This summer, I interned with Target as a software engineering intern. I was placed on the Stores Hosting team, which is one of the teams in charge of maintaining the servers that all Target stores run on. My specific project on the team was to work on a web application that manages the new wireless locks on the server room doors in each Target store.
One of the most important changes in myself that I noticed over the summer was how much more confident I became as a programmer. While at the beginning of the summer I would hesitate to make suggestions or corrections to the code, I afterwards felt comfortable enough with my team and my own abilities to freely say what I thought would make our project better. I also felt that I gained a deeper understanding of the technology industry as a whole. Although Target is ultimately a retailer, both it’s technology team and tech culture have grown to become competitive with many large tech corporations in recent years. Over the summer, I learned about the history of Target’s tech brand and the steps they’ve taken to become recognized as an innovator in the field, which I hadn’t known even before I applied.
In my personal experience, I feel that I’ve learned more practical, transferable skills more quickly in my summer at Target than I would have over a year in college. While university courses certainly helped lay a foundation for the skills I learned in an industry position, since everyone in my project team was starting from little to no experience with the technologies we were using, it felt as though the internship was a long, intensive learning process in itself. Many technologies that I’d started out barely understanding or having never heard of before the summer began, I understood well enough to teach to someone by the end of the summer. It was an incredible process to go through, and one that I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere else.
The server room locks project we worked on was long-term – it began before the interns joined the team and would continue after we left. Our job was primarily to rewrite the code to be shorter, more manageable, and ultimately left in a state where it would be easier for others to add more features. At first, I was disappointed when I realized that we wouldn’t have a nicely finished product at the end of the summer to show for our work – we would just have the same application, but written better than when it was given to us. Towards the end of the summer, however, I realized that our project was a realistic example of what we would be doing as full-time employees. Often, as a programmer, you aren’t starting brand new projects, but rather taking them over from other teams and building upon work that other people have begun.
I think that this turning point occurred for me when the other interns and I were left on our own one day late in the summer to develop a part of the project, without any guidance from the more experienced team members. Although it took us quite a bit longer to read through the code and figure out exactly what we needed to do, we were ultimately able to fix an important bug in the code and put a working version into production. It was the first time that I felt proud of what I’d done as an intern, and also when I realized how much I’d learned since starting my internship.
The experience of working with and getting to know my project team also formed a huge aspect of my internship. Although our team was comprised of both college interns and employees who’d been working in the tech industry for decades, I was surprised to see that the experienced members were just as willing to learn and take suggestions as we were. I also noticed and appreciated how everyone at Target seemed willing to do whatever they could to ensure that the interns got what we wanted to out of our time there.
My internship experience has given me valuable insight into how it will likely be to have a career in the field I’m studying. I got to discover what things I like to do in computer science and want to pursue in the future, and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t like. I feel that the confidence I’ve gained in my programming skills and my ability to learn this summer is irreplaceable. With the connections I’ve made at Target and the return offer I received, I think that I’m in a good position now to apply for a career in the tech industry after graduation, or anywhere else for that matter.