The Internship Experience

Posted by Alex on January 9, 2015

This is an article I wrote for Spark Ventures I’m currently Interning for them) on how I got my internship, and how others can break into the IT Industry. My writing style still isn’t great, so it was good to be given an excuse to practice!

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I have loved technology ever since I was a wee nipper. I confused a lot of people when I joined the Army after college but that decision was key (more on that another time though). I left the Army in time to enroll in Semester Two 2013 at the University of Auckland. I sit here now, on the top floor of Spark City in Auckland, and I feel very, very fortunate.

I’m Alex, an intern Software Developer for Spark Ventures over the Summer of 2014 (and hopefully after that also). It’s a tough job breaking into a new industry, but worry not, I’m going to tell you how I did it, and how you can do it too.

The work here at Spark is awesome, just this morning I designed and implemented a web page that leverages social media to increase engagement with customers. I’ve dabbled in web stuff before but this is an actual product that will may go live at some stage, it’s a cool feeling. A fellow intern is working on automating some work processes we have here, to save time and tears (a lot of tears in my case) and this is only our second week. I’m looking forward to the rest of summer and the sweet projects we’ll be working on.

I got involved in an excellent program called Summer of Tech, they run boot camps and workshops on all sorts of stuff that industry needs but Uni doesn’t teach you. They run meet and greets and interviews with companies, they organised a day long hack-fest where teams of students get together and work on projects to win prizes and impress industry reps, it’s a great program. If you are in Auckland or Wellington, get involved ASAP.

It’s not the only way, but they certainly took a lot of the leg work out of the equation for me. Summer of Tech made it about my skills and experiences, and how I interacted with companies, rather then how good I am at cold calling or finding opportunities. Summer of Tech put the opportunities in front of me, all I had to to was grab them.

Plenty of big companies offer internships, those not involved in Summer of Tech often have their own programs, I went to a few of those, you should too. Friends of mine have got internships with Deloitte, PwC and the Wynyard Group, they did it through company recruitment events, not Summer of Tech.

Put yourself out there, if you see an opportunity that isn’t quite what you were after, who cares? Take it anyway. Learn something new. Apply for everything you can, be greedy, say yes. People remember those positive types who say yes to everything. Managers want to look good right? Well managers will remember you if they think you’ll make them look good, and if you make them look good, they’ll remember that and repay you the kindness.

Work hard, strive for excellence, again, make your manager look good, or make that potential manager think you’ll do such great stuff that you’ll both look good.

Know your field. It’s hard to make your manager look good if you don’t know how to do your job. You want a role in the IT industry, you need to know about the tools and procedures that get used in the industry, it’s that simple.

Be a decent human being. Arrogance, Rudeness, Idleness, these traits will make you stand out for the wrong reasons. Be mindful of that. I’ve spoken to people who feel that if they have an 8 or 9 point GPA, industry should be seeking them out, not them seeking out industry. Grades are important, but it’s more important to be able to function in a team environment. You need not be party central, you need not be a superheroic extrovert and the center of attention (I’m certainly none of those things!) but you do need to be able to form meaningful relationships. You need to be able to leave the right impressions on people, for the right reasons. So when you meet people, wear deodorant or anti-perspirant. Shower. Clean your teeth. Dress appropriately. All those good things mum and dad told you.

Your ability to form relationships and communicate, and your ability to learn new skills will get you a job. Taking your waifu pillow (Dakimakura?) to the interview will not. I’m not saying don’t be into that stuff, what you do at home is neither my business nor an employers’. All I’m saying is be professional while meeting professionals.

Seriously guys, I can’t stress this enough. You can have a ridiculous GPA, but if you can’t communicate or form relationships, it’s going to make your life a lot harder then it needs to be (Summer of Tech does workshops on soft skills like interviewing and meeting people by the way). If you take nothing else away from this post, take the above two paragraphs.

TL;DR, How do I into internships
1 Join Summer of Tech or go to Company Recruiting Events
2 Be cool, be good at what you do.
3 Put your hand up. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, the worst that can happen is nothing.
4 Follow up with recruiters
5 ????
6 Profit (Literally, they pay you to do what you love)

I got where I am today with hard work, a bit of stubbornness and some luck. I can’t implement Djikstra’s algorithm in assembly language, but I can interact with people -ish. You can too. The results are always worth it and there is never a better time to start then now. If you have any questions you feel free to hit me up on twitter (@4lexNZ) or this website, either by email on the main page, or by dropping me a comment below.