July 05, 2016

Lessons Learned From My Internship.

I have been working at Southern Trust Insurance since April. This is a paid internship where I was tasked with updating their website. As you can see from the link above, it is fairly outdated, both in terms of the code base and design. It’s been roughly 3 months since I started, and I’ve learned a lot from working there. In this post, I’ll summarize my experience at Southern Trust.

The Interview.

I first heard about the open internship through my school. The job application asked for experience with HTML/CSS, graphic design, and ASP.NET. I had no experience with ASP.NET at the time, but I applied anyways. I received a call from HR after about two weeks, to schedule an interview.

I was very nervous before the interview. Luckily for me, the interview itself was fairly smooth. I met with HR, and two IT employees. We talked about my skills, experience, and what I brought to the table. They were specifically looking for someone with experience with ASP.NET, so I tried to showcase my ability to learn quickly.

I also asked them a few questions about company culture, long-term company goals, etc. to understand the company. I was surprised there were no technical interview questions, but I suppose they know applicants for a student internship probably don’t have that much knowledge yet.

First Day Of Work.

So a few weeks after the interview, I was notified that I had the job. I started a week later. On the first day, I was given a tour of the IT department, with a brief overview of how the various systems work, what the IT department is working on, and what I’m supposed to be doing. A lot of this information went over my head, but it really helped me get a big picture view the IT office, and how I fit into that.

I was setup with a computer, and given the task to work on the website. That statement was very broad, and I was given a lot of leeway in how I approached the task. My manager told me what they liked and disliked about the current website and what they wanted to add. Based on this information, I started thinking about how I could create a site to meet those requirements. I’ll talk specifically about the work I did at Southern Trust in another post.

Lessons Learned.

Finally, what did I learn during my Internship?

It’s okay not to know everything.

Southern Trust’s IT department uses several different systems and tools. It’s impossible to learn them all in such a short period of time. Instead, I tried to figure out who I should approach if I needed to know more about a specific system. Establishing a general mental model of how Southern Trust works was also helpful for me, because even if I did not know the specifics, I knew enough to talk to the right person.

Learn on the job.

I had to use ASP.NET, C# and the MVC design pattern to create a website. I also had to implement an ASP.NET CMS called Umbraco. I had no experience with any of these tools and languages before this job. However, I was able to implement a fully functional website using those tools by googling errors, reading documentation, and watching tutorials.

Ask questions.

Seriously, just ask. Don’t waste time trying to figure it out on your own when there is a good chance a coworker knows the answer. Email is especially great for this.

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