Built.io Blog

5 Lessons Learned as a First-Time Software Engineering Intern


1. Be assured of the skills you have, and ready to learn the ones you don’t.

You may feel useless when tackling your first position as a new intern, but that’s how everyone starts. It takes time to get up to speed. It’s your first week, so relax; every other developer has worked on the project for months if not years and you’re not there to compete with that experience. The point of an internship is to learn. You are not expected to design the entire product for the company. They obviously decided you are qualified to learn what they are working with, and that is why they hired you in the first place.

2. Ask questions, but try to figure it out on your own first.

The first day on the job as an intern you are assigned a project with some tasks and tossed into an endless waterfall of code. Your mind races around as fast as you thought possible and everything you read just seems to go in your head and then exit right out as you delve deeper into this bottomless pit. You don’t want to ask questions because you do not want to present yourself as being under-qualified, but at the same time you cannot progress without these questions being answered. Ask as many questions as you need to, but spend some time really trying to learn the material on your own first; it’s the best way to learn and it will help you ask more precise questions.

3. Organize your code and be proud of your work.

The code you’ve written for yourself or the code you’ve written for class – for me, it was always a three-step process. Learn the material, program the material, and if it works, submit the material. Working at a startup where documentation is fresh, and developers are very precise on how things are run, making your project look pretty is a way to get bonus points. When submitting code for review, the developers really enjoy not having to fix little errors that could have been corrected with a little extra effort on your end. Take pride in your work, and make sure it’s the best possible code you can submit.

4. Enjoy your company.

Obviously learning and gaining experience is the main reason why you wanted an internship, but that is not the only way you can benefit from it. Socialize and become actual friends with some of your coworkers. If you do not enjoy the people at this job, you will not enjoy being here 40 hours a week. If you're stressed not only with your workload, but with the annoyance of the business, making the most of your internship is going to be rough. Being comfortable at a company makes learning and enjoying work that much easier.

5. Take feedback with a positive attitude.

Honest feedback can seem harsh at first, especially when your supervisor says things like: “This doesn’t work, neither does this, but you did well on this other thing, but you need to fix this…” Take all of this with a positive attitude. They are providing this kind of feedback so you can perfect your craft and be prepared for bigger and tougher tasks. In the future you will probably thank them for fixing the errors that you understand now. The fact that someone with more experience is taking the time to give you feedback means that they’re taking an interest and seeing potential for growth in you.

Remember that each individual has a different experience and will adapt differently to new environments. These 5 lessons are just the start of the adventure. All these challenges have made me a better intern and provided me with professional guidance that will soon help me in my first full-time position. Most importantly, have fun pursuing your goals and be open to learning every day.

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