What is your advice for a new intern?

Updated on Oct 13, 2017

Hello, everyone!

So, next week I will begin my first internship (yay!). I am very excited and happy because it is a place where I will learn a lot. But I am also a little nervous, so I thought about getting some advice :)

For example, if you would have to do pair programming and work with a fresh intern, what would you expect from she/he? How was your first internship? What do you think helped you in your first internship and what not? What could be a good way to evaluate your learning?

Thanks!!

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  • Ask lots of questions! It's better to be curious than to remain in the dark about something. It only shows well that you want to learn and get better.

  • Don't take anything the company does as programming gospel, but also don't come in questioning everything. Most dev teams best practices are a mishmash of the right thing for them, hacks, clever internal practices, etc. If something seems really wrong, ask about it. Chances are they know it's wrong and they just haven't gotten around to it, but you should address it.

  • Offer to pitch in on tasks you are interested in. You can't always wait to be given something.

  • If you are taking way too long on something, seek help before it drags on too much. This kind of thing can be measured in minutes or months, depending on the type of task.

Thank you for this, Ben! Part of me feeling nervous is that I don't know a lot yet, so I was getting worried about when should I ask for help, if they would think that I was asking too much, etc (but hey, I am still an intern, right? I just have to keep reminding myself this, I am working on my dev-confidence issue xD).

But I've learned that most times the errors are so silly, it's just that I don't have the experience yet and in fact spend an entire day only on this can be too much! It means a lot to get this advice, thanks!

Definitely have a plan for getting your dev environment set up! That will save you as much time as possible to start developing. Of course, it might still take a while to do anyway since you'll have to see what your company needs you to install, but it makes the process much less of a nightmare if you know ahead of time what you personally need.

My apprenticeship here (The Practical Dev) had some pairing, and it definitely helps to get comfortable pairing again, if you aren't already. I always articulated what I was going to do, what I am currently doing, and why I am doing something in a certain way.

One way of evaluating your learning is to see how much of the project you understand. For example (a web development example), my first two weeks I had no idea which routes led to what, and what xyz controller did. I spent a decent amount of time just looking at the server logs and seeing what happened when I clicked this button or submitted this form.

Also, asking lots and lots of questions helps! It shows that you're curious and wanting to engage with what you're learning.

Thank you, Andy! That helps a lot! I am doing a tutorial using the framework they use just to get more familiar with :)
I think that doing pair programming will be a challenge to me, it will be my first time but very excited to learn all this cool stuff. Thank you so much :D

Listen, Observe & Learn. This helped me a lot during my internship in the past.

I find most of my senior developers are very receptive and willing to teach when I listened consciously and showed commitment to the work assigned.

You can observe and learn a lot from your senior developers.

  • Programming (Coding style, shortcuts, tools)
  • Work flow (Notes taking, Problem solving, Whiteboard design)
  • Communication (Messaging/Mail etiquette, Commenting JIRA/Pull requests, Formal/Informal discussions)

The best evaluation that I can think of is,

"If you can pat yourself that you arrived at the best solution that you can offer with your current knowledge & expertise, you are doing good."

Wish you good luck with your internship!!.

Thank you, Subuu! I am so excited, this is my first experience and reading this is helping me a lot. I will do this, hope everything turns great. Good luck on your projects! :D

Ben Halpern DEV.TO FOUNDER

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When I joined my internship, an officer (I interned at an atomic research lab) told me that I look too afraid and if I continued to be afraid I will be eaten alive by the office environment. I survived and here I'm, after 20 years, a CTO. So don't be nervous. Everything is going to be alright.

When I started I made so many mistakes. I hope you do so too. But I was lucky to find two great mentors who changed my perspectives and life. I hope you find mentors too.

Don't limit yourself to programming. Try to learn as much as possible in the environment. Derek Sivers, founder of CD baby and Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba talk about this. I distilled what they said in a post. If you are interested, read it at my blog. In summary,

When you’re earlier in your career I think the best strategy is you just say yes to everything, every piddly little gig, you just never know what are the lottery tickets.

Good luck.

Hi, Joseph!!

That is great, it's so good to hear stories like this :)

Yes, I have mentors, I would not have survived until here without them! It makes all the difference.

Thank you so much for sharing, it made me feel better. I will read your blog too!

Good luck for you too, Joseph. Hope you can still find other challenges to inspire others too! The best for you.

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