Intern Life - That Little Piece of Paper

Posted by Trustev editor on May 29, 2013

Trustev currently has two fantastic guys working with us as part of their college placement programmes. Michael Linehan and David Devane. While they refer to themselves as 'interns' they've been given full time, paying roles as a Junior Project Manager and Junior Developer, with all the responsibilities and training those roles demand.

To prove that we're not just keeping them chained in the basement, every week they've been encouraged to write a blog post about any topic they want.

So you’re a student studying an IT related course and suddenly you realise “Whoa this is not what I signed up for!” I’m a 3rd year BIS student so trust me I’ve been there. I can still remember the surge of panic that hit me while sitting through my first ever programming lecture. Foolishly I thought that BIS was essentially a degree in Business Studies with a little bit of high level background knowledge on what is going on in the Tech world. I was wrong, oh so very wrong. Needless to say first year was a disaster. Not only did I finish the year with 5 repeat exams on my plate but I also had my mind fully set on either switching courses or dropping out all together. I was frustrated, un motivated and honestly hated the course.

Switching courses wasn’t an option because I would have not only wasted a full year of college fees which my mother and father had generously provided, but I would also be hit with paying full tuition fees for the first year of my alternative course. How could I possibly expect my parents, who were both out of work at the time to foot the bill? At the time I was working part-time in a second-hand shop. It was a very handy job for me and I can’t say I was ever unhappy in there but one day I kind of realised that I didn’t want to be earning minimum wage for the rest of my life, which would be a very possible outcome if I decided to drop out of college altogether. Reluctantly I decided to bite the bullet and spend the summer studying to get through the repeats and into 2nd year.

Nowadays, I am currently awaiting my 3rd year second semester results with the hope of achieving a First Class Honour average, which I am on track for after semester 1. I am also doing a paid placement in one of the most exciting Technology Start-ups in the world helping prevent online fraud, desperate to prove myself and hopefully secure a position for when I have completed my degree. At this stage I have completely converted to the Tech world. What could possibly be more exciting than working in the fastest changing industry in the world? So if you are one of the unlucky few who is either facing repeats this summer or panicking thinking of dropping out of an IT course, here a number of things you should consider before making any hasty decisions.

  • A degree is essential these days – Gone are the days when you can walk into a relatively good job without one. We are in the midst of a recession where employers have all the power and are becoming increasingly selective in the recruitment process. Dropping out of college completely is insane, chances are if you do get a job it will be minimum wage, if even! That piece of paper, (no matter how little it might actually mean you know), is what will have you earning the big money.
  • Either way you will have to work hard – I’ll be honest, college is hard work and often a lot of stress, and particularly in IT courses which accounts for the huge drop out rates. The reality that I had to face myself and that everyone will inevitably face is that for the rest of your life you will encounter stress and challenges in the working world. Ever seen how hard a person behind the bar in a nightclub works on a Saturday night? They are run off their feet from the moment they arrive in the door and what can be more stressful than dealing with customers who are for the most part too drunk to see. My point is stress is inevitable, challenges are inevitable and hard work is inevitable. Wouldn’t you much rather do your hard work in a comfortable office, a relaxed culture, an exciting industry and for a hell of a lot more money?
  • The Technology industry is booming – There has never been a better time for you to be in an IT course than right now, especially in Ireland. It is estimated that there are between 3,000 and 5,000 job vacancies in the Tech Industry right now. The tech giants of the world like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have all decided to locate in Ireland. This skills shortage means that as soon as you have an IT related degree you are instantly more valuable than many other graduates who don’t have any technology background. Even the jobs in Sales, Marketing and other departments within these Tech companies will ideally want their candidates to have an IT background to understand their products and strategies, so you are at a huge advantage if your degree involves IT.
  • Just because you are in an IT course does not mean you will be coding for the rest of your life – I have never been good at programming in college and I know that it would take me a lot longer than some to get good at it. Unfortunately I don’t think and solve problems in the way that a developer would. I wish I did, but I don’t. However, I am willing to put up with working that extra bit harder to get through the programming modules in college. Right now I’m working in Project Management and you’d think that coding would be of no value to me, but you would also be highly wrong. Especially in a Tech start-up, project management often means being the bridge between developers and the business functions within the team. Thus a basic understanding of coding is essential for me to be able to understand Developer language and effectively manage communicate with them regarding customer and product issues. So many businesses are now moving from bricks to clicks so even for traditional business roles within organisations a technical knowledge is essential and by having it you are making yourself more valuable than someone with just a business degree.

The benefits of having an IT related degree are yours for the taking. I know it is a daunting task to try and turn things around if you have previously resigned yourself to dropping out of your course or if you have a stack of repeat exams that you don’t even know how to begin to tackle. Here are some of the rules and things I tried to tell myself that summer 2 years ago that I had to spend studying:

  • Force interest in the modules you are studying – In an interesting TED presentation by Amy Cuddy, she introduces the wise phrase – “Don’t fake it til you make it. Fake it til you become it”. This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone who is trying to turn things around in college. Fake an interest in technology. Force yourself to read tech blogs, to look at programming tutorials and to read as much as you can about the module you are studying. It is hard at first and it requires a big commitment but before you know it you will actually start to become competitive in your approach to learning more, getting higher grades, doing better in exams and before you know it you will genuinely start to like what you are doing. I can honestly say I am living proof of this because I couldn’t imagine myself being happier in a different course.
  • Look at the positives – Even if the thought of writing line after line of code doesn’t have you trembling with excitement, there are so many benefits to what you are doing. As I have stated earlier, everybody will face the reality of the working world and not everyone will like their job. Maybe you won’t if you work in the Tech industry, but I bet you’ll like the idea of earning a good salary. Apart from just money, building a good career can help you to find a sense of achievement, which proves to employers in other sectors that you are capable of hard work and overcoming challenges. It is essential to keep yourself on the right track that you often take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Find your own positive reasons why you are working towards this and keep them in mind.
  • Don’t be afraid to take on other Interests – Spending 100% of your time in front of the computer and the books will get you nowhere. If you were capable of that level of interest in your course you would not be in this position in the first place. Instead it is wise to find other hobbies and interests as a release from your studies. That summer I decided to turn things around I also began a fitness regime, got into a relationship, kept up my part-time job and on top of all this I don’t ever miss a party! The reality is that the less time you have the more productive you will become. The important thing is to strike a balance. This will only help increase your interest in your course when you actually are studying and the time constraints will help to stop you from procrastinating.

Hopefully this advice will help others from making the huge mistake that I nearly made. If you are lucky enough to be studying a course related to technology, please realise how lucky you are. Thankfully I did before it was too late.

Michael Linehan is a project manager at Trustev as part of his 3rd year work placement. His project work has been flawless, his office gardening responsibilities - not so much.