This summer I had the wonderful experience of working with AT&T. I was able to work on a project which is being currently deployed internally in the company and saved them over $20,000 in development fees. I also got the chance to work with some talented people in the industry and they got to put up with my ridiculous nagging (yet somehow, they want me back). But the most valuable thing I got from the summer was learning how to work with other developers like myself. I learned some of this just from working with my coworkers, but I also learned a lot from interacting with one particular intern and saying to myself, “this is how not to be a developer on a team.”
Let me give you some examples. First, if you’re working on a team with people, you are not the dictator. If you’re not the team lead (which he wasn’t) you don’t have the power to simply make everything go your way, nor can you force your way upon people. Up until this point, all of the projects I’ve worked on at RPI, in research, and the newspaper, have all been groups where the members were always open to discussion and improving their own individual solutions. Not so in this case. If you criticized his approach or his point of view, you were wrong. It didn’t matter how many flaws you brought up, because he was “perfect”. Only after implementing both solutions and showing them to him side-by-side did he finally admit that the group’s way was better.
Here is something important that I hope he learned by the end of the summer: to work in a group, you need to be open to criticism. Nobody is perfect, and every solution is going to have its shortcomings. If you propose a solution to a problem, be prepared to have it critiqued and listen with an open mind. Either use the suggestions to strengthen the solution, or politely explain why they aren’t applicable for reasons that you disclose.
Second, working in the same area as him was a miserable experience. If you’re in an office of three people who are all trying to get work done, don’t blast music out of your phone and really don’t do it after your officemates ask you to stop. He would also just go into the office next door with his phone and pretend to “shoot” people with this gun app on his phone. It was actually mildly amusing the first week. By the last week of the internship, not so much. He was just loud, rude, and sometimes blatantly disrespectful of your space. When you’re trying to get work done, having someone like this around certainly doesn’t help.
One of the more important lessons I learned from interacting with this intern was how not to manage my time. When you spend most of your time bothering other interns, surfing the web, or working on irrelevant projects, how much time do you have to do your actual work? You probably guessed it: not much. When it came down to the final few weeks of the program, most of us were finishing up the projects we had originally picked. But this guy was suddenly realizing the small mountain of work he had ahead of him to even finish on time, let alone before the presentation to the executives of the organization we were a part of.
So here are the lessons I learned from watching this intern. First, be open to criticism. You’re not a god, so don’t try to act like it. Second, be respectful to the people you work with. If you’re going to work in a place with other people, remember that they have work to do too. If people ask you to stop doing something, apologize and do so. Finally, if you’re going to slack off all summer long, don’t complain when there is suddenly a mountain of work to do. If you’ve never had an internship before here is my advice to you: do your work, and do it well. If you’re working with people treat them with the respect that is due and you’ll not only succeed but make some good connections too.