Mentorship and working with the next generation of developers is important to our team here at Planet Argon. Five weeks ago, we welcomed our very first pair of React.js interns from Epicodus, a Pacific Northwest-based vocational school for aspiring programmers – Holly Wilkalis and Ginger Kretschmer. At the end of their internship, we asked our interns to reflect on the lessons they learned while interning at Planet Argon. Here's a reflection from Ginger on her time as a front-end development intern.
For the past five weeks, I’ve had the honor to join the Planet Argon team as a front-end developer intern. On day one, Robby helped set up the dev environment on my computer - and taught us the wonders of Oh-My-Zsh! and with that, I was off coding with my awesome Epicodus classmate, Holly. What an adventure we’ve had!
I went in with two goals: to learn as much as possible and to add value to the team, both through code contributions and with my genuine enthusiasm for technology (and life!) Now that five weeks is coming to an end, I honestly could not have asked for a better internship outcome. As a thank you and small way to give back, I have a few insights and tips to future interns to share to ensure you get the most out of your internship.
So, what makes a good internship?
Ideally, your internship will provide you with a mentor who is there for questions and to help show you the way. Some of my best learning moments at Planet Argon were sitting in on working sessions with our mentors. During these sessions, we grab a meeting room and the mentors code on the big screen and talk through what they are doing. This provides scope and depth into the details of day-to-day tasks and processes.
From these working sessions, I've also learned about testing, git flow best practices, plugin pro-tips, and CSS BEM best practices. Our mentors were available for general questions over Slack as well – like how to permanently delete a git commit when you accidentally push sensitive information to Bitbucket...d’oh!
My advice is to be proactive about making these shadow sessions happen - ask about upcoming tasks that will be good for you to join in on, and set up time on the calendar that works for both of you, and make it happen!
On the other side of learning from shadowing is learning from good ‘ol “trial by fire!” We were given two big projects, wherein we were handed Sketch files by our Design Strategist, told the overall goals, and then set off to code out a solution.
Our first project consisted of edits to the existing company website. This was a great way to gently step into an existing code base and build out new features and designs without having to create something completely from scratch and learn the design/development workflow.
This was a fun and awesome challenge – working again with some beautiful design files, creating data visualizations, and being able to use data to tell a meaningful story (I learned quite a bit about the state of the Rails developer community as well).
We were successfully able to launch the site (perhaps a few days past our deadline; never underestimate how long something takes when you’re working on something for the first time). It is something we can point to and say “Hey, look what I built!” Now that it’s live, we’re going back through to DRY (Do not Repeat Yourself) up our code and refactor to help out future devs who might work on this. I am so thankful to be given the trust and autonomy to work on something like this over a short period of time. Check it out!
My takeaways for you from these projects is to embrace failure, value courage over perfection, and know that hard work, research, and good questions will get you out of most coding pickles. In the words of Siobhan, our lovely Project Manager from Ireland – give it socks!
One of my favorite parts of working at Planet Argon (besides all the cute dogs of course) is the team. They are like a family; working together without ego, teaching and helping each other, and so good about saying thank you to one another. On Monday mornings at 9:15 the team gathers around for “Meet the Week,” where each person talks about personal and professional highlights from our last week, lessons learned or risks taken, and teammate appreciation. This meeting provides structure that really builds trust in the team and allows for people to share and get to know each other, and most importantly express gratitude for one another. These are good people here, they care about each other and the work they do.
I close out these five weeks feeling not only inspired, but also like I have truly made friends both professionally and personally. I cannot wait to see where this internship leads me to next. Thank you Planet Argon for taking me on and teaching me the ropes. To the future!