Something you hear all throughout college is the importance of getting an internship, especially during those last few years as talk of career experience among classmates reaches its all-time high. You might get tired of hearing about it, and at a certain point, it may seem more like a requirement to getting hired or just another part of your coursework. However, if you make the most out of them, internships can be extremely valuable. As someone who went from an intern to a full-time software engineer at Red Ventures Puerto Rico (RVPR), I want to share my experience with you — along with some key takeaways and learnings that I hope will help you make the most of your internship, too!
I first heard about Red Ventures back in September of 2019 when I got a message from a recruiter letting me know that they were looking for talent, and would be visiting my college in a few days. So, I started researching and learning more about Red Ventures and Forward787, now known as Red Ventures Puerto Rico.
My first impressions were great. I loved the idea of a company committed to making an impact in Puerto Rico with a clear focus on the development and improvement of itself and its employees, so I decided to apply. After a series of interviews I got accepted into the internship with the possibility of a full-time job offer depending on my performance. I knew this would be a very important step in my career and wanted to make it count.
Even though my goal was to get a job offer, I focused on picturing the experience as something like a two-way, limited-time trial. Red Ventures could see if I was the right fit for the company, and I could see if the company was the right fit for me. Workplace-related horror stories are very common in the tech industry, so I knew this would provide a great opportunity to test the waters before committing to a corporate culture I wasn’t satisfied with. Worst-case scenario, I would be unsuccessful in my internship, but I would still get my first real programming-related work experience and would no doubt learn plenty while doing so. In the ideal scenario, I would get a job offer and also get a unique opportunity to lessen the dreaded feeling of “Imposter Syndrome” most college graduates have at their first job. If I got a job offer after the 10-week internship, it would confirm to me that the company truly thought I belonged, and I could know with certainty that I did belong.
Originally, my internship was to consist of one week in Charlotte for onboarding and nine weeks in RV’s San Juan office for the remainder of the program. The pandemic quickly changed that, and I ended up staying one week in Charlotte, two weeks in the office in San Juan, and seven weeks back home.
During onboarding, my worries about being in a place that I might not want to work in quickly melted away. As I met more and more people and saw what Red Ventures was all about, I knew I wanted to work there. Everybody was friendly and welcoming, and whenever I explained I was an intern, I could tell everybody wanted me to succeed.
I was on the “Sancocho” team, named for a typical Puerto Rican dish, sort of like a stew, consisting of many different types of meat and vegetables. The team’s main goal was to support any RVPR team needing extra help and develop solutions to problems that the teams were facing, so in the same way the Sancocho dish has a little bit of everything, we too did a little bit of everything. The small team consisted of Hector Ayala, my manager at the time and creator of Sancocho, and Rigoberto Miranda, a Platform engineer, and my current teammate and manager.
Both are incredibly talented and experienced engineers, and while my experience and knowledge were lacking compared to theirs, they made me feel welcomed. They incorporated me quickly into the team, letting me participate in the team’s decision-making, brainstorming, and any programming tasks I could handle. My responsibilities started with simple modifications to a static website. They quickly evolved into fixing bugs, making shell scripts, implementing new features into sites, unit testing, creating a new deployment pipeline, creating diagrams helping in the design for a new API, and of course, plenty of exhilarating documentation.
By the end of the ten weeks, I had learned so many new things. And for most of it, I was able to put my learnings into coding practice that went to production. I was also able to identify the things I needed to learn more about and improve on. Even if I didn’t get a job offer, I knew the knowledge and perspective gained during this period would be invaluable.
As the end of my internship drew near, the feedback I got was consistently good, and I made it clear to my manager that I would like to continue working at Red Ventures. I never asked him outright if he thought I would get a job offer, but I was hopeful.
With about a week left in my internship, I was asked to give a presentation to the other engineers on a CircleCI workflow I had written. CircleCI was something entirely new for me, and when I was asked to create a workflow, it was probably one of the things I struggled with the most. So, it was fitting that when I got to show a demo of it in the presentation, it gave me an error! Panicking, I clicked on it, having no idea why it errored out or if I would even know how to fix it, and then I was greeted with this…
Safe to say, we all had a good laugh, and I promptly accepted the offer.
During the entire internship, my main goal was to learn and grow as a professional, and as promised I’d like to share with you what I consider my biggest takeaways:
Don’t try to be perfect – While it can be easy to get into the mindset that you are being constantly evaluated and that every mistake you make feels like it’s amplified 1,000 times over, remember that this is a learning experience for both you and your team. You show what you know as much as what you don’t know. And showing what you don’t know provides an excellent opportunity to clear it up and address it as quickly as possible.
Get to know as many people as you can – The first task my manager gave me had nothing to do with a computer. Instead, he told me to talk to as many people as I could. As an introvert, a task like this might seem more daunting than any computer-related task, but it proved to be very fun and insightful. One-on-ones are a great way to make new friends, learn about what other teams are doing, and get advice from experienced professionals.
Speak up! – Again, it might be challenging as an introvert, but making yourself heard is perhaps the most important part of RV’s culture. If you’re lost, confused, or overwhelmed, make it clear. If you have feedback on something, make sure it is known. These things are essential to growth.
Returning as a Full-Time employee
In my experience, being an intern versus a full-time employee isn’t all that different. Many of the things I accomplished and the challenges I faced as an intern seem similar to my current day-to-day. Part of the reason my responsibilities and day-to-day have stayed the same is that from day one, I viewed my internship no differently from a full-time job and always gave it my all. I wasn’t suddenly expected to be a faster programmer because of the different titles and salary. We’re not expected to grow into our positions. Instead, our positions grow as we do. And where better to grow than in a place where everyone around you is rooting for you?
If you are interested in interning or working for RVPR, we are hiring!