This is my last week as an intern on TEECOM’s Research and Development team. Although I only spent two months here, my time was quite productive. I worked on a few different projects, but spent the majority of my time designing a neural network for detecting people in images. I’m sad that time is coming to an end, but glad that I was able to learn so much and complete the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the summer. Here are a few things I picked up during my internship that helped me reach those goals.
Don’t: Worry Too Much about Bothering Your Coworkers
A problem I had (probably not uncommon among new hires) during my first few weeks at TEECOM was a fear of wasting people’s time with questions. Of course, I had no reason to believe anyone felt that way; everyone had been so welcoming and the stated purpose of my internship was to learn from my coworkers. Gradually, I realized that everyone’s openness meant no, they really won’t be bothered by my questions. I did eventually start to feel comfortable asking for help.
The problem here is that although that initial adjustment lasted no longer than a couple of weeks, a couple of weeks makes up a hefty percentage of a two-month internship. If I had asked a question every now and again about something I didn’t understand, instead of resorting to Google to get answers to my questions and slowly picking up the culture through osmosis, I would’ve had much more time to actually get interesting work done.
It would be unreasonable to expect that I, or any other new employee, would feel comfortable at a new job on the first day, or even in the first week. I do, however, think that I let that discomfort prevent me from making the most of that time. You shouldn’t feel like you need to be best buddies with your coworkers on day one, but you should remember that they’re willing to help out if you have questions.
Do: Set Practical Goals
When I first started at TEECOM, I was informed that my internship would be fairly open-ended, and I wouldn’t be limited to working on any specific project. Great! I was given the opportunity to spend as much time as I wanted exploring the topics that interested me most. I knew I had to be careful, though, because if I set goals that were too vague or ambitious, I might have spent the summer making no progress on any project at all. Instead, I worked with my coworkers to find projects that weren’t so involved that they were impossible to complete but also were challenging enough that I wouldn’t be able to coast on my own knowledge and experience.
Having those practical goals enabled me to actually get some interesting work done and be proud of what I did. I have specific projects that I can point to and feel satisfied that I acquired and applied new knowledge in ways I couldn’t have done before working here.
Do: Take Notes
As with any new job, my first few days at TEECOM were pretty overwhelming. I was introduced to so many new people (and software services) that it was impossible to keep track of everything in my head. I found that keeping notes on everything I was learning kept me from getting frazzled.
Later, I started using the notebook for keeping track of the slew of unfamiliar words and acronyms getting thrown around. Whenever I heard a term for the first time, I’d write it down a short definition that I could refer to later. Eventually, phrases like “‘mean IOU score” stopped sounding like jumbled nonsense and started to sound like a useful way to grade neural networks.
In addition to becoming a small dictionary of all the fancy jargon I was introduced to, my notes were also useful for working through and understanding the new concepts I was learning about. Forcing yourself to explain an idea is useful for finding gaps in your understanding and gives a nice reference in case you ever forget exactly what a “region proposal network” is.
Do: Express Gratitude
I’m so grateful for the opportunities TEECOM afforded me as an intern this summer. Every day I spent here was spent either learning something new and exciting or testing that new knowledge. I enjoyed every moment of it.