Lessons on an Internship Well Lived

The day: September 22. The time: 5:00 PM. As I stand up and get ready to leave the office, it’s hard to imagine that today is my last day interning as a Software Engineer Intern with Tyrannosaurus Tech. It’s been a wonderful 4 months and I am truly thankful for the experience.

Starting out I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was to work with Ruby on Rails, a framework I had never used before. I did not even know Ruby to begin with. I was excited and looking forward to the challenge, but was frightened with the thought of potentially failing miserably and getting fired.

I remember being so scared on my first day when I got assigned my first project because I felt the project was just too complex. I had never used Ruby before, but now I was tasked to help build an entire application in 3 weeks. It seemed so unreasonable, but the people at Tyrannosaurus Tech really helped me believe in myself. They told me they wouldn’t give me a task they didn’t think I could accomplish. One of my fellow interns told me I needed to stop underestimating myself because I would not have been given this task if I wasn’t capable of meeting those expectations and coming through in the clutch.

Once the overview of the project was complete, we then proceeded to break everything down into small steps. That process really opened my eyes. In about 20 minutes or so the project went, from my perspective, from being completely impossible to being fairly manageable. A lot of the confusion on my part came from either misunderstandings I had or the fact that I simply didn’t know better.

I want to take this opportunity to pass on some words of wisdom to other interns in the tech world, specifically those looking to break into software development. It’s been a whirlwind I’ve really enjoyed and, I think these tips below can help other make the most of an internship opportunity like this.

So, here we go…

  1. Always Ask Questions: I cannot say this enough. As an intern, you’re not expected to have all the answers. If you do, then congratulations. You probably shouldn’t have settled for an internship position, though. But if you don’t, and you’re well aware of that fact, the only way to check your progress is by asking questions. Think about how something works, then question why it works the way that is does. There’s no such thing as a bad question either. Tyrannosaurus Tech being a relatively small agency, I got a chance to deal with the CEO and other executives on the daily. And I asked them questions about everything. From software engineering, to interviewing, to networking, to even launching a startup. They were always willing to answer and for that I am sincerely appreciative.
  2. Always Network: Tyrannosaurus Tech is a company that is heavily involved in the Atlanta community. Two of the biggest meetups in town, to the best of my knowledge, are run by people who work at Tyrannosaurus Tech. The meetups are “Product Hunt Atlanta” and the “Latino/a Developers of Atlanta”. I haven’t gotten a chance to attend any Product Hunt meetups yet, but I’ve been to a couple of meetups with the Latino/a Developers of Atlanta group. I was encouraged to come by, have fun and network. I thought networking was about just meeting people who could hopefully set you up with a job. Turns out, I was wrong. Networking is about building and maintaining relationships with people who have similar interests, more or less, as you. It’s a more formal version of a traditional friendship. The people you meet are people who could potentially add value to your life in one way or another down the line. The last thing you’d want to do is rush things. My approach since I’ve learned this has been to meet people, and just go with the flow. Whatever is supposed to happen will eventually happen.
  3. Always Be Polite: As an intern and/or youngster coming up in the industry, it is easy to feel like you’re being ignored sometimes. Or that maybe you’re not taken as seriously as your peers who have more experience. Let me assure you right now that this is all part of the journey. The key to successfully navigating your way around is to be considerate. Before asking a question, ask if said person has some time to spare first. When networking, genuinely ask about the person’s company and their career. I’m sure something in their answer will spark your interest. Expand on that and ask even more question. The more the merrier. Passion is something you cannot fake, so try your best and put yourself in situation where you won’t have to.
  4. Always Be Eager To Learn: Saying that I’ve learned a bunch at Tyrannosaurus Tech would be an understatement. If I had things my way, I would’ve probably just coded from 9-5 each day. However, that is not how life works. Especially at a startup where everyone is expected to do things that may not necessarily fall under their job description. The key to success is to always be open and willing to learn. I didn’t think I would enjoy some of the assignments I was given at first, but that didn’t stop me from giving it my best shot. And I ended up learning some very interesting things that will hopefully be valuable to me for the rest of my life.

The thing about learning is that it’s not just about the destination. It’s about the journey. Thank you Tyrannosaurus Tech for providing me with such a wonderful journey.