My First Internship as a Software Developer

My First Internship as a Software Developer

In the June of 2016 I was admitted to Rethink Education for an internship as a Java developer. The three days I spent there opened my eyes as a software developer, I learned an awful lot about start-ups businesses functioned. This is my experience:

The interest stirred up to me as my mom introduced me to a software developer manager in one of her Palates classes. Somewhere along the lines my mom said: “Adrian this is Storme, she works for a software company.” Storme told me about the business she worked for and that they develop a web app that offers interactive lessons in a chat styled interface for the Maths and Science syllabus. I said I do IT as a subject and I am working on a gym management system quite like the one Virgin Active uses, for my end-of-year Matric PAT. As of her sudden interest she said to me that her team needs more software developers and there was only two at the time. She gave me her email asking me to send her any software projects I had worked on to show the senior developer.

My laziness took over and I waited for the last week of the four week holiday. I finally emailed her. Shortly ofter I was invited to speak to one of the developers. “Oh wow! That was dayum easy”, I thought. So that evening I spent the night furiously researching the CEO and the web app they developed. I wrote it all down and memorized it font-to-back over and over, as if I where to be tested on it.

The next morning I put my best ‘suit’ on, a white shirt and khaki cargo pants, completed with my shoes I was saving for my Matric dance. “Oh yes, you need to have a notepad with your reading glasses on.” I thought to myself. As soon as I walked into the boardroom I started sweating a plethora! I looked over the senior dev’ Ed and Storme. The only thing on my mind was my armpits and how my heart was pounding like a drum.

I sat patiently as the Ed asked me questions about my personal interests. I blathered on about past swimming, lifesaving and my programming experience. He said “your code looks clean, easy to read, but do you have a laptop?” I looked down at my paper notepad and “Oh n-no I don’t” I replied. “That’s fine! You can use mine” said Storme.

The first day:
The morning after my interview I walked in, this time with a different coloured shirt and green cargo pants. The manager handed me with her laptop. The only development tools I knew how to use was Netbeans, Ed was using Jet Brains IntelliJ. I only played around with IntellJ. “Adrian, do you know how to use IntelliJ?” he asked. “Yes, of course!” I said. “And what’s your BitBucket user name?” he asked. I looked at him, “B-BitBucket?” replying masculinely.

I spend the majority of the day asking questions to things I had no clue what were or ever existed. Like how and why Git was so useful for making my life so much easier; the build-automation tool Gradle, and its functionality. I must say the first day was a bit overwhelming for me. Ed advised me to clone the project from there repository. Holy s*** this was a lot of Java code. There were types, interfaces, annotations and the whole lot I had never seen before. It just blew me away of how much I didn’t know. It was very interesting to see the framework they are using, Spring MVC. Which dispatches all servlet requests. Allowing your to create a web back-end in Java very efficiently.

Ed on the other hand was flexing his coding skills showing me some ins and outs. He was working on an email service for updates, password resets and what not. I just sat there staring at my screen trying to make sense of all this. By the comments of each Java file, it looked as if one guy had initially created the whole back-end by himself. I headed home quite early that day completely blown away of everything I learnt about.

The second day:
I walked in on-time, none of the developers were there yet. Ed chose to stay home that day due to an incident. Storme told me that Cam is is on his way. “Who’s Cam?” I asked. “Cam is the front-end developer” she said as she walked off.

I needed to occupy myself for the next 30 minutes. Ahh, my trusty notepad. I wrote down all the ideas I had about software I wanted to develop. That 30 minutes flew by very quickly. Cam had just walked in. The man looked as if he was a year younger than me, wore skinny jeans and a plain black t-shirt. He shook my hand, “Hi I am Cam.”, “H-hey, Adrian.” I said. He walked over to the center of the room and dropped into his chair, spun around and setup his Mac Book. I studied his face trying to picture where he had just came from, it looked as if he just woke up.

“Dude, check this out”, he said, calling me in. He showed me his sweet JavaScript code on Sublime Text. I hadn’t the faintest idea what any of it did. We talked for for a few hours about JavaScript and frameworks. It was nearing lunch time; “Dude, we have an hour break. I’m gonna go for a walk outside. Wanna come?” he asked me. I paused for a second wondering if I should read up on all the things we just talked about before it slipped my head, or go for a walk… “Sure! Where are we heading?” I asked. “Oh just around the block” he replied as he headed for the door.

We headed out to the street, I grabbed a smoothie of green sour delightfulness from the local loft coffee shop. “So where are we going?” I asked again. He says “Oh, I’m trying to catch a Bulbasaur.” He whips out his phone to show me Pokémon Go. As he started running, “quick I don’t want to loose it!” Our-my lunch break consisted of chasing after Pokémon characters. Believe me, it wasn’t only the two of us. There were at least a dozen people trying to catch Pokémon characters, ranging from men in their 30s to guys my age. I was completely stumped by how popular this game really was (Not ’til it sizzled out in next three months).

It started to drizzle and eventually rain, we headed back to the office after our workout. It was time to get back to work. Shortly after, I was invited to the board room to discuss new features. I quietly waited I for my turn. I put my hand up like I were in a class room. I suggested that there should be a reward system for students. Storm commented that they are already in the process of implementing a reward system. I was stunned when I found out that students could earn points for there tuck shop. I offed to reward with bookmarks and pencils with the business’ logo imprinted on it.

Everyone got a task assigned to them. I got the taks of creating a notification interface to notify students and would be implements for when their class’ changed or the content had been updated, for example. I got to work trying to implement it. By that time it was 3 o’clock. The times here were very flexible, I said I needed to get going. I begun to secretly hold my phone under the desk to text my mom, “Mom come fetch me”. In a half hour I said my goodbyes and left. I spend the majority of my evening trying to figure out how to write the notification interface but stuggled to do so.

My last day:
I walked in surprisingly second, Cam had beat me to it. Slowly by surly everyone started arriving and I was hungry to ask questions. “I wasn’t able to complete the notification interface.” I told Ed. He assured me not to worry at all. So we both sat down and he went through the logistics of it and I eventually was able to implement it. Once Ed broke down the structure of the notification interface, it sparked the hunger to really learn Java from the ground up again. Ed send me some Java blogs to get started with. It was a tutorial on Observables and Subscribers with Generics and I hoped to look at it later. The three of us Ed, Cam and myself worked diligently for about and hour. In between the time I had the vision of how I wanted to pursue a startup one day. Everybody was communicating and sharing ideas and everybody were doing there bit and I wanted to be part of that.

It was nearing the end of the day, Ed had left and Cam and I remained in our group. Storme and lady from the marketing background (whos name I had forgotten) asked me to join them for a chat in the board room. For the next 10 minutes the two gave me some decent advice on starting my career. I went back to the main room after the discussion. I spoke with Cam for a while and we all took part in a conversation between the team. Cam told us on how he wished he invested in Pokémon Go as how popular the game was growing, and the staggering amount they made was in the neighborhood of $1 – 2 million per day. The time was nearing and I texted my mom to fetch me. After which I said my goodbyes and many thanks for the opportunity as an interning there.

I had great fun thanks to the Rethink Education team who gave me a real taste of working in a business.


Adrian van den Houten

I'm Adrian van Houten, founder of ScholarCoder and a passionate software developer for full-stack web development. Read more about me here.