Monday, August 24, 2015

The Internship Experiment

The Internship

Ever since I started my independent software development consulting practice in October of 2014, I'd been planning towards offering internship opportunities to college students majoring in Computer Science and Business majors interested in Business Analyst and Software Development careers. Given the challenges new college graduates face in the workplace, due to lack of exposure to many tools, technologies, and development methodologies predominantly used in enterprises today for software development, the idea of offering internships with an emphasis in those areas appealed to me greatly. I also wanted the internship to be a platform where the interns would get a taste of some of the technologies that are not generally covered in their college curriculum. The internship would also serve as a test for my management and mentoring skills as this would be my first such experience.


I was able to reach out to college students through an acquaintance who worked closely with students in UT Austin, TX, and Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. Special care was taken in selecting interns and we selected students who were in good academic standing. We decided to offer three internships for IT Business Analyst position, and three internships for Software Developer position. The internship was designed to last six to eight weeks, where we met for couple hours each, two days a week.

Areas of Focus

The project was to create a web based anonymous survey creation and collection tool. The internship was designed to cover the following areas:
  1. Software development life cycle and methodologies
  2. Requirements gathering and documentation
  3. Use case documentation
  4. Requirements and Use Case traceability 
  5. Software Specifications documentation
  6. Software Specification and Use Case traceability
  7. Unit, Integration, and End-to-End testing
  8. Work division and delegation
  9. Source code version control 
  10. Timelines, Deadlines, and Accountability
  11. Software development tools and technologies
The software programmer interns were asked to use the following technologies for their internship project:
  1. Source Version Control using Git and Github
  2. Programming using Scala and Play Framework
  3. NoSql data persistence using MongoDB

The Experience

The internship went surprisingly well.While where were snags and unexpected issues, the overall experience was quite pleasant. The interns were eager to learn various aspects of Software Development Life Cycle. The quality of documentation produced for BRD and SDS was decent as well. The Business Analyst internship ended ahead of schedule. The Software Developer internship went into overtime and stayed behind schedule for a few weeks. While I was aware of the steep learning curve with Scala, I had not anticipated how much of a delay it would introduce in the overall timeline. We had an in-depth discussion on timeline, the importance of quality estimates, and the real world ramifications of missing deadlines. There were other issues with missed and misinterpreted requirements as well, which served as additional learning exercises.


At the end of the Software Development internship, we had a working product that was about eighty percent ready, and while it had a few rough edges, it was able to demonstrate nearly all the functionality and use cases that were described in the Business Requirements Document. The post-internship feedback from the interns was overwhelmingly positive and I received some constructive feedback on how the experience could be improved and enhanced for future interns. The purpose of the internship was to provide interns with a safe collaborative learning platform, to experience and participate in a Software Development Project, and to help them better prepare for the opportunities ahead of them. It also provided me with valuable lessons in software project and team management. Overall, it has been a very fulfilling and satisfying experience.

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