Expanding the sandbox

Amanda Sullivan, a 2014 Aspirations for Women in Computing national award runner-up and Minnesota award recipient, interned at Symantec Corporation during the summer of 2014. This is her impression of the experience.

This summer, I was given the opportunity to intern at Symantec Corporation through NCWIT Aspirations in Computing. The experience has been challenging and simultaneously rewarding. Before this internship I had never had code peer reviewed, and kept mostly to the confines of my local sandbox, cranking out small and silly applications. Today I am a part of a scrum team, and have felt the pride in seeing my code reviewed, reviewed again and reviewed once more. I have understood the satisfaction of receiving a ‘Ship it!’ and have later gone on to present this code at the end of sprint demo. I, who spent last autumn building high tech apps such as ‘8 Ball’ and ‘8 Ball: Now with color’ participated in a demo, and it was absolutely awesome.

This internship has taken my curiosity and cultivated it through responsibility, group work, and defined goals. Each day brought new hurdles, new things to understand and learn from. My work never felt monotonous as I was consistently learning new things. I think often times responsibility can seem scary, especially when entering the work force. I never felt intimidated at Symantec, because there was always someone on my scrum team willing to help. I was able to grow in my own way while actively adding to our team’s goal. If anything, there is something liberating about being handed a task and being told to find your own solution. Before this internship I had never worked on Linux command line. Today I can proudly say I find myself frustrated while hitting ‘tab’ in hopes of autocompleting my search queries. The progress I’ve made is clear and it was because of the accountability needed to work on a team, and the help my team gave back to me. I’m now more confident in my abilities, feel more comfortable giving and receiving feedback, and feel genuinely supported and reaffirmed in my choice to continue pursuing computer science.

The opportunity to intern is essential in deciding a career path. Especially in computer science, it can be daunting looking from the outside. The ability to really be a part of a company and work on the same project as your peers brings it down to Earth. The first few weeks feel like dancing with ear plugs in. You know there’s music playing and you can try your best to mimic the dance moves. You might be working with a whole new language (Perl) or an entirely new technology. When I was on boarded at Symantec they had just switched to agile development. We were separated into teams called scrum teams. Each scrum member is given a task to complete by the end of a sprint. Each sprint lasts nine days and leads to a demo in which all completed work is presented. My general day consisted of working on my assigned user story (tasks), programming, reviewing code, attending meetings, a daily scrum, and lunch with the interns in the V-Café. A daily scrum meeting is a summary of all you’ve completed the day before, what you want to accomplish today, and what could get in the way (roadblocks). I wouldn’t have experienced any of this if I sat at home coding and studying on my own. That’s why it is so important to get internships, and why I am so grateful for NCWIT and the Symantec internship program. I’m not saying that studying on your own is bad, because that’s absolutely not true. I’m saying the experience of an internship can be the difference between continuing in computer science or choosing another career path. Currently, females are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career or plan on taking post-secondary technology classes than their male peers(s). For those who show genuine curiosity and aptitude for computing, it’s important that we foster that interest with internships such as this. Technical skill can be taught, but passion cannot be. With my internship experience I know I want to advocate for females in STEM. A chain has been created, and organizations and companies can help start and enrich chains globally. All it takes is a single person with curiosity, intent and an opportunity.

– Amanda Sullivan

(s) Source: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/55910/If_Girls_Don_t_Get_IT_IT_Won_t_Get_Girls_?taxonomyId=057