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Need advice on programming internship

  1. Dec 17, 2012 #1
    Hi guys, I've started a programming internship about a month ago and i have some concerns and i'm hoping to hear some of your programming internship (or any internship for that matter) experiences.

    My biggest concern is that i feel that i am doing too much rummaging. I am always searching on google on how to do something so that i don't bother my coworkers.

    I thought that i would have a mentor who would at least guide me on certain projects, so that i could learn to code the way the company would want me to code. This is not the case.

    I might be too accustomed to the way school "holds" your hand through programming assignments so i guess in one way this is a good experience to have.

    Anyways, can someone explain to me their internship experiences and if mine is an unusual one?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 18, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    While not on an internship, we do in fact have interns and yes we give them assignments and let them research it themselves on the internet. You have to try to find the answer first before you go to your advisor then you can talk intelligently about your problem.

    For issues related to your project directly like: I don't understand how the program does something arcane then its always good to get some help.

    Its a balancing act you just need to ask the right questions at the right time without spinning your wheels too much and without asking too many questions.

    To be truthful, the advisor may not know the answer either and will wind up doing the same rummaging.
  4. Dec 21, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the response jedishrfu. I guess i'm envious of some of my school mates who are actually trained during their internship.

    Even some of the interns where i work closely work with mentors. I don't have anything like that and i guess that's why i posted this question.

    I'm going to make the most of my internship by filling my down time with learning new programming languages.

    Do you have (or anyone else) have any more advice on how to make the most of my internship
  5. Dec 21, 2012 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Not much more advice other than stay alert, don't fall asleep. I knew a student who made pencil and rubberband balls while working on his projects. That didn't go over well.

    Try to set goals and complete them and tell people your status periodically and tell when you've completed a big task. IBM used to teach people about Completed Staff Work. Many times you have to toot your own horn just to let everyone know you're there and you're part of the team. The idea is to become the goto person for your stuff and that makes you more valuable to the team.


    Its good to provide documentation on how things work (we use site wiki pages) or at least good comments in your code (ala javadocs) as someone else may have to work with it later. Don't overdue the comments though (think the Elements of Style, brief and to the point)

    These actions can leave good impressions on your coworkers and either get you a fulltime job, another internship there or some good recommendation letters when you need them. Collect email addresses for future correspondence or setup a linked-in acct and befriend your coworkers if they're on linked-in. I recently wrote a recommendation letter for one of my interns that way.

    Rather than learn a bunch of new languages, learn a given language in more depth. There are many Java books on api features, performance, good programming practices. All these will help you be more productive. I'm primarily a Java programmer but I dabble in groovy a scripting language that interoperates well with Java which I use for writing one-off tools that can java under the covers.

    Try to determine what languages are best suited for what task. I use AWK a lot because of its available on many platforms and its good for writing one of a kind programs. I don't use groovy because then I'd have to install it when I want to use it because it doesn't come with the OS in general.

    Same goes for learning vim which is everywhere the same and it works in a textbased command window (sometime you just can't popup a gui style editor).

    nuf said... (quote from the story: The Ranger, The Cook and a Hole in the Sky by Norman MacLean)
  6. Dec 21, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Hey trickslapper.

    One piece of advice is that if you don't know something then ask.

    Even if this feels intimidating, still do it if you have really used as much initiative as you possibly can to do it yourself.

    Showing the initiative and going to your one-up (manager, senior developer, whatever) is a good thing if you can show that you've tried a bunch of things and explain it in as short as possible.

    As time goes on, you will become more of an expert but you won't be when you start.
  7. Dec 21, 2012 #6
    Thanks for more advice guys. I bet what's really bothering me is that as an upperclassmen at school I was really good at doing the programs they made us do for school and i didn't need much help from the professor, classmates, or google.

    Now i feel that i'm back to being a "freshman" which is a sucky feeling after 4 years of schooling. One of the senior developers today did tell me that once you get out of school is when you really start to learn how to program so that made me feel better.
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