So You Want to Be A Programming Intern, Part 2: Surviving Your First Week


 

[This is the second installment of our "From the Mouths of Babes" series, wherein our lovely interns try to give you the inside scoop on what being a programming intern at a high-tech startup is really like. Click here to read Part 1.]

Good work. You made it! All those rounds of applications, resumes, and interviews are over, and finally it’s your first day on the job. You’re a Riparian Data intern. Dressed in a pressed button down shirt, slacks, and leather shoes, your mind races as you wonder when your training will start and which is the room where all the interns work.

But as the VP of Operations Mr. Medeiros comes to greet you at the entrance, with a bright smile complimenting his Hawaiian shirt, you get the sense that something about this company is different. “Good morning! Welcome! Call me Dan,” he says. He shows you around the office building, and you catch a glimpse of kayaks in the exercise room overlooking the Charles River, fridges stocked with diet Snapple and Gatorade, and excited developers crowded around the foosball table. Although the parent company (SoftArtisans) is more than 15 years old, it feels like it has the energy and spirit of a start-up. Everyone is friendly, welcoming, and cheerful, and you can tell productivity is high since collaboration is only natural. What surprises you the most, though, is that there’s no corner in the back of the building designated for the interns—you get a desk alongside a full-time coder to maximize collaboration. And there’s no training course either—starting day one, you write code for the company’s soon-to-be-launched product.

Your experience at Riparian proves to be nothing like you expected. It feels overwhelming at first, being plunged into the middle of a software company in full sprint. You hardly know what a web application is, and everyone talks about ActiveSync migrations, Ruby spec tests, and JavaScript event handlers as if you already published your doctoral thesis in computer science. On my first day I was assigned to make email messages open in a new tab when you click on them with the middle mouse button. I didn’t have a clue where to start. It felt like it would’ve been easier to finish the Ironman Triathlon than complete this assignment. Over the course of my first week, though, all the developers were unbelievably helpful in providing guidance and answering all my questions along the way. I was shocked a week later when I actually fixed the problem. Although I still felt a world away from mastering every aspect of the code, I had learned so much about programming, and perhaps more importantly, how to tackle seemingly insurmountable assignments.

It was frustrating whenever things didn’t work, but interning at Riparian so far has been a pleasure. It’s exhilarating to think how much I can learn at over the course of the summer!

 

1 Comment