We speak to Lea Sixtl as she shares her experience undertaking a remote internship at Techspert...
Despite the whole company needing to work remotely due to coronavirus, the Techspert internship still went ahead – we weren’t going to let a pandemic stop us from nurturing the future generation of STEM pioneers!
In this post, Ashwath Vijayan and Toby Drane share their Techspert remote internship experience. They both decided to spend their summer break interning with us and are set to head back to university in September. Let's introduce our pair and hear what they had to say!
Masters in the making
Hi, Ashwath here. I’m completing a Master’s in Advanced Computer Science at the University of Leicester and hope to become a Solutions Architect in the future. This internship has been an ideal opportunity to gain some practical experience in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), two areas I have a keen interest in, and to see how these technologies are used in real-life business cases.
Hello, I’m Toby. I’m starting a Master’s in Science specializing in Data Science and Machine Learning at University College London. Before beginning my degree, I wanted to get some hands-on experience so I can match the theory to real-world examples. This internship has been the perfect launchpad into these specialisms as Techspert’s AI search technology is powered by machine learning techniques and data science.
Joining the dots with the Connect Team
Before we dig into the details of our internship, we thought we’d start by giving you an idea of the tech team’s structure, which is split into three spheres (we were on the Connect Team):
- Connect: Builds and maintains the internal project management suite and the Techspert portal. The portal gives customers an overview of all their projects in one place, making project management much simpler and enables customers to approve experts, schedule expert calls, and much more.
- Search: Develops the AI technology that finds world-leading experts. Powered by machine learning techniques, the AI scans volumes of data on the web to identify and extract relevant, comprehensive, data-backed expert profiles.
- Product: Is responsible for creating our product roadmap, ensuring we meet our product vision and mission, and ultimately that our technology helps customers solve their needs.
At first, we were a little apprehensive about doing a remote internship. Would we feel isolated? Would we fit in? Would we still be able to learn and contribute? These were just a few of the concerns we had. Fortunately, we were made to feel a part of the team from day one and by day two or three we were already getting our hands dirty resolving tickets (reports on an issue or feature requests which the tech team needs to fix or implement).
“The remote internship experience has been strange but in a good way. I feel a part of the team even though I’ve never met them in person!”
Toby Drane, Techspert intern, 2020.
An image of one of our stand-ups. We meet daily to chat about what we’re working on, upcoming tasks, any blockers we’re facing, and collaboration opportunities. Sometimes someone will show and tell a new tech they’re using or the latest frontend designs.
Working with new tools and technologies
One of the great things about a hands-on internship is getting to use different technologies and platforms for the first time.
For our first project, we had to build a Chrome Extension (small programs that add new features to your browser and personalize your browsing experience) to create a streamlined and improved automatic ticketing generating system. The implementation needed to be capable of screen recording (so the tech team can see the issue), pushing the ticket to Jira (an agile project management tool enabling the developers to manage and triage tickets), and sending a notification to Slack (an internal communication platform used by techspert.io) for visibility. Neither of us had built a Chrome Extension before so it was a great learning experience!
Our second project, which we’re currently working on, is to use WebSockets (real-time data transfer between a web application and a server) to create a pop-up notification between the internal project management suite, which is used by our Project Team, and the Techspert portal, which is used by customers. The goal is to get the techspert.io portal to communicate with the internal project management suite by notifying the Project Team when customers complete specific actions such as accepting an expert’s profile or scheduling a call. This will prevent the Project Team from having to manually keep track of a project’s progress and ensures they’re able to optimize project management. WebSocket is an advanced technology that’s used by many organizations and apps, so getting to work on this – the first time for both of us – is exciting.
A stylized illustration of the pop-up notification we’re developing.
Other technologies we worked with that were new to us include:
- AWS – the cloud computing platform used at techspert.io
- Typescript – the coding language used by the Connect Team
- Angular – the framework used by the Connect Team
- Lambdas – These are serverless computing components that are small snippets of code run once then shut down. We use them to power our backend.
“It’s encouraging and rewarding to see that what we’ve developed as interns has been implemented into Techspert’s platforms and processes."
Ashwath Vijayan, Techspert intern, 2020.
Interns are part of the team
As you can tell from the projects we’ve worked on, unlike at some organizations, interns aren’t viewed as students brought on to do menial tasks. Along with gaining practical experience, the program ensures that we’re welcomed and fully integrated into the company. For example, when we joined we were each assigned a buddy from a non-tech team who helped us settle in, there are monthly socials (such as games nights and book club) which everyone is invited to, and we also have a monthly company-wide all-hands which is a meeting to hear the projects different teams have been working on and general company updates. All-hands is a great opportunity to see the different faces that make up techspert.io and there’s always a bit of banter (to exchange witty and enjoyable conversation with someone) which reflects the friendly atmosphere here.
Five of our favorite things
We’re going to wrap things up by sharing a list of our five favorite things about the Techspert internship (which we haven’t covered previously).
1. Developers have a say
It’s been great to get experience at a company that’s growing rapidly. The developers have a strong, leading role and you don’t have to cross a lot of red tape or attend endless meetings to get things done.
2. Positive company culture
Although we haven’t been in the office with everyone, we’ve still got a sense of the collaborative, friendly, innovative culture that has expressed itself online. Despite being a growing company of 40, it feels as though there are only 15 or 20 people because of the close-knit environment.
3. Collaboration is cool
Nobody works on anything in isolation. If either of us gets stuck on anything we can easily hop on a call with someone for help.
4. A nurturing environment
Techspertians are smart, they know their stuff, and the standard of work is high. It’s encouraging to work in an environment that pushes and nurtures you to grow.
5. The never stop learning attitude
Not knowing the answer to something isn’t seen as a flaw but an opportunity to learn. For example, if someone is using a technology other people on the Connect Team aren’t familiar with, they’ll do an interactive shadowing call so others can watch their screen while they use the technology, ask questions and learn something new.
On that note, we think we’ve just about covered everything. If you’re eager to gain experience at a forward-thinking tech company and are ready to get stuck into some challenging but interesting projects, apply for the 2021 internship when applications open!