3 Takeaways From My First SWE Internship

  • Post category:Life Lessons

Sharing my key takeaways from my first software engineering internship over a span of 3 months

a lady sitting at her workstation (unsplash)

Back in May 2020, I attended my first software engineering internship with a healthcare startup: Jaga-me. My experience was very humbling and nothing short of enriching. Hence, I decided to write down my key takeaways from my 3 months internship stint, as a form of both reflection and sharing.

#1: To learn well, start with the right attitude

On the first 2 days of my internship, I went back home with 3 full A5 pages of technologies, methodologies and concepts to read up on. I was familiar with none on the list. I did feel overwhelmed.

But as the first few weeks passed by, I “eased” myself into the job. Every day, I was either reading guides, articles, documentations, or following tutorial videos. Using different mediums helps a lot when you are learning a new skill or knowledge. Along my whole internship journey, there were constantly new things for me to pick up and apply.

It then gradually became clear to me that learning was not so much one’s ability, but more of one’s attitude. The desire to expand their knowledge, the willingness to try new things, and the perseverance to overcome the learning curve.

To learn well, I believe in asking questions too. When reading existing code bases, many question marks would appear in my head as I go through them. To clarify my doubts, the simplest and most effective solution was to ask my supervisor “Why”s and “How”s!

While this may sound straightforward on paper, some may find it hard to do so, for reasons such as not wanting to look dumb or foolish, or one’s self-expectation to perform well without the aid of others. I do not think these are absurd reasons, but one can be more aware when such thoughts are stopping themselves from potentially learning something important and meaningful. That said, I am thankful to have a supervisor who was patient in guiding me throughout.

#2: Be open to feedback and be ready for changes

Every week, on Monday, the engineering team would have a scrum meeting, where everyone shares what they have done in the past week and demonstrates their work if they can. After each member’s sharing, the rest would give their feedback on the work done if they have any as well.

As such, almost every week, I would receive valuable feedback on a page I’ve developed the previous week, or on a customer journey process that I envisioned, or even just a single source file I wrote for the backend.

As a developer, I think it is easy to fall “victim” to the sunk cost fallacy, where we let the amount of time we have spent on something justify it’s “perfection”. This mindset may be omnipresent, but I also want to point out that this mindset stunts one’s growth.

Resistance to change is poison, and its anecdote is to adopt the mindset that “there is always room for improvement”.

That can include a more intuitive user interface, a better user experience, and even writing cleaner code.

I believe that embracing the cycle of doing → feedback → improve is key to achieving a better outcome in my work. Hence, I will continue to work on having an open mind to feedback, and a willing heart to work on those changes constantly.

#3: Power of Google Calendar

Yes, I didn’t start using google calendar until I went on my summer internship. And that has made a change in my life. I realised the power of using it to plan my weekdays in a week!

Using a planner give me clarity on what I wanted to do, and time became an apparent finite resource.

And, I didn’t have to put too much stress on my brain for remembering things because I could simply put them down as events in my google calendar. Another good part is that the calendar syncs across multiple devices.

For my current semester, I adopted the use of google calendar (as well as google tasks) for the first time, by putting down my lesson times and then planning when to do my tutorials and assignments. Planning my time well was quite crucial this semester because I was taking some modules which were 100% continuous assessment, which meant that I couldn’t just squeeze all the content into my head in recess and reading week only. Knowing where my time was going to is also a good reference point for reflection as well.

It has been 2 months since I started using google calendar for my study & personal life and so far so good!

Ending Note

I am very thankful for the opportunity that Jaga-me had given me to learn and grow with them, and I appreciate all the guidance and support rendered to me selflessly along my journey. I hope more people would have a chance and a platform to grow and showcase their ability, just like me! I believe that the lessons I have learnt would go a long way into the future and I don’t plan to stop learning anytime soon!

Thank you for reading!