Finding Success at Your Software Developer Internship

by | Dec 9, 2019 | Internships, Student Life

Congratulations! You have landed an internship in a booming and in-demand field, with many exciting and innovative opportunities available. This is no small feat! Ranked #1 on the 100 Best Jobs list of 2019 by U.S. News, your internship as a software developer is a crucial stepping stone to a lucrative and rewarding career with flexibility, a high paying salary and a healthy work-life balance. 

But before you are offered a paid position or a chance to further get involved with the company, you will need to excel in your internship and showcase your valuable skills. Regardless of your specific goals, there are some things that everyone should do during their software developer internship to make the most out of the experience. 

Here are 7 ways to find success at your internship that could help launch your career. 

Small Projects Can Lead To Good Places 

As a software developer intern, you most likely won’t be doing the cliche tasks of an intern like answering phones, getting the boss coffee or filing paperwork. You might, however, be given “intern projects” or small, standalone projects that you will finish in the course of your internship to give you a sense of accomplishment. Don’t get discouraged by this as companies want to give you a way to make contributions while keeping their important software safe. Instead, focus on finishing this task as a way to prove that you can successfully and efficiently complete a project. Then you can ask to be included in the company’s real work. If you are afraid you aren’t learning anything valuable, remember that even picking up small tasks will quickly expand your skills. 

Ask Questions

While you are trying to prove your value to this company, you might be afraid to ask questions or appear unsure about your responsibilities. But don’t spend hours on a task that would have been fixed with just a question. The key is to find the right time to ask. Make sure you have spent some time with the problem so that you can show the people you are working with that you are capable of figuring out the answer on your own first. Then use your best judgment. This internship is what you make of it. As with so many things, you get out of it what you put in, so put in everything you’ve got. Asking questions leads to answers and leads to knowledge. So swallow that pride and get your needs met in the best way you can. 

Take Notes and Stay Organized 

This might be obvious but success at a software developer internship is all about productivity. During your internship, you will be taking in a lot of new information. From the beginning, you will be on-boarded and given access to your company’s systems. You will have to quickly begin working on your intern project, while learning how all of the internal processes and technologies work, such as their version control and deployment processes. Beyond that, you will have to learn about, in detail, the specific projects that you’ll be working on. Stay organized and take detailed notes. This could also come in handy when you don’t find the right time to ask a question. If you keep detailed notes, the answer might be right under your nose. 

Read more: The current internship model is broken

Network 

Beyond the technicality of this internship, it’s important to be aware of the social aspects. You will be working with people who already have the career you are aspiring to obtain. A wealth of knowledge is sitting a few feet away from you! As an intern, you are in a great position to ask as many questions as you want. People understand you are there to learn and most will be willing to help. Absorb everything. Talk to as many people as you can, even people outside of the developing team. Take advantage of events offered by your company and socialize with other employees—other interns, full-timers or even upper management. Most people are way more accessible than you might think and most will be excited to talk about their journey in this line of work. Not only this help you learn new skills and connect with new people, but you will also be expanding your network. Who knows who you will meet or what connections will help you once your internship is over. 

Find a Mentor 

Career advice you will hear over and over again is to befriend someone who has the career you want. They have already achieved the level of accomplishment that you are striving for so it just makes sense to seek them out. Finding a mentor is a great way to find success in your internship.  

A mentor can be anyone. Maybe they’re your tech lead. Maybe they’re another intern. Maybe they’re even the CTO. A great mentor will help you to integrate into the company much more quickly and easily, letting you spend less time getting up to speed and more time actually doing meaningful work. Some internships assign a mentor as part of the program. But remember that you don’t have to settle for this particular person. If your mentor isn’t providing you with the support you need, don’t hesitate to find someone else. A helpful tip is to try and schedule meetings with your mentor every week or two to pick their brain. This gives you a forum to bring up concerns or inquire about your progress. 

Get Feedback 

At some companies, you may have weekly or bi-weekly meetings with your intern manager where they give you feedback and let you know if you’re on track to meet your goals. If you are not at one of those companies, you need to explicitly ask for feedback. Some of us are not good judges of our own performance. We have differing perspectives or expectations so asking for feedback is key within an internship. 

Ask your manager if they are willing to set up a recurring meeting in which they can give you feedback and guide you in the right direction. Don’t be discouraged when your manager or mentor tells you what you need to improve on. This is why you are here—to learn! There is always something that you can improve on, even if you are meeting your internship goals. Asking for feedback can set you on the right course to achieving success in your internship and later, within your career. 

Stay Positive 

This internship could be the best few months of your life or the worst. It’s all what you make of it and the work you put in. Stay positive and be open to new experiences. Not only will this make it easier to build your network and make connections, but it will also dramatically define the success of your software developer internship. Positivity is infectious and a great quality to have in a future employee. 

Read more: The Value of an Internship