My first experience with professional software development

Limited Partner post
This post was written by intern Olivia Shi, exploring the ups and downs of her first few weeks at 4Degrees.

This post was written by intern Olivia Shi

This past couple of weeks, I began my first real summer internship with 4Degrees!

My first official day was kicked off with a team meeting going over what needed to be done and how everyone was doing with their tasks. It was nice to listen in on this meeting and just see how everyone needed to work together and how some roles depended on others. You really don’t get exposed to this in school other than a small group project here or there, which is incomparable to the team effort needed to run a business. Next up: Learn everything about their web application, download all the software needed to edit the app on my laptop, and understand how the entirety of their website works through thousands of lines of code in a language you haven’t touched since high school! Easy peasy.

Even though that sounded like a disaster waiting to happen, so many team members met me with an infinite amount of patience and kindness, so much so that these tasks just felt like mini-projects and went by with smooth sailing! That is until an iceberg called “Linux” appeared in front of the Titanic called “My Windows Laptop”. Most if not all the instructions to download the dependencies needed were all for Linux or Mac computers, which my laptop did not like. It took a few days of Googling and installing, calling a team member for help,  more Googling and reinstalling, more calls and messages, more Googling and more reinstalling, to finally get it right. Turns out I needed a virtual machine to create a virtual environment to actually finish this whole process. I called it a learning experience and finally started my first project!

After being walked through the code that I would be working with, it was time to get to work. It took a while to get used to looking at a large amount of code and not knowing what anything was. In school, we either start from scratch, or everything is already explained to us. Searching for a variable’s definition and being met with more unknown variables and functions was something I never experienced! Though, it was a valuable struggle as it taught me how to analyze code differently and differentiate between essential and nonessential information. It also took a long time to not feel guilty about Googling for answers. In school, using the answers from StackOverflow or your peers would make you fail the class, or even worse get you expelled. Learning how to be okay with asking questions and using my resources was unexpected, but definitely appreciated! 

Another obstacle that was unexpected was the state of our country. The fear, heartbreak, and self-doubt that many of us went through was something that no one could have prepared for. It was hard not to turn off the news while the number of national deaths due to COVID-19 kept exponentially increasing and the number of deaths due to systemic and police racism pushed our community over the edge. Having uncomfortable but necessary long talks with my parents, rethinking my beliefs and values of society, doing my best to educate myself and others, all while staying isolated at home was hard to work through and deterred my focus from this internship at times. However, the team members at 4Degrees have been nothing less than understanding as they too have been processing these events like me. We would talk about how we were dealing with everything going on and it helped me feel less alone in quarantine to know that we were all going through similar situations.

After about a week of working on this project, I was finally done! I learned how to make a pull request and after a few hours, my code went live! It was so cool to see something that I did, be visible and functional (even if it broke the page for a while) for a company for the first time. I’m so excited to start my next project and be met with new challenges and new learning opportunities!

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