"It seemed like a great opportunity -- a chance to get experience working at a household name like IBM while still playing with cool new technology."
Another intern who finished his co-op term with jStart in December 2013 was Jon Johnson. Jon is an undergraduate at Appalachian State University and interned with jStart from May 2013 - December 2013. Although initially focused on jStart Pulse, Jon transitioned to work on Bluemix, IBM's next generation XaaS cloud platform, and also participated in our Bluemix Hackathon.
QHow did you go about deciding the jStart internship was for you?
A My brother-in-law actually did an internship with John (Feller--a jStart Manager) a few years back, and he recommended I apply. It seemed like a great opportunity -- a chance to get experience working at a household name like IBM while still playing with cool new technology. Plus, working at IBM is basically a rite of passage for developers in North Carolina.
QAny specific things you wanted to get out of the internship?
A There were really two things I was excited about getting out of the internship: 1) getting to work at a large corporation and figure out if it was for me, and 2) we learn a lot at school, but it's often using outdated technology and software (the older professors have a hard time keeping up), so I was excited to learn what people were actually using and what kind of technologies were out there that I hadn't been exposed to.
QAnd did you reach those goals?
A Yep! I've learned so much about stuff that I'd never even heard of... I've learned 3-4 different programming languages, got introduced to several web frameworks, worked with 3-4 databases that I didn't know existed, and played with a lot of technology that you never really touch in school. I also managed to acquire some experience administrating and being an operations guy. As an added bonus, I got a chance to work on cloud technologies and IBM's new cloud platform (IBM Bluemix) before anyone else had even heard about it. My breadth of experience in IT has expanded massively in the past few months.
QHow about some of the challenges you ran into with the internship?
A Well, in the beginning, it was the proverbial "throw you into a pool and say swim" experience... which was challenging and new to me, but I'm convinced is the best way to get started with a new technology. At school you have a lot of direction and hand-holding, whereas at jStart it was a lot more open ended -- I was often told, "Show me what you can do with this." It turns out that I liked being challenged in that way, but it was very different from what I was used to.
QLooking back, are there any accomplishments you've had as an intern that stand out?
A Just recently I finished working on a service for Bluemix, where I took an open source project and turned that into a service. On a mailing list associated with Bluemix, I got a number of messages from people saying that they appreciated my work, which made me feel great. I really enjoy working with open source, and I even had the opportunity to make a number of contributions to that project.
QWhen do you graduate?
A Ideally? Never. What I tell my mom is "December 2015". But we’ll see if that happens. (laughs)
QSo what's in the works, post-graduation?
A Well, in keeping with the last question, I might pursue a masters degree. Realistically, though, I want to try to work at a startup and get perspective from the other end of the spectrum. I don't know where I'll end up, but at some point I'd like to launch a startup myself. I wouldn't mind coming back to work at IBM--it's been a fun experience. But in the end, I'll just have to see what opportunities present themselves to me.
QClosing thoughts of jStart?
A jStart has a really unique position at IBM. You'd think that they'd be kind of limited (being within giant corporate IBM and having to deal with the bureaucracy that's present in any large corporation), but the team gets a lot of freedom to experiment with new technology. That enables it to be agile and actually get stuff done (instead of the painfully slow waterfall process that's the reality in most large companies). For me, that meant I got the great experience of working at a huge company like IBM while avoiding a lot of the tediousness of rigid development process. All in all, jStart is a really great team, and I'm glad I got to work with them.
QWould you do the internship again?
A I would definitely do it again. The experience I gained here was really valuable--I even recommended a friend apply for an internship with jStart.
QSo, any advice for future jStart interns?
A Don’t using linking verbs when talking to Spence. Trust me, you'll understand once you get here. Seriously, though: get to know the team as soon as possible. Struggle with your work, but don't be afraid to ask for help. The guys on the team have probably seen your problem a hundred times and chances are they can help you fix it quickly. Don't hesitate to share your opinions and ideas. You can offer a fresh perspective as an intern coming out of school...which is especially relevant, since with Bluemix, IBM is targeting developers who are, basically, us. Also, learn as much as you can. You're getting paid to learn and play with new technology--don't waste that opportunity!
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