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How important is an internship, or vacation work for an aspiring programmer

  1. Jul 20, 2011 #1
    I'm 2nd year of 3 into my CompSci degree, and just (!) starting to think about employment after I graduate. I've been ... lost ... shall we say for a good long time, back at uni after a long break, enjoying it, working hard etc ... but I have no idea what I want to do when I finish, except that I've chosen Computational Maths for my major and I think I would like to do something with a science / r&d slant, as opposed to say, writing games, or web apps, or business software.

    I have prior work experience, but not in the software field. I worked my way up in a warehouse from storeman to "hey you, fix the computer", to "hey you, fix all the computers and manage the server, the network and the website" to "hey you, here's a few million $ of international freight, ship it, land it and cost it, and fix the computers as well!" So I understand, to some extent, how to work in a real company (it was a small company) but I have no experience working with a team of programmers, using a proper tool chain, etc

    So my question is, how important, or well regarded, is a 4-6 week vacation placement at a big corporate? I assume it will be very hard to get, my GPA is around 3.2 as far as I can figure it, and I'm terribly shy which won't do me any good in the interview but I'm willing to swallow that and have a go, if it's really worth it. I'm also a bit worried that the position won't be paid, and I might have to live on a whole lot of not much while I do it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2011 #2
    You should definitely TRY to get a paid internship or some kind of work experience over the summer, personally, i don't know how important it is to, but for any kind of job, the more experience the better (well most jobs).

    If you can't manage to find any kind of work you could do projects at home, a friend of mine hires software developers and he says that the ones he hires are the ones who code for fun, not because they have to kinda thing. So at least look at some open source projects, pick a program which you think could be improved, and do your own improvements on it, just don't do nothing.

    Best of luck.
  4. Jul 21, 2011 #3
    I think you do, you just don't realize it. A lot of it is "Hey you fix the #$@# software."

    It will be useful. You probably won't learn any programming that you can learn elsewhere, but you'll learn a ton about software design methodology and project politics and management.

    I remember at one big company that I worked at, the summer interns arrived right about the time that we suspected that the head office was going to stab us all in the back, close our office, and fire half of us, which they ended up doing. We got almost no work done, but the interns got a real good education.

    If it will help with overcoming your shyness, it will be worth the effort. Part of overcoming shyness in an interview is to do it often enough.

    One good/bad thing about big companies is that are big bureaucratic institutions.

    Sometimes it's a good thing to be big and bureaucratic since I doubt the lawyers in a large company will allow it to have people work for free, out of justified fear that they would face lawsuits for hell for violating labor regulations.

    One thing that happened was that we had an intern that was almost finished with a project and we asked if he could stay an extra day or two unpaid to finish up and the answer from legal and HR was absolutely not.
  5. Jul 21, 2011 #4
    Thanks for the comments!

    This is something I was thinking about last semester, a project that I could contribute to. I spent some time today looking around sourceforge and github and found a fractal generator that interests me, so I'm going to have a look at the code this weekend. I've had a go at a Mandelbrot generator before, it was great fun, and I've learned some OpenGL since then ^.^

    Coincidentally I received an email from my dept. yesterday advising me (well, all the CS students) to try for summer positions at CSIRO (Australian Science / Research Agency) , so that was timely, and exciting (!) I'd love to have a look at what they do there!

    Thanks for your insights twofish-quant, some good info, and a few of my fears alleviated. :)
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