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What we learned on our summer co-op

Friday, September 6, 2013


This past summer, Jennifer Blight and Jonathan Acevedo, students at the University of Waterloo, joined us as engineering interns.  While they were here, we all learned a lot about Canada.  We asked them to reflect in turn on what they learned from us. interns

The grumblings of Samuel Clemens aside, San Franciscan summers still have nothing on Canadian winters. It’s been an amazing four months for the Waterloo interns here.  We both feel that we’ve learned a lot in a very short time. Hopefully we have become better developers for it; but often the biggest challenges are not about writing code. These are a few of the ‘life lessons’ that will accompany us as we return to the frozen North.

Ask Stupid Questions

Everyone here has their own area of expertise, no one knows everything, and the whole team is open to questions from anyone about anything. You’re not just encouraged to ask questions, you’re expected to; because you learn faster, and produce better results more efficiently if you get the right information quickly, rather than fumbling around by yourself. So ask questions. Ask about your work, ask about other people’s work, ask questions even when you think no one has time for them.

(and ask “Why?”)

Understand the logic that goes into each decision. Be critical. Why am building this? Why do we do it this way instead of that way? The answers to those questions aren’t just for your information; the act of explaining makes the answerer accountable for their reasoning.

Your Opinion Matters

Your opinion matters more than you think. One of the first things that we were told is: “Everyone on this team will treat you as a full time employee.” This has been true throughout our entire internship. Overhear someone talking about the product you built? Feel free to step in. Brainstorming new product ideas? Jump in. Racing to the finish line for the team scavenger hunt? Sprint ahead.

The entire team is constantly striving to learn, innovate, and to better themselves. Everyone is trusted to be in charge of their schedules, and the work that they do.

Own Your Work

Perhaps one of the hardest things about being an intern is unlearning the instincts of a student. There are no predefined requirements, no rubrics and, often, no right answers. You’ll be given a lot of autonomy and expected to make your own decisions about scope and direction. We have many mentors, but often there’s no direct supervisor. You have to be self-directed, explore, figure things out, and occasionally take leaps. The result is a project that is completely and uniquely your own; something you have nurtured from its inception and something that you will be reluctant to leave.

Want to join the conversation? Let us know what you think at @ginger_io. And check out our team (and our openings)