This is a first in a series on Miguel’s experience interning at TECKpert
As a workaholic web developer who has grown so much over the past year, it’s crazy how often my perception of my own skills and my philosophies change the farther I go down this career path. I keep looking back with retrospect and seeing the way I did things only a couple of months ago and I feel like I’ve been consistently improving. Constantly looking back at an inferior or antiquated way of doing things.
This last month and a half, my internship at TECKpert was a catalyst for that process.
But before I go into just how awesome of a time I’ve had so far, I’ll say some things about myself first.
I’m a bit of an odd case. I went up to the University of Florida two years ago as a transfer student fully intent on studying journalism and making a career out of news reporting. It seems like just yesterday that I took a simple web design class and then shortly after picked up my first book in PHP.
I was hooked. I called it a hobby at first, setting up simple websites for friends and family, and even going so far as to declare a minor in computer science. But at some point, I started enjoying writing code more than I did writing news and decided I wanted to fully commit to the profession. So I came back down to my hometown and enrolled at Florida International University and started studying computer science. Naturally I looked around for internships and that’s how I ended up here at TECKpert.
Now, I look back at where I was as a programmer earlier in this summer and he’s miles apart from where I am today. One reason I’m so different now is because I didn’t have mentors early on when I switched majors from journalism to computer science in college. I didn’t work with people. I was too afraid to interact with anyone. It was hard taking something I saw just as a hobby at the time and seeking to study and live it out to the fullest with no one to give you advice on how to approach a field that you couldn’t understand the complexity of yet. I tried keeping to myself as much as I could these past two years so I could fail and learn quietly.
I reached a milestone this summer when I really started working with frameworks and tinkering with coding database driven websites. Just when I thought I was approaching what I thought could be my peak, when I had just given it my all into making a website for my school business organization, I got a web development internship at TECKpert.
In the first couple of weeks, I worked on two websites and really went nose-to-nose with WordPress, an old friend of mine. I learned some pretty cool tricks and got out of so many jams thanks to David, the senior developer here. David does a lot of work on clients’ websites and in-house web applications. He actually went to University of Alabama so he and Adrian, the guy who runs things around here and happens to be a University of Florida alumnus, become bitter rivals during college football season.
Working with David and Adrian, I learned what it was like to interact with my own kind. To figure out my role as well as other peoples’ roles in the website development process. I haven’t really worked closely with our two designers, Sebastion and Eze, but I hope to learn a little more about them soon. They usually hand off design elements to me like logos and markup code but I don’t interact much with them other that. I’m also curious to see if I’ll get to interact with our marketing team as well at some point.
On the work environment, I’d say that while we may work with corporate clients, it’s far from corporate here. The closest thing to a dress code is a simple polo embroidered with the TECKpert logo that we could choose to wear to work in place of our usual casual attire (granted that we of course dress respectfully, and not in boxers or profane t-shirts). When I started, I could tell right away that there was no need for formalities here. Like most tech companies, we were meritocrats. At the end of the day, what mattered was what we could accomplish and how well we implemented it. Adrian went out of his way to show me the ropes these first couple of weeks and give me plenty of guidance. Even though he manages things around here, he’s a still a programmer and an experienced one at that, so it’s incredibly easy to know what he expects of me and to generally discuss technical things.
Now, it’s not like I was put to work in my own corner and did nothing but type away in an IDE. When I wasn’t churning out code, Adrian had me contacting clients to get content from them or walk them through features we were working on. At first, I’d send emails to clients that would go through him. Then he put more trust me and had me call them myself with no real script other than, “just ask them if they have this or that yet, and tell them about this or that.” I did quality assurance forms. I communicated with other employees on our Basecamp account. I was fine tuning and learning what role I played on this team as a developer. As the guy who took things from the design phase — things like the front-end code and concepts and ideas about functionality– and made them a reality. Sure, I was also learning how to code better and more efficiently, but it was bigger than that. I was learning project management, the “big picture” of it all.
Working with WordPress was eye-opening too. Thing is, I learned a bit about theme development a while back but I stayed away from any kind of work with WordPress this past year because I thought it was “too easy.” I thought I needed to learn how to build my own systems and backends so I could call something “my own.” What I didn’t realize was that if you ever want to make anything cool or useful, you have to stand on the shoulders of giants sometimes. You have to take a solution that someone’s already made, and build on top of that. That way, you focus on the “uniqueness” of a website or application, the interesting and unsolved problems that lured you into the project in the first place. I understood that concept before I started this internship but never truly applied or knew it to be true until now. That’s the crazy learning curve for you.
It’s a curve that people in our field say is different from your standard learning experience. It’s exponential. As I’ve already experienced, it’s hard at first but with momentum and persistence, new skills and enlightenments come more and more frequently. It’s only been a month and a half now at TECKpert, but at this rate, there’s no telling how much I’ll learn by the end of this internship.
If you’re interested in a career at TECKpert, stop by our Careers page and find the position that’s right for you.