London for the summer! The opportunity was too good to pass up -- I'd never been to Europe, and finding a tech-related position abroad (with time blocked off at the end for Euro-tripping, of course) seemed like the perfect way to spend a summer.
I had no idea what to expect from an insurance company or the country, and I went into my first day hesitant, nervous, and having spent far too much money on one Tube ride. I was apprehensive about expectations; I still consider myself relatively new to computer science since my background goes back only a couple of years instead of back to fifth grade like many in the field. I'd also had little exposure to most of the technologies being used at the company.
As it turned out, I need not have worried about anything. I was paired with a mentor as soon as I arrived, and she introduced me to everyone in the company, helped me set my computer up (no easy feat!), and served as a point of information throughout the summer. I joined a team and started out by pair-programming on a current story, diving straight into the codebase and lines of Ruby. I continued throughout the summer to work on relevant stories that were being pushed into production and would be used by customers, not meaningless 'intern projects' or busywork. Each project that I worked on was a valuable learning experience for me, and enabled me to both learn about and be a part of software development in the real world.
I appreciate the inherent difficulty of internships in being valuable for both the intern and the company -- the intern should be given enough (actual) responsibility to feel useful and learn, but should also be allowed room for failure (and through this failure, ask questions of colleagues and learn even more). The transience of an internship also breeds difficulty in fully integrating interns into company life and culture; they should learn enough about the rest of the company to have an effective knowledge and general grasp, but not be bogged down in minute workings when only there for a couple of months.
After spending two-and-a-half months with Simply Business, I've learned so much about how software is developed in a company and the intricacies of the interactions between technology and business. I’ve learned a new pogramming language, been exposed to Agile processes, seen the importance and impact of test-driven development, and have gotten to experience life in various roles on the tech team. I’ve appreciated that insurance isn't as boring as one might think, and there are always opportunities for innovation. Most of all, I’ve come to ealize that Simply Business is a company that encourages creativity and passion in all venues, and I'm glad to have been part of it for a summer.
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