Benn Henderson joined Instil as a fresh-faced intern from Queen's University Belfast, currently studying the undergraduate computer science degree. He quickly became a key part of the Instil mobile development team working across several fundamental client projects. I caught up with Benn before his internship came to an end to find out how he experienced intern life at Instil.
What Have You Learned?
A LOT. If you had asked me what I expected to learn going into this internship my answer would have been a major understatement, maybe a language or two and a vague 'how to write software?'. The problem being I didn't know what writing any sizeable project would have consisted of in terms of technologies and best practices and I didn't have the confidence to say I would be able to pick any of it up in a reasonable time.
Fortunately for my confidence Instil became a place of positive challenge and character-building. I was given top end training in languages I had never seen before and within weeks they had me writing code in production, holding me to the same standards they would any other employee.
Although initially daunting, this became a source of motivation to do my best and without it my development skills would be severely lacking even now. The trust and confidence everyone had in me was unbelievable and it created an environment where progress was not only likely but inevitable.
Skills wise I have had a varied and abundant year. The number of languages alone that I now have some experience with would have boggled my mind having previously only ever programmed in Java and C++ through university. The main languages I came to be familiar with were Kotlin, Swift, C# and Typescript while also making use of HTML, CSS and Python.
On top of the languages themselves I found myself using a wide range of tools, technologies and frameworks across different projects. Projects I worked on included an Angular web app, Android mobile apps, iOS apps and a Xamarin cross-platform app. Hopefully those lists and the fact I have had to leave so much out shows how much you truly get to experience.
Of course good software development isn't all about learning a bunch of programming languages alone. You have to learn good programming best practices and how to write clean code. Instil has high expectations when it comes to code quality. With this in mind, it only makes sense that they would teach and hold this value to all of their employees.
Most Memorable Moment
Reflecting on all of the memories I now have with Instil makes thinking about leaving to return to university a sad affair. Thankfully this means that my time here has been without doubt, amazing. There was all of the summer BBQs, the laughs we got from the weekly trivia quizzes, watching the focused faces of the others as they think of their answers and staring blankly for a moment as I realise I have no general knowledge whatsoever.
Picking through all the different moments, I remembered one Instil outing to get food followed by a game of bowling. It was different and refreshing and again the laughter spilled out as some of us became rather competitive. Turns out I'm also not so good at bowling. It showed the importance of the social side to the company that made the entire year so enjoyable. You are treated as an individual rather than another cog in the machine.
Achieving the title of Chicken Tikka Baguette Eating Champion has to be an interesting one. Except for the fact no one called me that and there was no competition. Nonetheless I did somehow become known for eating those delicious concoctions for my lunch.
Okay in all seriousness I came away from quite a lot of interactions feeling like I had achieved something important. Coming from university and school, where achievements are normally assigned based on a score from a test, it was satisfying to get a sense of achievement from simple hard work. Although someone noticing always helps and there were plenty of keen eyes to motivate you to work on.
This was the case for me once I had completed a particular project for a client. Alongside my team I worked on a web app from start to end. After working through all the challenges that arose from earlier decisions, dealing with nuances of Angular apps and battling with CSS to style the frontend, it was fulfilling to finish up and hand over the remaining work.
Despite the amount of learning as I went, the project was satisfying to spend my time on. Also noteworthy was creating a feature for an iOS app that integrated with the web app I had helped create and then demoing said feature to the client. Although nerve-racking it went well and I came away feeling more confident in my capability as a software engineer.
Considering an Internship
If you are looking for an easy internship that you can coast through I would look elsewhere. Instil is a very passionate place when it comes to software development and consequently there will be challenges to overcome to push yourself forward.
If this doesn't deter you, and you are a motivated individual looking to improve your skillset while also enjoying the social side of the workplace, then this could be perfect for you. You will most definitely get out what you put in with guidance, information and insight into the industry.
Instil has been an extremely rewarding place to work and if you end up applying here with the above in mind then you won't regret it.
Looking for an Internship at Instil?
We will be exhibiting at this year's QUB Autumn recruitment fair in October. If you think you have what it takes to be part of our team, then make sure to stop by our stand and keep an eye on our recruitment page for future job opportunities.