Being Treated Like an Adult

Friday, September 6th 2019, 1:25pm

Over the summer, I interned at Threat Stack which I can confidently say was the most important four months of my life as a developer. Fundamentally it came down to they way they treated me and a culture of personal responsibility that really clicked with me.

On my first day, my team lead told me to open up Jira and take a card. That’s it, I was shown the “platform diagram” (a map of countless microservices that make up the product) and told to have at it. It was overwhelming. But then I took my first card, I finished it, and I took another. The fear wore off and I learned a ton.

At every step of the way my team happily answered my questions, helped me through deploys, and more. I felt constantly supported. But soon I realized that they weren’t doing all of this just because I was an intern who would need help. Over the months, I watched four people onboarded in the exact same way. I wasn’t treated any differently than other full-time software developers.

As I progressed during my time at Threat Stack, my responsibilities grew. My manager would pull me aside and give me critical production tasks to do, I worked closely with architects to refactor important systems, and I was even involved in fixing critical production incidents as they happened. This didn’t all happen at once, when I mentioned to my manager how much I appreciated how they treated me he said that I had earned their trust and that they hadn’t done anything they wouldn’t do for a normal developer. They treated me like an adult.

This seems experience seems so simple to outsiders, but it’s such a rare experience for interns. We’re often given solo projects, put on bug fixing duty, or, if we get lucky, allowed to work with QA. But being given the responsibilities of a software developer is like drinking from the fire hose. It’s a learning experience like no other.

Threat Stack gave me the space to grow and didn’t put in place any artificial limits on my work simply because I was an intern. For four months I felt constantly challenged, valued, and learned an incredible amount.

I have to complete two Co-ops (six month internships run by Northeastern) before I graduate. Threat Stack proved to me that I need to find that company where the title of Intern doesn’t carry baggage. I need to find that company that will let me earn the trust of my managers and coworkers. I need to find that company willing to treat an intern like an adult.


© 2018-2019 Jake Kinsella