Internship Reflections: what’s it like to be an intern?

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What is it going to be like?  What will I get? What do they expect from me?  These are probably just a few of the questions second-year university students have to face as they head off into the corporate world to begin their mandatory internship period.

Thanks to Internship Reflections, an event organized by the University of Moratuwa Computer Science and Engineering Department, we now have some answers.

First a little background: Internship Reflections happened on the 25th of March inside the Royal College Auditorium (which was fully packed) and saw 16 software companies such as WSO2, 99X Technology, Leapset Engineering, IFS and many more, explaining their internship programs to the future interns from the University of Moratuwa.

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So what can you get from an internship at a software company today in Sri Lanka? Here’s a list of common things that each software company would give you during your internship period:

  • Technical skills training: As the name suggests this, would involve providing training to improve your various technical skills such as programming – mostly done with workshops and hands-on experience.
  • Soft skills training: This involves training your other skills such as presentation and communication to help make you a leader
  • Chances to work on products and to innovate: Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you’ll be doing some menial tasks while undergoing training. None of the companies that attended the event were shy of saying that they were willing to let interns work on actual products they would sell, which in turn gives interns an opportunity to be innovative.
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  • Exposure to the Software Engineering process: During your 2 years in university you probably learned a lot about the theories as to how software is developed like the waterfall method, agile, etc. Once you’re an intern you can see the software engineering process it all in practice and get a much more practical understanding as to how software is developed today – and if the theories you learned are still valid.
  • Exposure to business practices:  As boring as the topic may sound, in order to succeed you’ll need some business knowledge. Working as an intern you will get some first-hand knowledge as to how businesses work.
  • International exposure: This depends a lot on the company. The companies which attended that day all had international clients, which gives interns a chance to gain some international exposure as well. Don’t take this for granted, though.

There’s your answer to question one. Now onto question two: what is expected from the ideal intern? Here’s the list of qualities the companies shared with us:

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  • Basic technical skills: As we mentioned earlier, while companies do provide training to improve your technical skills, they would still expect you to have mastered the basic technical skills you learned in your first 2 years at university.
  • Passion, dedication and motivation: This was a point highlighted by every company that attended, because to succeed in software you need the passion for it as well as the dedication and motivation to see your tasks through. It’s not just another 9-to-5 desk job that you can forget once you step out of the office.
  • Take the initiative and be willing to take risks: Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you should just be shy and just nod to whatever tasks are handed out to you. Any software company wants to see a leader from whoever they bring in, even interns – and that involves taking initiative as well as risks.
  • Proper personality: The definition of proper personality here would be someone who isn’t cynical and negative, it refers to someone who is happy and positive. No company wants someone that demotivates everyone else.
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  • Communication skills: As we mentioned earlier, companies aren’t shy of letting you work with actual products-  which means you need proper communication skills to not just work effectively work with your team but also the client if you get an opportunity to interact with them.
  • Professionalism: This in simple terms would essentially mean looking your best and being at your best behaviour at all times. Yes, we mean at all times, including when you’re on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Being a self-learner: While your internship period will definitely teach you many things, no one is going to be spoon feeding you the knowledge. Your mentors will merely show you the path but it’s up to you to take it.
  • Personal branding: By now we’ve probably established that just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you’ll be receiving that many breaks, so just like other employees at the company you intern, it’s important you build your own personal brand and speak out to get yourself noticed.

There you have it. Future interns, now you know what an intern would get out of an internship at a software company in Sri Lanka today and what the companies expect from interns as well.

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