Ben’s experience as a Software Engineering Intern at the Foundation

Ben Skerritt has been working as a Software Engineering Intern with the CoderDojo Foundation for the last 6 months as part of his degree. Here Ben, a third year Student at the National College of Ireland tells us how he’s found the experience.

As part of my Computer Science degree in NCI, a requirement was to undertake a 6 month intern-ship in a technology related organisation to gain real world experience as part of the degree to advance my prospects of gaining employment. Many companies advertise for internees with the college and I had two unsuccessful interviews before CoderDojo so I was delighted to receive an offer to join them. Can I just say, I don’t fall into the normal category for a typical student, I’m a 39 year old married father of three young kids who thought a new direction in technology is the way to go. And as CoderDojo is driven by enabling kids to learn code, I think it was mutually beneficial.

Getting started

My first day was just getting to meet everyone and do the customary tour of Dogpatch Labs and basically just getting set up. I was given a laptop to work on and asked to follow some instructions to get set up on the platform.

What have I been working on?

I was first asked to familiarize myself with the platforms stack which is called ZEN. I first tried to complete various exercises that where written out for me in order for me to understand how ZEN works. I also completed various tutorials in Nodejs and Angularjs as these are the languages ZEN is built on. So the first 2 months I was mostly working on bug and enhancement fixes.

During the third month I redeveloped a front end feature of ZEN, the MyDojos Page. For the fourth month I was asked to work on the resource content area where the team needed to see if they could streamline how content was produced. I was asked to familiarize myself with gitbook that enables custom gitbook themes to be created.

For the fifth and sixth months of my intern-ship I was asked to work on the main CoderDojo website where I was asked to help make it easier to be used by any Dojo around the world. To do this I needed to extract out any hard coded content in the website and put it into what are called PODs. PODs allow for custom content types so any Dojo can put their own content in.

What have I learned?

I have learned a whole new world of things while working as part of the team in CoderDojo. Outside of the obvious things I’ve learned like coding etc., learning how an organisation functions on a daily bases and all the finer details of software engineering really opened my eyes as well as all the talents that come together to make it work. Compared to the companies and industries I’ve worked for in the past, the culture is the thing that stands out the most in terms of things I’ve learned. Working in shared work spaces was very unusual for me and the openness and friendly advice really helped with fitting in.

What challenges have I encountered?

Being a software engineer means you should be into coding but being 39 and only learning the basics of coding a couple of years now meant that my ability to fix bugs and enhancements was extremely limited. Coding does not come willingly to me! The anxiety of knowing how to solve a problem through coding and being able to code it out is something that will take quite a long time for me to grasp. It just confirms to me how important it is for kids to learn to code early so they don’t end up in my shoes.

What have been the highlights?

The big highlight for me was definitely Coolest Project 2017. Being on the stand informing parents, champions, mentors and the general public about what we do. As well as meeting all the excited kids who were more than happy to tell you about their projects was fantastic. Such a well run event that I hope will continue on for many many years. Also being a part of the team during the merger of CoderDojo and Raspberry Pi was an exciting highlight to be part of.

My advice to others

Love to code! A knowledge of Nodejs and/or Senecajs with Angularjs and your sailing but more generally, know a bit Javascript. Ask questions when your stuck, the guys here want to help you so you can help them. Enjoy it while your here, its a great place to intern at.

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