Advice for Interns on Their First Development Internship

Some of the many concerns interns have before starting their internship are I’m not sure if I’m qualified for this internship and what if the work I produce is not good enough.  Some interns have this fear that they are inadequate for the job.  First of all, companies don’t make mistakes in hiring people.  They hire the right person for the job, so don’t worry.  You have the qualifications for the job.  For example, the qualifications for my internship where the basic standards of most development internships not necessarily if I knew iOS and Ruby on Rails off the bat.  You will learn what the company expects from you within weeks of your internship and produce that kind of work.  So take a breather and relax.  Nothing to really worry about.

One of the greatest advice I can give to interns is it’s ok to make mistakes.  No really, seriously, it’s ok to make mistakes.  No one expects you to be a genius on the first day you arrive on the internship.  There is always going to be a ramp up period whenever starting on a new internship.  You can crash programs all day long and not be able to code as well as if you knew the syntax of a certain programming language fluently.  As long as you are learning while crashing programs, it’s all good.  Honestly, sometimes, you need to break the program in order to figure out the system you are working with.  Some of the best programmers are those who take risks and make a lot of mistakes.  Like I said it’s all good.

When you need help, ask for help.  That is what mentors are for.  Even if you don’t have a mentor or your mentor isn’t there, there will always be someone at the office that can help you out with your problem.  If you are taking one to two hours when you think the problem should only take thirty minutes to solve, then ask for help.  When you are ramping up, solving problems takes longer, because you are unfamiliar with the technology and the language.  Always try to teach yourself first by attempting to Google some code snippets to help solve your problem before asking for help.  This is an invaluable skill to learn.

Growing up in an Asian academic culture and being Asian, I felt ashamed to make mistakes and didn’t ask for help back in high school.  I would stay up all night teaching myself and occasionally didn’t understand a concept for two.  I wasn’t stupid.   No.  I was part of a small group of students taking all of the honors and AP classes I could while juggling sports and other extracurricular activities.  However, because I didn’t ask for help from my teachers, I didn’t learn as much as I should have back in high school.  This is something I regret to this day.

Trust me, you don’t want to have those regrets.  Make as many mistakes you can and learn from them.  Ask for help if you don’t understand something, need clarification, or simply need help in solving a certain problem.  We all start out as newbies especially on a first development internship.  To tell you the truth, I didn’t know Objective-C and Ruby before the internship.  I learned both on the job and little bit off the job by reading an iOS programming book written by Nerd Ranch in just three weeks.  Yes, I was afraid that I was going to be fired on the very first week I started my internship, because I didn’t know Ruby that well.  Hahaha.  One of my bosses, John, laughed at me for telling him the story of how I thought I was going to be fired on the first week of my internship here at Uncorked Studios.  You might feel the same way, but trust me.  No one will fire you.  Everyone understands you are just learning a new language, and it takes time to learn a new language.

If your boss hands you a piece of the project on the very first day, take it and run with it!  This is your chance to learn on the job, which is must faster than just trying to learn from reading a programming book.  Psychology has proven that we, human beings, learn best by doing not by watching or reading.

My coworkers told me I would comfortable with the languages within a month.  I accomplished it in three weeks and so can you.

We learn and grow both professionally and socially on these internships to become the best developer the world has ever seen.  Internships give people a chance not only to learn new software engineering skills, but also how to live life successfully and choose which career path you want to take.


Steampunk Machine

Another cool project I have worked on was a steampunk map overlays machine, which we made in three weeks for the Produce Row event.  What is interesting about this project was that I was a project manager for this particular project instead of a developer and this was my first time being a project manager outside of school.  I have risen as a project manager in group projects back at school naturally to organize meetings, split up work, and ensure that our team is on schedule.  However, this project was more chaotic than any school project especially since it had a physical and digital component.  I had to organize meetings at least couple of times per week, check up on multiple components of the projects daily to ensure we were on schedule, hone in on the datasets and interactive physical components correspond with each of these datasets, keep the communication line open with the PDC committee and the PDC Refuge owner in order to have all of the necessary information for including in the steampunk machine and setting up for this event, and purchase resources to make sure that our developer and constructors for the steampunk machine were not blocked in any way.  I did some things that are out of traditional project manager role such as helping out the developer with how to collect data related information from websites, wiring up the steampunk machine, and sauntering all of the wires to help out during crunch time.  It was all worth it!  We were a hit at the Produce Row event!  Sam Adams, the mayor of Portland, was astonished of our steampunk machine and showed Sam Royston, the developer on this project, where his house was on the map.  A lot of Produce Row members were so delighted and amazed by our machine.  Their faces brighten up as soon as they started interacting with it.

Which datasets did we use you ask?  We used five property related datasets collected from Sam’s python webcrawler.

  • Property tax
  • Property market value by square footage
  • Property market value
  • Building type
  • Building age

We also used zoning shapefiles from the Portland civics website as the sixth property related dataset.  All of these datasets each corresponded to a button on one of the small boxes of the steampunk machine.  We were also going to include transportation, but those shapefiles were corrupted preprocessing files that had lines disappearing the more the user zoomed into the map.

The other datasets we used were business type categories that were found in the Produce Row district.  These included:

  • Creative
  • Digital
  • Industry
  • Food & Drink
  • Retail
  • Services

All of these were represented as markers on the map and a switch corresponded to each of these categories acting as toggling them on and off on the large box of the steampunk machine.  Since they were makers, they stayed persistant throughout all of the other map overlays.

The final dataset we used was aerial photos of Produce Row district from 2000 to 2011.  We used one dial to transition through these photos and another dial to change the opacity of these photos so the user could see all of the street and building names on the map.  There was also a joystick and a dial close to it to pan and zoom respectively.  All of these components were on the other small box of the steampunk machine.

I will not forget the hard work of Shawn Bernard and Abby, one of our producers, who stepped up to the plate out of their own free time and built the steampunk machine and gathered some resources for it.  Shawn also made the iPad app for collecting data from incoming Produce Row members that the PDC committee needed.

Without this great team, this steampunk machine would not have been brought to life and be the hit of the event.  Thank you guys for everything you do!  You guys rock!


Hello there!

I am Rebecca Vessal, a video game design and development student with the ambitions of breaking into the video game industry.  Feel free to check out some of the games I have designed and developed as part of a team project, solo project, or just for fun.  Hope you have fun playing them!

Currently looking for a summer internship in the video game industry and can double block, be available for 6 months, if needed too.

Check back for updates on my games and blog posts.