Thamsanqa Sibanda talks about his experience as an intern at Yahoo and the value of learning to solve real-world problems.
Sometimes when you’re starting out your working life, an internship is the best way to begin.
Internships have come a long way from the stereotypical image of bringing coffee and making photocopies, and for those who want to pursue a career in tech, there are plenty of companies to choose from.
Thamsanqa Sibanda is currently studying computer science infrastructure at TU Dublin while working as an intern at Yahoo. He told Siliconrepublic.com about his experience and what he has learned during his time there.
‘We all are not experts in everything, so we depend on each other to achieve a goal’
– THAMSANQA SIBANDA
What drew you to Yahoo when you were seeking an internship?
I had seen that they were advertising for a software engineering internship role. After doing some research and finding some really high positive reviews, I found them to be a right fit. Not only were they good, but my interest in them also picked up when I found out that they are a combination of companies I knew when I was younger, AOL and Yahoo.
What expectations did you have before you began your internship?
I expected to learn a lot from a global company and to gain experience in a software engineering environment coupled with meeting and learning from experienced software engineers.
What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?
Initially we were given in-company courses that we had to complete as part of our onboarding. These courses were more of an induction as they helped us interns learn the culture of the company.
After the training, I then joined other interns in a two-week hackathon, where we were tasked with building an application of our own design. Soon after the hackathon, I was assigned two mentors, one in the US and one in Ireland. However, I was mostly working with my mentor who is based in Ireland. She is a great mentor and she taught me a lot about the job role I was in, production engineering.
Initially I was just observing everything she did and I would ask questions about the numerous tools she was using to perform tasks. She then began to give me simple tasks that helped me exercise what I had learned from her and, as time progressed, the tasks became more and more complex.
Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?
To a very great extent, the scope of my work did evolve as my internship progressed. Initially I was taking on minor tasks that were part of my mentor’s tasks for the day, but eventually I began to take on bigger tasks, not only from her but from other team members in Ireland.
I was also assigned with creating a framework by my mentor who is based in the US, that other teams in the company could use.
This caught me by surprise as I did not expect to be taking on those kind of responsibilities as an intern, but this did make my entire experience as an intern a very exciting one.
Can you describe a typical day in your role?
My typical day would involve starting by first having a cup of coffee, followed by going through my emails and Slack messages, then checking my calendar for meetings and finally checking my to-do list.
After all the above and finishing off any tasks from the previous day, I would then join my mentor in a virtual meeting and work with her on tasks for the day, coupled with attending any other meetings with the teams.
What key things have you learned during this internship?
I have learned a lot from my internship. One of the major key things I learned is that we all are not experts in everything, so we depend on each other to achieve a goal or complete a task. Another key thing I learned is how to operate in a team, especially communication.
I guess I could say my soft skills have dramatically improved because of this internship. All the other key things I learn from my internship are all technical things, such as documentation.
One thing I know that you do not learn in college or university is how to document everything you do. I learned this one from my mentor and she taught me the importance of documenting anything you do and experience. That same documentation will help many others in the future who may want to perform the same tasks or try to troubleshoot any issues that may arise while performing a task.
Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?
My chosen career path is to be a DevOps engineer and I believe that this internship has confirmed that I made the right choice. I really enjoyed this role and I learned a lot from it. In fact, although I have been at Yahoo for just under eight months, it felt very short and I am glad I got the opportunity to work with great people who are very welcoming.
Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?
Thanks to the team, they have taught me enough for me to say I am prepared for working life in any software engineering role. It is one thing to solve challenges in college but the experience I gained from learning how to troubleshoot and solve real-world problems was an invaluable experience. Dare I say, I gained more than I did in college?
I have grown many of my skills and added new technical skills that I know will be a great contribution towards my career growth, which in turn is making me look forward to my chosen career path.
Why should someone take up an internship at Yahoo?
I do not have any other internship experience to compare it to, however Yahoo has set a standard for what to expect in any work environment. I would highly recommend any student looking to learn and grow to take up an internship in Yahoo.
The training, mentorship and experience is exceptional, and it would benefit any student who is looking for a great internship experience. The culture at Yahoo is a warm and welcoming one, which makes it a great company to work for.