What It’s Like to Intern as an Application Developer

Joe Bustamante, ’18

Hi there! My name is Joe Bustamante. I just finished my junior year as a computer science and English literature double major at Hope. This summer, I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to intern with Open Systems Technologies (OST) in their Application Development practice. For those that don’t know, OST is an IT consulting company based in downtown Grand Rapids that works with businesses to solve whatever IT-related problems they may be facing. That may be setting up or managing a database, suggesting which cloud provider would be the best fit for them, or creating new software to meet one of their needs. As an AppDev intern, I’ll mostly be doing the software development aspect, creating whatever programs or apps companies need for their business.

I woke up the morning of my first day feeling both excited and incredibly nervous. Would I do well at OST? What if I don’t like working as a developer? Even the small things, like where I should park or whether I should bring a lunch or not, worried me. This was going to be my first major experience working on a team of other developers (who were probably a lot smarter than I am) and, like most people as they start an internship or new job, I was worried about not quite fitting in or performing as well as I would be expected to.

Fortunately, most of those doubts were put at ease within a few hours of arriving. As soon as I got to OST, the people that worked there welcomed us interns with open arms. There are four of us in Application Development, including myself, and within the first day we were all assigned to projects – not just typical intern things, like internal applications or coffee runs, but actual real projects for real clients. On top of that, the environment at OST made it easy to feel at home. Most people come in wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and are free to come in and leave whenever as long as they work a full week. The flexibility and easy-goingness at OST helps create a cool and unique environment where people enjoy coming to work, and it made it easy for us interns to feel welcomed. Another cool thing about OST’s internship program is that they assigned each of us mentors. These are senior developers within our project teams that are meant to be there to guide us throughout the summer, help us get up to speed on whatever technology we’re using, and answer any questions we have in general.

Even within these first two weeks, the amount that I’ve learned is incredible. I’m currently working on a team to develop a backend application entirely on Amazon’s Web Services, including their cloud/internet of things framework. The goal of my project team is to connect some devices being made by a company to the cloud, and I’m helping write the interface to do that, as well as develop an Alexa skill to allow users to interact with those devices. I’ll probably be working on this project for the rest of the summer, but will also be doing some work on other teams and projects as the summer goes on.

Looking forward, the main thing I’m looking to get out of my internship is to continue learning and gaining experience. Something that has struck me already is the difference in learning that happens in an academic setting compared to that in a work setting. At Hope, we spend a lot of time trying to understand the fundamentals of computer science and make sense of the discipline as a whole. At work, however, most of the learning I’ve had to do is more centered around which of the vast array of technologies, platforms, and frameworks is going to make the most sense to use on a project. You really have to take in to account which languages and services will be the best fit for what you’re trying to accomplish. There’s no doubt that a lot of this practical learning happens in an academic setting, but you really don’t get a full understanding of it until you encounter it in the workplace.

Through it all, though, one thing I’m definitely grateful for is how Hope’s computer science department (and my time there in general) has prepared me for this internship. At OST, we have interns from MSU, Michigan, Grand Valley, and lots of other big schools. I’ve found that my background at Hope has actually helped me be almost more prepared than I might have been at some of the bigger colleges. Hope’s emphasis on the liberal arts and holistic learning has especially helped me on the business side of the job. Since OST is a consulting company, we spend a lot of time working with customers and adapting to what they want. The classes I’ve taken for my English major and core requirements have really prepared me well for those types of interactions, and for how to communicate effectively in general.

On top of that, I’ve found that my computer science background has been more than adequate to prepare me for the job. Hope’s computer science department has done an excellent job teaching me how to learn and adapt in the technological world, which is something I’ve had to do in abundance these first two weeks. Because of the experience I’ve had working in such a variety of languages and projects, whether that be C#, OpenGL, Java, or C++, learning new languages and frameworks on the job is second nature. Hope has also taught me how to develop applications efficiently and in a way that’s easily maintainable. Overall, it’s been really cool getting to apply all the things I’ve studied over the last few years, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer brings!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *