Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

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#1 conure  Icon User is offline

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Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 09:30 AM

Hello all,

I am wondering if I could get some feedback on my current situation which I will be briefly outline.

I graduated in 2008 with an arts degree and went into insurance broking which, whilst fairly lucrative, I really didn't enjoy. I started getting into coding a bit and found out that I really loved it, so opted for a career change 18 months ago and began a degree in Software Development.

In my first year of Study I worked hard and got good results, and now I don't restart University until October but would love to be able to secure some type of summer or 3 month internship. I live in central London so there is plenty of stuff about, however so far all I have studied is logic, mathematics and Java (with introductory Linux). I have no real clue how programming works in the real world as I've only written fairly trivial little bits of code in Java.

I am currently working through the HTML/CSS section on Codeacademy as I am led to believe the majority of internships will be with startup companies who need web developers. My aim is to spend the next 3 weeks building a basic website with HTML/CSS/Javascript and then learn either Python or Ruby to create a basic back end. Then I will host it on my Raspberry Pi and put the code on GitHub. At the moment I am only vaguely aware of the differences between a backend and frontend but have a lot of free time and am passionate about the subject matter. I will also need to learn how to effectively use GitHub.

I am not looking for a well paid internship, even minimum wage would be absolutely fine - do I sound like I'm in a good position to seek intern work, and if not, does my plan sound like a decent idea? Can anyone advise me as to whether I should stick with Java or pick up Ruby or Python for the backend of the website?

If nothing I am saying makes much sense or seems unrealistic, please do let me know! I am so sick of being in jobs that I hate that I'd work for minimal money whilst studying. Advice would be hugely appreciated!

This post has been edited by conure: 06 April 2014 - 09:33 AM


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#2 Momerath  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 11:05 AM

Most of the internships I see around here are from well established companies, not start-ups. And if you get paid for your work, you are lucky. As for what you should know, that's really depends on the place. I see internships for C/C++, Java, C#, PHP, Python, etc. Pick something, work towards becoming an expert in that, then branch out. Trying to learn too many things at once will just confuse you :)
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#3 conure  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 11:09 AM

View PostMomerath, on 06 April 2014 - 11:05 AM, said:

Most of the internships I see around here are from well established companies, not start-ups. And if you get paid for your work, you are lucky. As for what you should know, that's really depends on the place. I see internships for C/C++, Java, C#, PHP, Python, etc. Pick something, work towards becoming an expert in that, then branch out. Trying to learn too many things at once will just confuse you :)/>


Hi Momerath thanks very much for your advice! Just out of interest, whereabouts are you based? The reason I ask is because I've been told by a fair few people here that startups are the way to go as they often like to employ cheap/inexperienced student programmers to do relatively trivial work rather than paying for individuals that command a much higher wage. This could of course be wrong, and I can only speak for the London market.
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#4 Momerath  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 11:21 AM

The start-ups around here (Portland, Oregon, USA) don't have time or manpower to spend time mentoring interns. They want people who can contribute without hand-holding. It's the big companies (Intel, I'm looking at you) that want interns to abuse :) They tend to have more short-term projects. There are also many non-profit companies here that are looking for interns, but you don't get paid at all from them (you are volunteering).

Back when I worked for the National Airborne Radiological Laboratory (branch of the Environmental Protection Agency) we had two interns that we didn't pay directly. They would work 3 months, then go to school for 3 months. We covered the school cost. They did all the fun jobs like tape backups, ink and paper refilling, etc. I have no idea how they managed to pay bills, I suspect they lived at home :)
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#5 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 11:49 AM

I'm going to make note of something... You've spent how much to go to school for the last year and you have no idea about how to do any coding. Please think about that a second.

I've said this before many many many times here. Universities don't sell career readiness. They sell course credits. Their business model is to stretch out your education as long as they can convince you to pay for it because that's how they make more money. You would never accept it of a contractor on your house to pay by the hour giving them reason to take longer. You pay for the job whether it takes them 2 weeks or 2 months, giving them incentive to get the job done. I you didn't pay your university until you got a job in your career field, and then only paid them a percentage of your first year's pay - I guarantee you'd be fully job ready on the latest technology for the highest paying jobs in 18 months.

