I’m Veronica, and I recently joined the Web team after completing a six-month internship at PSPDFKit (yes, I’m on the team page).
In this article, I wanted to talk about my internship experience and share why it was an important step in my career. If you are new to the industry, you have no background in programming and no experience, and you are not sure what your next step should be, the answer is: Get yourself an internship.
I didn’t study computer engineering in university. In fact, it might be surprising to learn that I have a background in political science. However, at the end of 2016, I decided to learn more about frontend development as a hobby, because I’d always wanted to know how to build a website. I quickly became fascinated by what I was learning — excited that, in programming, the sky is the limit — and I decided to pursue it as a career option.
I studied on my own for a couple of years when I had the free time. But then, in the summer of 2018, I decided that it didn’t make sense to work in a different field, because it cut into my time for learning more about development. So I quit my job and decided to take the next step to find a job in my new chosen career. However, I had no official studies in the field or any formal experience, so of course I wondered how I would find the right job.
That’s when I decided to get an internship! In the past year, I’ve had two six-month-long internships. And although the lengths were the same, the experiences were entirely different.
My first internship was for a web agency, and it didn’t go as I expected. The company didn’t use Git, it didn’t do code reviews, there was no unit testing, and there was no proper deployment process. There were also deadlines that needed to be met at the expense of code quality. I’m deeply grateful to the people there for taking a chance on me and giving me my first ever experience in the industry, but honestly, I came out the other end having learned very little, because the people I was working with didn’t help shape me as a programmer.
When my time with the web agency came to an end, I started looking for another internship, and that’s when I learned about PSPDFKit. As soon as I met with the people there, I knew I wanted to work with them. I don’t remember exactly what struck me at the time (it’s been six months, and the number of things that I like about this company has grown exponentially), but I do remember thinking that I would have done anything to work at PSPDFKit.
Luckily, they seemed to like me too, and so the internship began.
At PSPDFKit, the people I worked with listened to and understood me when I said what I wanted to learn, and they set out to equip me with the necessary tools. From the get go, we established daily, weekly, and monthly goals, all of which were clear and measurable and designed to help me succeed.
I also had one of the Web team members working as my mentor, which meant I could go to them for any specific questions. Because I had time to learn new skills, they constantly encouraged me to go deeper and research the things I was doing. They urged me to be more curious. They asked me what my preferred method of learning was (by reading or by doing) and then made sure to match the way I was taught with how I best learned. They gave me a list of books to read before and during my internship, listed in order of relevance to the work I was going to do.
I also had meetings in which I was asked what I learned recently and if I was still learning and improving. I was also asked to write about the things I had learned, because it’s true: If you can’t write about something or explain something, you probably haven’t really learned it. As time went on, the tasks assigned to me grew in length and complexity, and by the end of my first three months at PSPDFKit, I deployed my first feature.
In addition to learning the skills for doing the job, I also learned that it is important to get yourself out of your comfort zone. When I started, I had a bit of experience in CSS, so I was always very tempted to just take the CSS tasks, as they weren’t as challenging for me. But then I realized that when you don’t push yourself, that’s when you stop learning.
In my experience, the biggest difference between my two internships is that I was just filling a position at the first one, whereas at PSPDFKit, the company and my team members made a commitment to aid me in my professional growth. And in turn, I made a commitment to do my best and learn as much as I could from everyone else — for the company, and for myself.
Why am I telling you this?
Because where you are going to do your internship matters, and how the company approaches your internship matters. The programming industry is made up of many great companies that have set out to do the best they can. They also employ people who believe in this idea and are humble about it. And they employ the best and they want to give back to the community because of that.
So get yourself an internship in those companies. That is where you want to work, and that is where you are going to grow the most. Or, in other words, find your PSPDFKit. ❤️