My summer journey with Voyage - Tales of my experiences as an intern
Author: Will Parsons
A summer internship seems to be a rite of passage among STEM students, something I only found about ~3 months before I graduated from the University of Otago with a BSc in Computer Science. Panicked, I put together a profile on Summer of Tech and started filtering through listings for all sorts of jobs. Like most people, I was immediately drawn to the household names, companies like ANZ and TradeMe carry a certain prestige to them that I thought would look great on my future resumes. After submitting my interest in all of the large companies, I began looking through the rest of them in order to pad out the 15 applications Summer of Tech lets you submit.
your input and the work you do really make a difference to the final product
It was only after I started reading through the job listings of companies I had never heard of that I began to think my initial attraction to pure size and brand awareness may have been misguided. Smaller companies were working on projects just as, if not more interesting than, the corporate powerhouses and they offered the opportunity to dive in headfirst and make a difference from day one. With a smaller team, your input and the work you do really make a difference to the final product. The other criteria I had for a future employer was what their goals for the internship were, were they going to take my growth as a developer as seriously as I was? I found some listings and even had a couple of interviews with places that were clearly looking for cheap labour to tick off three months' worth of odd jobs around the codebase for them. They had no intention of mentoring, and some even disclosed that there was absolutely no possibility of an ongoing full-time role after the ‘internship' was up.
So naturally, I was drawn to Voyage, a web development studio of approximately a dozen people based in the dead centre of Christchurch. They punch above their weight, with clients including Education New Zealand, Harcourts, Lifetime, Jucy, Otago Polytechnic, and the NZDF. Their job listing really honed in on the culture they offer of mentorship and making a difference from day one, which, as someone with little confidence in how their university education would translate to real-world applications, really resonated with me. They also seemed like a fairly laid-back bunch, which suited me fine. Work lunches, Friday beers (sometimes Thursday beers), Ralph the office dog, and nine-day fortnights were all much more attractive to me than wearing a tie and working with people who have job titles like 'Senior Financial Analyst' or 'Head of Regulatory Operations’. Luckily for me, they thought my profile wasn’t completely disgraceful, and I was approached for an interview.
Joining the team
Two interviews later, I had the job, and before I knew it, I was trading peaceful and quaint North Dunedin for the big city, of Christchurch. I was nervous for the first day, but I shouldn’t have been. The day consisted of getting my equipment set up, going out for lunch, and of course meeting the people who I would be working alongside for the next 12 weeks, all of whom are people who now, after spending 12 weeks getting to know them, I cannot speak highly enough of, both as developers and as people.
That's when it struck me how lucky I was to be learning as much as I was in my first job out of university.
One of the most valuable aspects of my time at Voyage was something that I didn’t even realise was noteworthy until I had been working there for some time. Living in Christchurch, I was sharing a flat with two other recent graduates who had also moved to the city for internships. One evening while cooking dinner, one of them was complaining that her boss would frequently leave her on seen when she messaged them with questions. The other flatmate chimed in, saying that when he submitted his code for peer review, rather than providing feedback, it would be taken and fixed by a more senior developer, and he would never see it again. That's when it struck me how lucky I was to be learning as much as I was in my first job out of university. When I asked a question, the other developers dropped what they were doing to help me, and when I submitted code for review, it came back to me with constructive criticism and suggestions for fresh approaches to the problem at hand. My work was held to the same standard as everyone else's, which meant I was constantly learning.
All in all, I could not have asked for a better experience for my first job out of university. Voyage and the people who work there taught me a lot, and I will be very sad to leave them. Unfortunately, I couldn't accept the full-time role that they kindly offered me, as I am instead moving back overseas to be closer to family. Despite this, I cannot stress enough how great of an experience this summer has been. Not only do I feel as though I've taken huge steps forward in my career in this short time, but it has been a genuine pleasure to work alongside people as talented and likeable as the crew at Voyage. As a former Voyage intern to hopefully a future one, I’ll leave you with some parting advice
- University teaches you how to write code, your first job is for learning how to write good code, so don’t worry too much when your initial approach to a problem turns out to not be the smartest one
- Focus on growing your skillset and getting exposure to as much as possible, it’s the most important thing when you’re this early on in your career
- Don’t offer to make Sofiya coffee, because if you do it once she’ll pester you for one every morning