GIF of News Anchor saying "I have a lot of questions."

6 Unexpected Things I Learned on Summer Placement

Over summer 2019 I undertook a Junior Developer Internship at 21six, learning new coding techniques and technologies to help aid me throughout my final year of university and beyond. Here's six things I realised over my three months at 21six.

1. Ask Questions

GIF of News Anchor saying "I have a lot of questions."

The reason I decided to spend my summer between second and third year of University in an office for 8.5 hours a day wasn’t because I’m a fan of being inside while the sun is shining. I wanted to learn. Not only did I want to learn more about development in general, but I really wanted an insight into the agency process from start to finish. From initial meetings to delivery of a final product. 

If there’s only one important lesson I’m sure I’ve learned this summer, it’s that asking questions is more than okay. If you are serious about learning in your industry, there are few better ways of doing it than engaging in a conversation and directing questions at a professional.

2. University teaches you bad habits

The thing with university is that you usually get shown the basics or given an introduction into a topic and then the rest of the learning is down to you. With development at university there isn’t time to show you the most complex, efficient and desirable coding patterns just in seminars and I’ve realised over summer that I should take these introductions for what they are. Introductions. If I really want to get good at development, I need to spend even more time digging into code outside of university. 

GIF of SpongeBob biting his nails

3. Making mistakes is important

GIF of Bob Ross saying "We don't make mistakes - we just have happy accidents"

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a developer. If I counted all the mistakes I’d made this summer I’d probably have officially found a number higher than infinity. Although, that’s really not an issue. If I never made some of the mistakes I made this summer, I wouldn’t be aware of the better solutions and the knowledge definitely wouldn’t be as secure in my memory. 

A great thing about 21six is that my mistakes were never something to be ashamed of. They were often celebrated in a way of enjoying the learning curve and watching myself learn new things.

4. Persevere!

GIF of a woman with the caption "And yet, in spite of everything... we persevere!"

Arguably one of the most valuable lessons that I was taught this summer was perseverance. A lot of (most of? all of?) development work is staring at error messages wondering what you could possibly do next to try and solve this issue that’s taken up more time than you have spare. 

Sometimes taking a break is what you need to get a fresh mindset on an issue, but if you persevere then eventually you will get a solution. And if that fails, refer to point 1 and ask someone for help!

5. Nobody knows everything

Gif of a confused man working out addition on his fingers

Although this might seem obvious, I always assumed that senior developers would be an all-knowing, almighty god of JavaScript that can shoot down any problems within minutes. But it’s not true. Everyone is in the same boat of trying to figure out solutions to problems and constantly referring to Stack Overflow. I take back my previous comment about perseverance being the most important lesson. Having Stack Overflow bookmarked is definitely the most important lesson.

I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter how senior, or how ‘expert’ you are in your area of study or work, you’ll never know everything there is to know and there is always room for improvement and growth.

6. I have no idea what I want to specialise in

GIF of a dinosaur saying "I can't take all this uncertainty!"

I know I want to get into the digital industry one way or another. But this summer I’ve truly realised that I have absolutely no idea whether this is within design, front-end development, back-end development, full stack development, User Experience, User Interface, mobile applications… I could spend eternity adding to this list. The truth is there’s a lot of areas I could choose to specialise in but right now I have no idea which one I want to do (and that’s okay!).

I’m going to spend my final year of undergraduate life at university working hard to build up my portfolio in both areas of design and development. Perhaps I’ll decide to continue onto a postgraduate course, or maybe I’ll decide to go straight into the industry. I don’t need to decide that right now, but out of all of the uncertainties that lie ahead there’s one thing I know for sure:

My time spent at 21six was time well spent.