If you want to keep going to school so you have a piece of paper, and be someone's unpaid coffee and ink flunky that's great. You do that. But I think you'd get a lot more experience by purchasing 20 good self-teaching books, doing some on-line workshops, and devouring every video and training recourse you can find on the web. You just lived to learn code for the next year I think you'd be amazed at how far you could take your skill set. You just have to believe that you can teach yourself with the resources widely available and not sit back waiting for a teacher or an internship to spoon feed it to you.
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#6 Momerath  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 12:43 PM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 06 April 2014 - 11:49 AM, said:

I you didn't pay your university until you got a job in your career field, and then only paid them a percentage of your first year's pay - I guarantee you'd be fully job ready on the latest technology for the highest paying jobs in 18 months.

Oddly enough, this is a model that Oregon is currently experimenting with. Go to school for 'free' then pay a percent of your income for a certain number of years. You can also pay it off early if you wish. The amount of time you have to pay depends on your choice of major (English - Forever, Comp Sci. 5-10 years).
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#7 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 12:49 PM

That's terrific. I've been saying this for about 2 years here. If the professors' incomes were linked to their students' incomes/hireablity they would make an effort. We hear all the time about students in a current course that after 2 years are just getting around to writing their first console app. That's deplorable.
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#8 boxchamp  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 06 April 2014 - 07:16 PM

View Postconure, on 06 April 2014 - 11:30 AM, said:

Hello all,

I am wondering if I could get some feedback on my current situation which I will be briefly outline.

I graduated in 2008 with an arts degree and went into insurance broking which, whilst fairly lucrative, I really didn't enjoy. I started getting into coding a bit and found out that I really loved it, so opted for a career change 18 months ago and began a degree in Software Development.

In my first year of Study I worked hard and got good results, and now I don't restart University until October but would love to be able to secure some type of summer or 3 month internship. I live in central London so there is plenty of stuff about, however so far all I have studied is logic, mathematics and Java (with introductory Linux). I have no real clue how programming works in the real world as I've only written fairly trivial little bits of code in Java.

I am currently working through the HTML/CSS section on Codeacademy as I am led to believe the majority of internships will be with startup companies who need web developers. My aim is to spend the next 3 weeks building a basic website with HTML/CSS/Javascript and then learn either Python or Ruby to create a basic back end. Then I will host it on my Raspberry Pi and put the code on GitHub. At the moment I am only vaguely aware of the differences between a backend and frontend but have a lot of free time and am passionate about the subject matter. I will also need to learn how to effectively use GitHub.

I am not looking for a well paid internship, even minimum wage would be absolutely fine - do I sound like I'm in a good position to seek intern work, and if not, does my plan sound like a decent idea? Can anyone advise me as to whether I should stick with Java or pick up Ruby or Python for the backend of the website?

If nothing I am saying makes much sense or seems unrealistic, please do let me know! I am so sick of being in jobs that I hate that I'd work for minimal money whilst studying. Advice would be hugely appreciated!


Honestly, if you don't have too much experience and don't know much about coding in the real world, then you need to ask yourself what you can offer a company at that level. Most of the internships here in Orlando, Florida require students to at least have a class in algorithms and data structures as that class will give you a good foundation on the many algorithmic problem solving techniques.


As for your idea on whether to pick up another language for backend development, that depends on what you want to do in your career. You are just starting out and in this massive industry it can be tempting to try many technologies, but don't go too fast. Learn the concepts first then branch out. It will be a lot easier to do that once you have a strong foundation. A popular computing class offered at many universities that teach you how to learn different programming languages is called Programming Language concepts. It is usually a junior level and above class.

I would suggest you to look at an open source project and see a real code base. Try to understand how the pieces fit together and look at the bug report and try and squash a bug or implement a new feature. This will give you experience with other people's code and most likely version control systems and reading and understanding bug reports. This is a valuable skill to have and open source development looks really good on a resume.

If you are looking to practice coding techniques in java I would suggest you tart with a site called codingbat.com, then work your way up to competition programming. Many on this forum will say that competition coding is a horrible idea as it teaches bad coding habits but I think it is an excellent way to practice problem solving techniques and many of the problem are based off of famous algorithms.

That is my opinion. I commend you for being proactive and asking about an internship. I wish I would have been more proactive in the beginning of my career.
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#9 conure  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 07 April 2014 - 02:20 AM

Hi tlhIn`toq,

Thanks very much for the detailed response! I completely agree with you regarding the university costs and it being drawn out. In my first year of study I learned code so simple that I think it could have been compressed into a two week period. Most of the rest of the content was superfluous, such as one very short session on HTML which didn't have any practical work; just theory (which resulted in me promptly forgetting it). I think this is fairly common of UK universities, particularly in the first year.

Throughout the first year and alongside my degree I have worked through 'Head First Java' and 'Learn Python the Hard Way', and I am now reading the book 'HTML & CSS: Teach Yourself to Build Websites' by Wiley. I have also taught myself a few other bits such as basic robotics with an Arduino, remote surveillance with a robotic arm and Raspberry pi (I don't use it for anything sinister!) and whenever I come across word or numerical problems I will try to solve them with Python. I've found teaching myself far more effective than following the University course materials which tend to be fairly rigid in their structure.

The problem I am having is, at least in the UK there seems to be an 'HR Filter' which means that without a degree in the subject area your CV doesn't even get a look in. Over here having a degree (even with a poor result) is seen as superior to having no degree + a real passion for the course by the HR people.

My situation is essentially that I need to raise the money to fund the rest of my degree (though if I could take your suggested route and self study for a year that would be ideal, but the HR filter makes it very difficult). A low wage would allow this as I have savings and just need a small income whilst studying, which my current part time job does; it's just completely unrelated to development (and IT in general) and is fairly soul-destroyingly dull when I'd rather be at home coding. Still, I knew when I left my previous role that there would be sacrifices so I will just continue to look for internships, get through the degree and suck it up when it comes to the immensely dull job!


Boxchamp, thanks also for your reply :)
I have actually worked through a fair bit of codingbat.com so I will look to finish it off asap. Your suggestion of open source reading is much appreciated and once I am confident understanding my own code properly I will begin to do that. At the moment when code gets sufficiently complex, I still have problems seeing how it relates and I can forget parts of it - though that's just a result of my own inexperience with larger code bases, and expect that mental ability will start to develop. Incidentally one of my next classes is called 'Algorithms and Data Structures in Python' so that should hopefully help my employability. Programming Language concepts sounds useful so I'll try to find a MOOC that covers it. I'm also reading 'The Pragmatic Programmer' at the moment, though some of it goes over my head - I think it's more geared toward experienced programmers.

Thank you again for your replies all.

This post has been edited by conure: 07 April 2014 - 02:23 AM

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#10 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 07 April 2014 - 05:38 AM

I understand about needing the degree to be looked at. But then what? If you *only* do the school course you'd have no actual skills. I'd suggest you do the course work to get the paper. But at the same time, eat sleep and breath coding tutorials, workshops, video course, self-teaching books etc. University will get you a piece of paper to get your foot in the door with HR. But you'll need actual coding skill to pass the interviews and to do the job.

While you're flushing out CV with course work, you can then also be taking on easy contracts from sources that don't care about paper: just skill. There are plenty of on-line "coder for hire" sites. Even if you are only doing simple stuff to start it will get your skills and speed up. As you can do more you take on progressively tougher contracts. By the time you have your degree you will also have a couple year's experience in a wide variety of projects.
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#11 conure  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 07 April 2014 - 06:16 AM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 07 April 2014 - 05:38 AM, said:

I understand about needing the degree to be looked at. But then what? If you *only* do the school course you'd have no actual skills. I'd suggest you do the course work to get the paper. But at the same time, eat sleep and breath coding tutorials, workshops, video course, self-teaching books etc. University will get you a piece of paper to get your foot in the door with HR. But you'll need actual coding skill to pass the interviews and to do the job.

While you're flushing out CV with course work, you can then also be taking on easy contracts from sources that don't care about paper: just skill. There are plenty of on-line "coder for hire" sites. Even if you are only doing simple stuff to start it will get your skills and speed up. As you can do more you take on progressively tougher contracts. By the time you have your degree you will also have a couple year's experience in a wide variety of projects.


Yes you're right - I am trying to get a few projects together now to really build up my CV. I hadn't really considered myself experienced enough to take on contract work, but I've always been fairly underconfident when it comes to my ability (likely unjustified, I just eer to the side of caution..). Contract work would be amazing so I'll see what I can find. Thank you again :)
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#12 conure  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 09 April 2014 - 09:02 AM

Hi all,

I have put some thought into what you all said regarding outside projects and decided to do just that.

Today I purchased some web hosting and set up a blog on WordPress and my plan is this:

Every day I will learn some new aspect of development and incorporate some new functionality/improvement to my website (which is yet to be built). The blog which goes alongside it will detail technical challenges and things I've learned. Eventually I will move the blog onto my website in a blog I'll build myself. This should result in two benefits; one, I'll have built and learned a huge amount about web development. The second is I'll have a real piece of work to show potential employers. I have also purchased 3 well reviewed books on html, css, js, jqeury and php. It should keep me busy and learning new things!

Does this sound like a decent idea? I am not short of motivation, but I don't want to put a huge amount of energy into something that won't reap results.

Thanks :)/>

This post has been edited by conure: 09 April 2014 - 09:36 AM

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#13 Momerath  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 09 April 2014 - 09:22 PM

Having something to point at in an interview "Look there, that's my design, my code, etc." is always beneficial. It gives them something to look at and makes you look better than the other candidates when they have nothing.

Whenever I'm asked what I've done, I always point out that the back end of Orbitz is my code :)
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#14 boxchamp  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 11 April 2014 - 07:01 AM

View Postconure, on 09 April 2014 - 11:02 AM, said:

Hi all,

I have put some thought into what you all said regarding outside projects and decided to do just that.

Today I purchased some web hosting and set up a blog on WordPress and my plan is this:

Every day I will learn some new aspect of development and incorporate some new functionality/improvement to my website (which is yet to be built). The blog which goes alongside it will detail technical challenges and things I've learned. Eventually I will move the blog onto my website in a blog I'll build myself. This should result in two benefits; one, I'll have built and learned a huge amount about web development. The second is I'll have a real piece of work to show potential employers. I have also purchased 3 well reviewed books on html, css, js, jqeury and php. It should keep me busy and learning new things!

Does this sound like a decent idea? I am not short of motivation, but I don't want to put a huge amount of energy into something that won't reap results.

Thanks :)/>/>

for books go here: https://github.com/v...amming-books.md

It is an open source repository of free programming books.
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#15 gregwhitworth  Icon User is offline

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Re: Please help me with a bit of advice regarding development internships

Posted 11 April 2014 - 10:29 PM

Internships at major companies will pay usually the same amount as a regular employee as they are usually hoping you will become just that. You go through the same interview process (which is usually about 6-10 engineers) but you also are expected to be able to do the same job as a full time employer. I say just focus on building things even if there is no real point. But don't just build a component of something, prove you can come up with a multi-faceted idea and see it through, from design, implementation and management. Build yourself an awesome website, and then branch out and start building sites for others, or working on github and forking libraries and submitting pull requests. This is a great practice as your code will be reviewed and you'll only grow during that process. You'll never achieve unless you start doing it, so try to make it so that you code everyday with a purpose. It may sound cliché and dumb but practicing and studying is how you get good coding and then will have something to offer to a company (they don't call it computer science for nothing). So hopefully by the time you get your degree you won't only have a piece of paper but also a portfolio and real world experience to go along with it. Good luck!
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