[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. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2!]
1) Equip yourself with solid basic knowledge Well, this is certainly a must, especially for those who want to focus on software engineering. The more knowledgeable you are (as evinced by your courses, grades, and extracurriculars), the more appealing you’ll be to companies which are hiring. In addition, you will find that even though you will encounter tons of new things you are not familiar with, having a solid grasp of programming basics will help you catch up quickly.
2) Find the right tech startup for you. Startups are generally not as famous as those big high tech companies, but many of them are doing very interesting projects. What you need to do is to find them. Your school’s career fairs are a great place to do so. You get to talk with the company’s people directly, and so possibly get more details about what they are doing. Picking the right project is very important. You will find that you not only learn from it, but also enjoy it.
3) Expect to learn. A lot. One of the characteristics of software engineering is its technologies are develope and change extremely fast. It’s not too surprising if you find you are required to use a new technology, a new language, or some new tools you may not have even heard about. So, you learn, and a lot! It’s the most fun part of interning at a tech startup. Enjoy it!
4) Know that you are expected to work independently most of the time You may have expected that, as a novice, you should have a mentor or something like that. You won’t, though you will get as much assistance as you need. But be clear that it is not like a final project that you did with your teammates--you will be soley responsible for some work and sometimes you may need to work under a time frame.
5) Be prepared for a life which is very different from the one you live on campus For some people (like me :-)), they may have a very different time schedule while they are at school. For example, as a grad student, most of my classes are in the evenings and I live in a place very close to the campus. So I usually do not need to get up early in the morning, nor do I need to commute. When I started my internship, I had to get used to the new schedule and the commute. It was a little bit tough for me at the beginning, and getting much better now.