What is the most catastrophic mistake made by an intern at a company?

When I was 21 I almost lost several hundred million dollars by threatening to mutilate one of our customers.

In my senior year in college I worked full time as an intern PM at NetApp. I spent most of that time at work being groomed and prepared to be a full product manager, and given that my background was in cryptography I got pulled into a lot of customer meetings related to security.

One of our customers at the time was undergoing a big change with their security architecture, and I tagged along with one of the directors to the meeting. I was one of ten PMs giving talks on roadmap and our plans, and I had 30 minutes to convince their CIO and CEO that we could integrate our new systems well with the new security infrastructure they were rolling out.

It turned out though that the CIO and CEO weren't the only ones in the room. Joining them was the company's Chief Security Officer (CSO). Like me he was a young, rising star in their company with a lot to prove in a short period of time. He also didn't like me much from the get-go; when I walked in the room he sneered, and when I went to plug in my laptop to the projector he openly asked, "Is he really going to present alone?"

Most of my 5 slide presentation was instantly ripped apart. I had a good command of the tech involved, so the criticism wasn't on our findings. Instead, he nitpicked the design - the colors were off, the fonts weren't like the other presenters' (admittedly I did disregard the style designs, my bad), etc.

When I finished my slides and hit the time for questions, he laughed and shooed me away. "Good effort, but you clearly don't abide by our security practices." I stared at him with tired, dagger-piercing eyes across the podium. Not only did we abide by what they needed, but I'd spent all night working on this presentation (which combined with going to school full time meant that I was on very little sleep). I was pissed off, and I decided to push back.

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