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Trading fashion for the web

Summer of Tech is a world class internship programme connecting innovative NZ employers with top...

Posted in Developers, Company

Tagged Summer of Tech, internship

by Jennifer Harper

Posted 20 March 2015

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Summer of Tech is a world class internship programme connecting innovative NZ employers with top local talent for paid summer jobs. In this post one of our Summer of Tech interns Jennifer Harper shares her experiences at SilverStripe...

Jen profileFive years ago I would never have pictured myself being 1 of the 30% of females selected to take part in the Summer of Tech Internship program as a Developer with SilverStripe.

I had just finished studying fashion design in Amsterdam after a decade of making clothes and leather bags while pulling off a number of admin jobs to pay my way around Europe. After a stint in France I decided to return home and change careers. I was ready for a role that would offer me a creative outlet while opening up work and travel opportunities around the world.

Web development ticked all the boxes.

So there I was. Twenty seven other interviewees and only two positions up for grabs at one of my favorite Wellington companies, SilverStripe.

My eight month diploma at Yoobee had set me up with basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, Javascript & PHP so I was able to wing my way through the interview process into the SilverStripe (Re)Iterators team working on the new NZTA website.

I wasn't wrong about wanting to work with SilverStripe. The people were passionate, focussed and it was fantastic in the open source environment which flowed through to every aspect of the company. There was constant sharing of knowledge and collaboration. I felt very lucky to have been selected and immersed in this amazing environment.

This was also my first introduction to agile development and it made sense to me. Focusing on the product not the documentation seems right when so much about development requires teamwork and pin pointing what is important, so the right things get done at the right time. As a visual learner and communicator, I found the agile process also played to my strengths. I could see what was going on, what others were working on, and as a team we could identify any potential blocks.

Half way through the summer I moved from the (Re)Iterators into the UX Team working on the company's marketing and promotional material for the UK. This gave me a chance to use some of my design skills & discover a new found interest in UX/UI design and development. I will definitely be exploring this area more in the future. Thanks Silverstripe :-)

Of course it wasn't all plain sailing. It's pretty intimidating coming into a company full of experts when you're still learning. Getting over the fear of failure and asking questions (all the time) was a big hurdle for me to overcome. But I did it and I was offered a one month extension with the company giving me a chance to really get stuck into some fun projects.

For anyone reading this that might be considering a Summer of Tech internship or maybe you've just got a new junior development role here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Don't be afraid to fail. Fail forward.
  2. Ask questions. Heaps and heaps of questions.
  3. Suck up all the knowledge people have to offer.
  4. Be yourself, be open but stand strong on your opinions
  5. Become awesome at using Git on a command line interface/ terminal!

What now for me? Well I've proven to myself that development really isn't that different from fashion design. It's about building and creating and I love it. My time with SilverStripe could be what shapes my future career as I explore the UX world and work on my front-end development skills.

Oh yeah and I'm looking for a front-end development job. Let's talk.

Jennifer Harper.

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