For every student there comes a time when they decide to spread their wings and venture into the professional world. For some it stems from their inner desire to become independent and to start shaping their future. Others just have to do it. Because college.
For me it might have been a mixture of the two. I’d had my share of freedom and college had been steadily becoming quite a boring experience. And it was the 6th semester which means mandatory professional practice.
I had heard tales of a magnificent land where everyone rejoiced and was showered with riches (and food). This land was called u2i. Some of my close friends retold this tale to me but they were all unable to gain entry into this magical kingdom. So, in my mind, the company had grown into a myth.
Having heard such great things about the company I jumped at the opportunity when I saw the tweet announcing The Summer of Code at u2i. I sent them my CV without hesitation.
Soon I received a reply inviting me to fill out online coding tasks. As I set out to complete them within a given time I was apprehensive but I soon discovered that with some thought and care I was able to finish with time to spare.
After two dreadfully long weeks I finally received another message. I was invited to an interview. A couple of days later I was standing in front of a glass door with the u2i hexagon painted on it like a hypnotising spell.
I was welcomed by the sight of many people feasting together at a long table, the chatter was friendly and relaxed, and the kitchen was filled with everything your heart could desire. I was ushered into a bright room called Sherwood Forest where I awaited my interview to start.
The interview consisted of two parts led by different people. During the first one I discovered what the internship would look like. Afterwards we had a conversation about me and my expectations which wasn’t stressful at all. The second part tested my abilities as a future coder and consisted of a set of more technical questions preluded by an algorithmic task.
A couple of days later another email from u2i found its way to my inbox. As you can imagine it was not a rejection letter.
When the first day of the internship rolled around and I arrived for my first u2i breakfast the excitement was palpable. I didn’t really know what to expect from my time here. I was just eager to learn from more experienced people than me. I was sure it would be interesting especially since we were to build an internal project from scratch. And boy, was I right.
The three months that followed went by in the blink of an eye. One of the unexpected things about the project was actually how much fun I had doing it and how much I had grown to like all the people I worked with. Which wasn’t solely because we played a lot of table tennis together (which was a whole lot)! There were many great people involved in the internships who took time away from their regular responsibilities to teach us a thing or two.
We faced some challenges along the way and the end result was hardly flawless but we picked up useful insights and managed to deliver something that turned out to actually be useful to the people at u2i (an app that allows managing conference room bookings). One of the great things about starting a brand new project was the fact that we weren’t hindered by trying to maintain existing legacy code. We got to use all the shiny new toys (e.g. Rails 5) and build everything from the ground up. Which also resulted in making a large amount of our own mistakes. But after all those are the best learning tools.
Throwing us into a single project also meant there was no rivalry between us, instead we were “forced” to become a team and work together to solve the problems we faced (which doesn’t mean we didn’t also receive a lot of guidance from our mentors).
In retrospect the internship far surpassed my expectations. I definitely learned a lot and then learned some more: working in a real team taught me a great deal about collaboration; my personal comfort zone was challenged by pair programming where I couldn’t always get my way; my coding skills improved a whole lot (I’m pretty sure) and I boosted my knowledge of Rails and React; implementing the scrum methodology prepared me for real projects. You won’t get this much experience in your whole college career.
As you may or may not have guessed I am still working at u2i along with two more of my fellow interns. What motivated my decision to become a permanent resident in u2i land? I can honestly say it wasn’t a difficult one. After meeting so many great people, solving interesting problems and, most importantly, improving myself in ways other than increasing my knowledge, I knew I just had to stay.