The Alasco internship experience
My experience interning for 3 months at Alasco
Hello there and welcome to my first post on the Alasco tech blog! My name is Jannick, and as the first engineering intern at Alasco, I thought I’d share my experiences. I hope you’ll find it useful.
I studied computer science and just finished my Bachelor’s thesis at RWTH Aachen in Germany about three months ago. As my course of study did not include any compulsory internships and also little practical exercise otherwise, I was itching to get some real working experience before I move on to do my Master’s.
Looking for internship opportunities in software development, I eventually ended up at Alasco. I worked as a backend engineer within one of the engineering teams, which meant coding in Python and the Django web framework.
I have previous experience with Python, using it in university for a bit and contributing to two small projects in my free time. I’m also familiar with Git of course, as well as the command line since I’m a (mostly) Linux user. Django was foreign territory to me though, and I also had no experience working on larger projects in larger teams. As such, a couple challenges lay ahead of me when I began at the start of April.
When I was just starting out, everything was quite overwhelming. There were so many new faces and names to remember as well as my calendar packed full of meetings. Using a Mac for the first time takes some getting used to, I had to adapt to a certain workflow for development as well as get to know and understand the code. Furthermore, it was also my first experience working full time. While that means I have much more free time than back in uni, it is also a much stricter schedule. Frankly, eight hours of work is quite tiring when you’re not used to it.
However, most of these were just a question of time and getting through it. As a newbie, there’s little pressure for me to deliver right from the start and I was given the time I needed to get comfortable with everything. When I need help with something, I can just ask any of my colleagues and they’re happy to support me.
All this helped immensely in getting over these initial obstacles. The names have stuck. The meetings may be a bit much sometimes but are absolutely crucial in coordinating the engineering team(s) on all levels. They help us maintain a shared vision and understanding of what we’re working on and towards. Our development workflow, reviews and tests mostly ensure I can pump out quick changes without fearing to accidentally break production along the way. Some areas in the code are still as “dark and scary” as when I started out, but I can generally hold my own in most cases. I also appreciate my long weekends, 48 hours of free time means I can go on hiking trips around Munich and make the most of the mountains that I will dearly miss when I go back to Hamburg. Eight hours of working is absolutely doable after getting used to it. I’m still grappling with my Mac every now and then, but at least I don’t have to ask my colleagues how to type a tilde anymore.
How It’s Going
A bit more than two months in and everything is rather smooth sailing at this point. Of course I’m still somewhat slower and need to ask others for help more often than the more experienced developers. But I’m a full member of the team. I can take over work ranging from small tasks to complete feature stories, seeing them through from tech planning to deployment. My work ranges from fixing bugs reported by customers to cleaning and refactoring ugly old code into shiny new code. When the frontend engineers on our team encounter backend-troubles, I support them. Recently, I’ve also started taking part in client interviews as a representative of the engineering side, as well as moderating some of our team meetings.
There’s so many opportunities for me to contribute, and it makes me happy to be able to do my part. As a team, we decide on our overarching goals every six weeks, and I help us reach these goals. I don’t feel like “just an intern”, but a valued and important part of my team.
Learning, Learning, Learning
Looking back, I feel amazed at how far I’ve come since starting my internship only two months ago. Through working with it for multiple hours a day, I’ve gotten a better grip on Python and it’s little intricacies. I also got to know Django along the way and am somewhat familiar with it now. I’ve had the opportunity to plan and execute several “dangerous” database migrations, in a way that’s safe and doesn’t lead to any downtime. I was able to see how a software development team of about 40 engineers work together, and be a part of that. There’s countless little things I learned along the way, and all in all it’s been an incredibly valuable experience for me so far.
Alasco also helps me learn and improve in other ways. First of all, I get a development budget as well as some days which can be spent reading books or attending courses. Furthermore, every employee sets their own OKRs, goals that are meant to help us improve ourselves. In my case, that includes reading two Python books and learning proper touch typing. I can see my personal progress in several directions simultaneously, and the company supports me with that.
As someone who came fresh from university, it is also particularly interesting to see some of the less tangible things I’ve learned applied in practice. The best example is probably agile development and scrum. The time at Alasco really brought these frameworks to life for me, something that the theoretical treatise in university never could. For the first time, I could see the theory unfold before my eyes, though hat doesn’t mean that we just play it strictly by the book either. There’s always a place to bring up any problems we encounter, discuss them with the team, and then try to come up with solutions together. We constantly strive to improve our processes, and I’m taking part in that.
Team Work, Dream Work
What, to me, stands out the most at Alasco is the amazing people and atmosphere at work. Everyone is incredibly nice and helpful. Colleagues always greet each other when they meet outside the office, and we always go for lunch together in groups ranging anywhere from two to fifteen people, in ever changing constellations. You’re also likely to find people for all sorts of activities together: exploring the sights in Munich, playing football, going on a hike, checking out the Oktoberfest etc., just to name a couple that I’ve participated in during my time here. There’s also the coffee break initiative, which matches you up with a random Alascian every two weeks for a little get-together. This is another great way to get to know more of your colleagues.
People help each other out at Alasco, whether you need some advice at work when you’re struggling with the code, or need additional hands to carry all that furniture on your next move. Should you ever suddenly drop out due to disease or similar, your colleagues will cover for you without a second thought. If you need time to recover, everyone wants you to take the time it needs. Work is important, but people come first.
Until the beginning of June, there was no obligation to be in the office. But the people I meet and talk to in the office made it a place where I want to go every day. And every time I step through the door, I’m full of energy with a smile on my face, because I’m happy to see my colleagues. While I can’t draw comparisons to other companies, I couldn’t have imagined nor asked for anything better.
My time at Alasco is coming to an end. Soon, my internship here will be over and I’m setting my sights on a Master’s degree. Of course, I could have started right after finishing my Bachelor, but I’m glad I took the time and also got the opportunity for this internship.
I believe that over the past months I’ve improved significantly as a developer. Regardless of what I decide to do for my Master’s, I’m sure I’ll make good use of this experience, be it for private projects, open source projects or maybe another job. Alasco has shown me what workplace culture should look like as I’ve met many inspiring people as well as new friends.
Who knows, maybe I’ll find myself back here in a couple years.