In today’s competitive job market gaining industry experience can make a huge difference to student and graduate programmers looking to take their first steps into the industry.
Keen to support up-and-coming programmers, in July 2015 Realtime Despatch made the decision to take on its first intern. I was an applied computing undergraduate at the time and was lucky enough to join the team on a paid internship after my second year of study.
At this stage I’d already developed a passion for low-level programming and had previously completed various freelancing projects. I was excelling in university and was, by far, the best in my year at programming. I felt very confident in my ability. However, in the words of Game of Thrones' Ygritte, I was soon to learn that “I knew nothing”, or at least very little, in terms of how to be a useful professional programmer.
The importance of real-world work experience
I soon realised that nothing could have prepared me for reality of working as a programmer, and the learning curve was an immediate and steep one. I was faced with finding out not only how to become a better developer, but also how to use the various enterprise frameworks, the company’s business processes, how to communicate effectively both internally and with clients, and of course, to learn the ins and outs of Realtime Despatch’s large OrderFlow system.
But thanks to the support of the development team, I was able to master all of the above, all whilst gaining real-world experience. As my knowledge of the system grew, I found I could talk more confidently and with more authority on various subjects both internally and with clients and after a successful summer placement, they offered to extend my internship and I continued to work in the development team part-time, up to the completion of my degree, when I was then invited to join the company as a full-time developer.
Becoming a developer takes dedication
It is important to understand that becoming a programmer is not for the faint-hearted. It takes real commitment and dedication to become proficient. The first thing I understood was that I would have to dedicate a lot of time, both in the office and at home, to improve my skills enough be able to become a truly effective team member. But I was determined that this was what I wanted to do, and so prioritised my work and my learning above everything else.
For the first year I moved a five minutes walk away from the office. This enabled me to regularly be in the office for 10 hours most days. At this stage I was obsessed with learning and improving my skills, and I thoroughly enjoyed the work, absorbing myself in the code base and frameworks. I knew then that this was the career for me!
The benefits of an internship at Realtime Despatch
After working at Realtime Despatch for three years, I’m now moving on to pastures new. However, I have learnt so much from my time at the company that I wanted to highlight the benefits of taking an industry internship with a small, independent software house such as this.
Realtime Despatch’s development team is a small, agile group of very talented coders. With them, I learned various coding principles and techniques that will likely stay with me for the rest of my career. Some of these include test driven development, single responsibility principle, MVC design pattern and effective delegation, abstraction and polymorphism. The team also taught me the importance of regular code reviews, how to use debugging effectively, and the importance of scrutinising and validating code.
Career opportunities for developers
If the opportunity arises, I would highly recommend a role at Realtime Despatch to both new and experienced developers – the OrderFlow system is large and complex, it’s diverse enough to cater to developers at either end of the skill spectrum. Furthermore, the team is made up of highly talented individuals that I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked with.
I’m happy to leave knowing that the success of my internship has led the company to start the process again, as they plan to recruit a new intern this summer. If this sounds like an opportunity for you, get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you happen to be studying at the University of Essex you can also apply through the university’s CareerHub.
“Chris – it’s been a pleasure to support you in the first steps of your career, you’ll be sorely missed by everyone here. Best wishes for the future.”
Realtime Despatch MD Charlie Armor.