and brought fresh perspectives to the day-to-day at Appian. I found that I learned the most by listening and giving them the time to process and chat through things, and genuinely taking the time to get to know them. I'll definitely do my best to carry this approach going forward in anything I do.

What advice would you give to students starting their first internship?

Emilio: There’s more to the internship than just the day to day work and tools you’ll learn. Get to know people and ask about the culture. There’s also so many career paths you don’t know exist until you work somewhere, so take the time to learn about what other people are doing and what jobs are out there! 

James: Just have fun with it. Go in with an open mind, explore things outside of your day-to-day role, and consider that you’ll likely get out what you put in. Take the time to get to know others, learn more about the things that interest you, , and try to make the most out of your brief time there. There are plenty of tools, resources, and people to help you succeed, so don't be afraid to go out and try something new!  If you dive headfirst into the experience, you'll have the chance to learn so much more about the role, the company, and yourself. 


The AppianRise intern mentorship program is one of the many ways they help employees early in their careers. Learn more about how AppianRise makes your first job less isolating.

Appian App Icon

Written by

Emilio Cano and James Sterchi

Emilio was a Machine Learning Intern at Appian during the Summer of 2022. James is an Associate Solutions Consultant and AppianRise mentor at Appian.