What kind of interns does Patriot Software want?
We don’t want software development interns that are looking for a job so they can come to work, do what they’re supposed to do, and then go home and shut it off. We look for people with passion or people who nerd out on software, because they’re the ones that will keep learning and innovating. Those are the software developer qualities that will help our development team succeed.
And when we say “learning,” we don’t mean “on-the-job experience,” which is vague and won’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny during an intern’s future hiring interviews. When you sacrifice time to be an intern in the software world, you want to work on something that adds value to you, your skill set, and your future. If a company doesn’t offer that, it’s a waste of an intern’s time. To make sure we can meet the steady demand for software development internships, we take the time to think about giving our internship team members the right mix of challenges while they’re with us. Challenging projects are a great way to enhance software developer motivation, but great projects also require more time and planning than simply bringing in a warm body and assuming the intern will learn by osmosis. Filling a software development internship touches HR strategy, recruiting, development, and PR. You have to do it right.
Did you intern?
I never did an internship. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I needed to work during my summers to make as much money as I could since I was putting myself through school. But I wish I had done a software development internship. The people who I knew in college that interned at good companies had a real leg up after graduation.
The good internships really teach you something. I encourage young developers to consider doing an internship as opposed to striking out on their own and trying to do something in software from scratch. I’d encourage them to think seriously about doing an internship over doing a regular job during college, even if it puts them in a precarious financial situation. And, some software developer internships are paid positions anyway. Of course, this all depends on the type of internship and the company, but an endorsement by a known software company can make a major salary difference that will more than justify a summer of scraping by in college.
Should you intern after college?
Even after college, if the choice is freelancing and doing your own thing versus interning at a company for a year, I vote internship.
The industry is evolving so rapidly and, really, the days of sitting down, scribbling out something small on a piece of paper and coding it into something basic are long gone. You can build small apps or do some graphic work or other small scale stuff much more easily than you could in the past, that’s true. But if you want to do a bigger project, you should take advantage of an internship pairing program. Pairing programs are used for onboarding developers at tech companies, and can be effectively used for interns as well. Working with a mentor or a senior developer who knows the space can help guide your technical advancement.
It’s kind of like building a calculator. Years ago, calculators did simple math. You could program a calculator to do that simple math, and if it did the math, you did your job. But now there is so much that goes into the process that you can make errors on and never really know you did–or why or how. Or, you could make stuff that works, as far as you can tell, but it’s actually insecure, and you put out a product that compromises a company because of its lack of security.
Overall, a software developer internship has great value.
I think that, if you’re a new grad, or you’re thinking about becoming an intern versus just going your own direction, I would say, do the internship. First off, you get to learn something from working with an experienced software development team. And really, so much of what we learn, we learn from working with others. Second, lots of software development interns get paid for their time and getting paid to learn is always better than not getting paid, and/or not learning