Intern Insights - Software Development

Andy Johnson and the Copyright Infringement

Role:Student Intern Core Search Dev UK
Course:Computer Science – University of Newcastle

Andy JohnsonAndy Johnson and the Developer’s Home

Time flies, doesn’t it? Six months ago, in the city of Newcastle, a Computer Science student called Andy Johnson awoke in the cupboard under the stairs of his Uni house, just a normal student, or so he thought. Little did he know that peeking through his letterbox was a magical letter confirming his place at the foremost technology company in the world. Andy Johnson- that normal student? That’s me.
Soon, full of wonder about what amazing things I might learn, I was loaded up with suitcases at the station and ready to take the East Coast Express down to the magical place where I would be spending my next year – Microsoft’s London Office (AKA Cardinal Place).

Andy Johnson and the Chamber of Biscuits

Soon after arriving I found myself sorted into the Bing Autosuggest Online Ranking team. This was a team for only the very best Computer Scientists, with an amazing mix of software development and advanced, cutting edge, concepts such as Machine Learning and Big Data.

Within minutes of taking my seat in the Bing Autosuggest Online Ranking common room, (also known as the 4th row along on the 3rd floor), I was handed a brand new laptop for both work and personal use, along with a top-of-the-line phone to use as a I pleased, (complete with a free unlimited-everything contract).

As if things couldn’t get better, I was also introduced to the large variety of free snacks (See the aforementioned Chamber of Biscuits) and drinks around the office. They definitely take care of you here!

Andy Johnson and the November of Offsite-Fun

At Microsoft they don’t just take care of you inside the office either! In my time working here I’ve been on more trips than in my last five years of education. Our office has been out to restaurants, private cinema screenings, activity centres, Bletchley Park and even trips to the VIP sections of multiple high-class London bars and clubs. And the best thing? I never had to spend a single penny, everything from entry, to food, to drinks, was paid for by Microsoft.

You don’t just do activities with your office either, you’ll get your fair share with other interns! For the first few days of the internship, all the interns were taken to HQ in Reading to spend a few days getting to know each other better and to take part in fun activities like Zorbing! After this the London and Reading interns were separated from each other for a few months until we were all taken on a trip to the New Forest for two days of intern team building. This was great fun for all involved as we got to enjoy archery, rock climbing, zip wiring and much more! There was even a great teambuilding themed ‘plot-twist’ at the end of the trip, (don’t worry – it didn’t involve a beloved pet actually being an escaped murderer or the return of any dark wizards).

Andy Johnson and the Secret of Hire(ing)

I think I’ve done a good enough job selling this to you so far, so good that you’re probably desperate to join and wondering ‘How do I, a mere programming muggle, get to enter this magical world?’. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t any good at computer science, (I got firsts in both years), but I was not the best on my course, not by far. There were many people who knew an incredible amount more than me but failed to get in, and why is that?

Well the answer is simple; be keen.

You won’t know everything going in, a lot of what you do during your placement won’t have been touched on at all in your course and even more of what you do is too confidential for you to even know it exists. You’ll be expected to learn something new every day that you’re working and be prepared to admit when you have no clue. Multiple times in my interviews I was faced with something I didn’t know about and I admitted it, I then proceeded to ask for an explanation of whatever it was that I didn’t know about. Even when I got something right during my assessment centre, I always made sure to ask whether that was the best way to do it, the most efficient way to do it.

Show that you care about learning and improving yourself and you’re halfway-hired already.

Andy Johnson and the Folder of the Linux

As mentioned previously, a desire to learn new things is important, especially as the main programming language you use will almost definitely be C#, a language that is almost never taught in universities. Along with C# you’ll also be using a lot of SQL, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python and shell scripts, alongside a lot of big-data algorithm work. Don’t worry if you don’t know all of this, they don’t expect you to (although it helps!).

And what will you be doing with these tools? From internal tools, (which could be used for anything from data-analysis to helping with algorithm creation), to apps, and even to changes that affect the very way that the Bing live-site functions. From day one your contributions will matter, they will be important, and tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people may see your code in action. You won’t just be magic-ing up cups of tea here.

Andy Johnson and the Really-good Hints

Now, your time at Microsoft won’t just be a time for working, it’ll be a time for learning too. As I said in the previous section, a lot of the stuff you’ll be doing is stuff that you just don’t know about. This would be a problem if it wasn’t for how willing all your senior co-workers are to help you learn. Whenever there was something you didn’t know, there was always someone willing to give you a private lecture, more attention than you’d ever get at uni. And if, for some reason, there’s no-one to talk to you, you’ll be given as much time as you need to research it yourself.

Alongside all this theoretical learning there’s a lot of practical learning too, everyday you’re coding – building upon all the skills you’ve learned so far. During my time at Microsoft I’ve become a better coder than I ever was before and my time here should be massively advantageous in the final year of my course.

Not only will it be useful during the final year of my course, but in the future too. Machine learning is one of the most in-demand yet under-supplied fields in Computer Science and it’s only getting bigger, follow on with it after your internship and you can look forward to a financially comfy future (Expecto simoleons!).

Andy Johnson and the Hefty Hellos

Despite the title of the section I’m not going to be saying any hellos (Hey, 6 out of 7 headings making sense isn’t that bad), instead I’m going to be saying my goodbyes. Hopefully this has been an entertaining read (I put way more effort into this than I rightfully should have), as well as an informative one. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get into the intern scheme next year and if you’re even luckier maybe you’ll get to meet me!

Good luck!
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