I will soon be wrapping up my internship with Instil and heading off to final year, so I thought it would be a good idea to give some advice to aspiring placements students, so that they can get the best experience possible from their placement year with Instil.
1. Ask lots of questions
This is something that I struggled with when I first started my internship with Instil. It can be difficult for some people to ask a lot of questions as it can feel like you are being a nuisance. This is not the case at Instil.
As a placement student, you are here to learn first and foremost. It is important to get over these feelings as soon as possible and ask questions any time you are unsure of something. Doing so will speed up your learning and progression massively.
Everyone at Instil is super helpful and always willing to answer any questions you have, even if they are not on your team, so definitely do not hesitate to ask!
2. Be organised and professional
While it is true that the main priority of your placement is to learn, that does not mean that you should take a casual approach towards it. This is your chance to market yourself as a professional and show what you can bring to the company. No one is expecting you to be an expert developer during your internship. However, presenting yourself well, working hard on tasks that you are assigned and showing enthusiasm to learn every day will go a long way towards a successful placement.
3. Get involved in social events
Having spent my entire placement year working remotely, I have to say that Instil have done a great job in portraying the company culture to the new starts and keeping it alive.
There will be plenty of opportunities to get involved with social events during your time with Instil, and I highly recommend that you get involved with all of them. It is important to establish good relationships with your co-workers, as it will make your day-to-day at Instil more enjoyable, as well as giving you networking connections that you will keep beyond your internship days.
4. Don't panic
The chances are that your placement year will be the first time that you are exposed to a real-world software project. The code base will likely be much bigger than any you have worked with at university, and will have lots of moving parts. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by this (I know I did).
It’s going to be ok. You will have plenty of time to learn how all the puzzle pieces fit together while you work on the project. No one is expecting you to understand how it all works right away. Your first few tickets will give you some quick wins to get you up to speed with the project and then you’ll be flying.
5. Keep tabs on your learning
Something that has really benefitted me during the intern process was to keep a journal of the work that I had been doing every day. Not only will this help with the placement report that you will likely need to submit to the university, but it will also show you how much you really have learned during the year. It is common for developers at all levels to suffer from “imposter syndrome”, so looking back on what you have learned can help fend off some of those insecurities.
6. Take advantage of extra-curricular learning
At Instil, there are many opportunities for learning outside of your daily workflow. For example, they host an event called Bash! on a monthly basis, each with a specific topic ranging all the way from road spectrum of Product to specific development technologies.
Aside from this, there are also specific groups within the company such as the recently formed Frontend Developer Group, who host frequent workshops to explore new frontend frameworks and languages.
As an intern, you should make a point to attend as many of these events as possible as it will help you find out what you enjoy, enabling you to make the right choice for your final year project and future career.
7. Get frequent feedback
You should make it a priority to get feedback from your mentor or team lead on a consistent basis, as this will let you see the areas in which you are excelling, and any areas that you can improve on, if any. It will also allow you to voice any concerns that you may be having and get some help. At Instil, your mentor will most likely set up a fortnightly 1-1 chat with you to discuss these topics, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask about setting one up.
To wrap up, the most important thing is that you enjoy your placement year. Find out what you like and what you don't like. Make connections. Make friends.
Instil host a range of employment opportunities for students including apprenticeships and graduate roles. Find out more here.