Looking back at the first half of the summer, it’s crazy how fast time seems to fly. It seems like my internship started yesterday and feels like it has only been a week or two since I came home from school in mid-March. Yet, in the span of these few short months, I’ve learned a lot about working.
At first, I had mixed feelings about having a virtual internship. I wondered if it would be possible for me to get all my work done without constant live access to my supervisor. I asked myself if I would really be able to experience what work is like as a software engineer without the actual work environment and the human interactions around me?
As the summer progressed, I found myself answering these questions without the need for physical interaction. Don’t get me wrong. I would prefer the live interaction, but I was able to experience much of the day-to-day interaction of a cohesive team without actually being physically in-person, including large group calls, progress updates, and screen sharing code. Developing technology requires teamwork, and I have begun to learn how to collaborate virtually as a software engineer. Our work ends up being located in the cloud regardless of whether we gather in person or through Zoom.
Halfway through the summer I have also experienced significant differences between the work environment and academic life. At school, professors are generally much more prepared to handle mistakes one might encounter, having anticipated their occurrence and frame of reference. Furthermore, in the classes I’ve taken so far, the path set for us by the professor is also one they have experienced and determined.
In contrast, in the real-world there is no rubric that will give an exact output or desired set of parameters. Multiple times during my internship, when stranded with a foreign error message, I had to go diagnose the root of the problem myself by drudging through thousands of lines of documentation that my supervisor and I had’t written to find the root of a single problem. This is not exactly the work that is the most intriguing and inspiring to do, but it is required to achieve our goals. I have also experienced times during the first few weeks of my internship when problems were not as well defined. Grappling with these more vague problems has been an interesting challenge, and they have taught me to work through ambiguity.
I have built a lot of valuable skills this summer, most importantly a much deeper understanding of machine learning. Although I felt reasonably comfortable going into my summer role, this internship has both pushed me to learn much more and expand my boundaries beyond where I previously felt comfortable. Now, with a much higher level of understanding, I am beginning to see the forest through the trees. This skill will be immensely useful, as machine learning and artificial intelligence are growing fields, and my developing talent and experience will be in very high demand in the near future.