A different kind of internship

At Qubiz we have at least two internships every year: one during the spring break, and one over summer vacation. Students who join our ranks for the program get their hands dirty with a real-life software project. They work in Scrum teams led by senior mentors.This spring we added another twist to the internship by teaming up with the University of Oradea. The objective was to deliver a software for professors as well as to offer students a different perspective on software development. Let’s hear the details of the project from the mentors:

How was this internship different from the others we had in the past?

[Alex]: This was the first time Qubiz and University of Oradea worked closely together on a software project, namely: a web application that helps professors to manage their research activities.[Peti]: Another difference was the way of working. The first phase of the internship consisted of a theoretical crash course took place at the Qubiz office, and in the second (practical) phase students worked from home and from the University’s laboratory. We had regular meetings with the team to enhance communication and offer guidance.[Razvan]: In my opinion, the biggest difference from past internships was that students had more responsibility than in prior programs. They had to elicit and organize requirements in addition to implementation and testing.

What were the hurdles of this new approach?

[Alex]: We knew that we would come across some challenges but that didn’t hold us back! The communication between us and the interns was harder and slower than in previous internships when they were at the office 7 hours per day. Another impediment was the students’ lack of experience organizing their time. Juggling school and work are hard. You have to stay laser focused. Also, it helps if you proactively suggest solutions.[Peti]: To piggyback on Alex’s idea: students working from home was the biggest hurdle of this project. Slower communication causes delays which put more pressure on the interns. I think that in an ideal setting mentors should have some control over the trainees’ working hours.[Razvan]: The biggest challenge was to accommodate students who had no previous internship experience to this setup. These youngsters seem to need more structure and supervision in order to really put in the hours and effort.

Why did you change the proven approach of the internship?

[Alex]: Why didn’t Columbus just stay put in Spain? :) Also, we wanted a closer collaboration with the University of Oradea than in previous internships. This was possible only with more involvement from the professors, thus students had to spend more time at school and implicitly less at Qubiz offices.

What was the desired outcome of the internship?

[Alex]: For interns, it was the first real-life experience with a software project. During these weeks, they got a sense of what are the steps to developing a product as well as how much communication is required to gather, analyze and implement the requirements.For Qubiz it was an opportunity to test the new approach to internships. It’s safe to say that it was a learning experience for both a students and mentors.[Peti]: We wanted to fill in two needs with one deed, namely: develop talented students and deliver an application that helps the University of Oradea.[Razvan]: From my point of view, besides delivering a working application, we always have another objective in internships, namely: finding students who can (later) join our ranks.

Why did you choose to get involved in this internship?

[Alex]: The local IT community is a gift that keeps on giving, so it feels natural to me to give back. Also, working with people is not my strength. Whenever I have the opportunity to improve this, I act. Third, I want to see the education system evolve and I’m more than happy to commit my fair share to this cause.[Peti]: I joined Qubiz through an internship. I want to offer others the same support my colleagues provided for me back then. Additionally, it was a great opportunity for me to take on a leading role in this project. This experience will help me down the road.[Razvan]: Because I want to give back by helping people grow

Which was the most memorable moment from this internship?

[Alex]: I would say it was when the interns had difficulties in implementing their first user stories and they blamed the code. We took a deep breath, sat down and renamed a few classes. That made everything clear regarding how the objects would be used. My conclusion: “Coding is easy, naming things is hard!” :)[Peti]: There were some good moments when we solved problems together.[Razvan]: The internship left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I feel that more could have been achieved. Nevertheless, another internship is just around the corner. Hope that this time students will make the most of the opportunity.

What’s the next phase of this project?

[Alex]: The next step is to deliver the first version of the software after the summer internship. We already started to recruit students for this project. I’m very eager to see the software going live and being used by professors to manage their research activities.

Interviewed by Krisztian Szűcs

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