There is an idea that every student's first step to having a great career is getting an internship. But what does it mean to go from a college classroom to the real world?
At Aztek, I have been able to experience the real life of a web developer and QA tester. I've learned that there is a significant difference, but totally in a good way.
Here are six questions you might have about my internship at Aztek, and how it compares to my classroom experience.
1. How competitive is Aztek’s environment?
In my computer science classes, it seems like there is an unspoken competitiveness among my peers. There is this hidden rule that if you help another student succeed (or show them how you reached a solution) then you'll lose the position of being the best programmer in the class.
Aztek maintains the opposite mindset. Their teamwork shows through on the projects they develop and improve for each client. It's clear that working together with honest dialogue is what makes this company such a success. For example, in a design critique a developer can get feedback on their work from a cross-discipline team (web design, web development, and marketing). This feedback helps to improve their work and brings to light solutions or ideas they not have thought of.
Aztek believes in collaboration over competition.
2. What were you concerned about before starting your internship?
My fear coming into the internship at Aztek was asking a question I should already know the answer to. In the classroom, there is a fear that asking questions shows other students where you have weaknesses.
At Aztek, questions are encouraged. One of the senior developers, Jared, explained to me that
"The key to knowing how capable you are in the computer science field is not asking a million questions, but it is knowing the correct ones to ask."
And I learned you don't need to know all the answers right away. It's OK if you have to do some research to find more information. It's more important to know what questions to ask.
Am I allowed to ask questions? Yes! and it's encouraged.
3. What skills can you take back to the classroom?
After two years in college, I haven't had the chance to connect everything I've learned into a single website. For example, I know how to develop an application using the Java language, and how to create a simple website using Visual Basic programming or HTML code. But before now I hadn't been able to put that knowledge to use in the real world.
4. What is QA anyway?
In the classroom, QA testing means going through the websites and applications my classmates and I developed to see if they work. I'm required to find errors not only in my own work, but work by my classmates as well. It can be uncomfortable pointing out errors in someone else's work and recognizing the errors in your own. But the process is about more than finding errors.
Aztek helped me realize that QA testing is important to a developer and improves the end deliverable. Finding errors early in the development process prevents complications later. It also allows the developer to make improvements on their work. At Aztek, my job as a QA tester is to run through websites at each of the various working environments, including:
- Live site
QA Testing Process
For testing, I review how the local and front end of a website functions in the QA environment. When I find something to improve, I create a task and assign it to a developer in JIRA (a task management system). This way they know what corrections and improvements should be made. I also observed project meetings (Sprint or Internal Reviews) to see what features are being built for different websites. Later, those features are added to a website and go through the testing process to find areas we can improve.
Quality Assurance- managing the quality and functionality of a website.
5. Did you only learn how to develop websites?
Unless marketing is your major, students don't get the chance to see what happens to a website once it's finished. The professors explain how something will be designed and developed, but that's about it. There isn't any room for creativity or cross-discipline connections.
At Aztek I see how the design and marketing of a website is as important as developing it. For designing a website, I worked with Josh. I added content to Umbraco (a content management system (CMS) used at Aztek) and looked at website markups using HTML code, Bootstrap, and CSS styling.
Working with Anna and Jake, members of the digital marketing team, I used Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, and BrightEdge. These tools are important for different reasons. Heat maps from CrazyEgg show you how visitors are interacting with your website, and where you can make improvments. BrightEdge shows keyword rankings and how the website content is showing up in search engines. And in Google Analytics you can set up goals or different levels of tracking to show if a profit is being made. Without digital marketing, how would the client know their money is well spent?
No! I dug into digital marketing and web design too.
6. What was your favorite part about working at Aztek?
Pair programming hands down. In the classroom, pair programming feels more like an intelligence competition, where one student takes control and programs the most. In that situation, pair programming can be fun for one person but stressful for the other.
Pair programming at Aztek was more rewarding than stressful. I was able to program with many of Aztek's developers to create different features for a variety of websites. One programming experience I'll highlight was working with Jared. I created a confirmation page showing that a store was successfully established. At times, I struggled knowing the steps needed to complete the task. I asked questions and needed additional explanation, but Jared was patient and understanding (along with the other developers at Aztek!). He allowed me to work through the task, learning from my mistakes. He had me use other web pages as a guide and encouraged me to try things on my own. At Aztek pair programming is a learning experience that creates better code, not a competition.
So, do you still want to be a developer?
The internship at Aztek helped me see the skills I need to improve, and what I'm able to bring to the table in the future. I can't imagine the quality of my resume now, and coming away from my experience at Aztek I know web development is the path I wish to take.