Liberty IT’s Emma Louise Bonner discusses her experience of being a software engineering intern and how it compares to her expectations.
Emma Louise Bonner was first introduced to Liberty IT when she was still in school, when one of the company’s senior software engineers held after-school classes to teach students the basics of object-oriented programming, regular expressions and problem-solving.
“This played a part in my passion to become a software engineer,” says Bonner.
During her first year of a computer science degree at Queen’s University Belfast, Bonner noticed that Liberty IT were advertising scholar programmes, including a summer internship for first year and a full-year internship at the end of second year.
“I knew I had to apply and was thankfully accepted!”
In June 2023, Bonner began a 12-month software engineering internship at Liberty IT.
‘The internship has taught me how to take the skills I’ve learnt from university and use them in industry’
What expectations did you have before you began your internship?
I knew that Liberty IT had a great reputation for interns. I also knew I would have to work hard as it’s a big opportunity to be accepted into the intern programme. One of the main expectations I had when starting my placement was that I would be able to learn new skills outside of my allocated team’s needs. For example, learning a new language or application that isn’t within the team’s needs. Another expectation I had was the hope to be able to ask questions openly and learn from experienced software engineers.
Can you describe a typical day in your role? How does it compare to the expectations you spoke about in the previous question?
A typical day would start at 9am and finish at 5pm. The morning would be spent catching up on emails and messages, looking at tickets I am currently working on and replying to customers. We would have a stand-up in the morning to discuss the progress of our tickets and any questions we may have. The rest of the day would consist of pair programming with other interns or senior software engineers, video calls, solo work on tickets or using up our weekly learning time to upskill.
My expectations were quite high when beginning my internship and so far, they have been exceeded. I have been supported, provided with lots of learning opportunities and been allowed to play with new technologies that I haven’t had the opportunity to use at university. I also have had the joy of working with some very talented, experienced software engineers who always encourage questions.
‘Computing is a career path that is constantly changing and adapting’
Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?
My scope has changed a little. Initially, I would have worked on one ticket and focused more on my onboarding TechStart academy training provided by Liberty IT. Now that my training is over, I’m able to work on multiple tickets and contribute more to the team. I am also able to pick up tickets that are a lot harder than before as I now have the time to pair program.
What key things have you learned during this internship?
The main lesson I have learnt is that ‘no question is a stupid question’. My team loves answering any questions I have and I think that encouragement has allowed me to learn so much more. Another lesson would be that you are not expected to know everything. I think a lot of interns fear that the team has high expectations of them. However, you’re just expected to work hard and learn!
A final key thing I have learned so far is that working in a team is one of the best ways to learn. During the TechStart academy, we were given tasks to do in our non-learning time. As we were learning new languages and technologies, I decided to work on them alongside another intern. We were able to share our ideas, different ways of problem-solving, and compare and contrast our solutions. I learned so much just by working alongside someone with a new perspective.
Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path, or are you going be pursuing a different field afterwards?
I definitely think this internship has solidified my decision to work in computing. The progress I have made from starting this internship to being here three months is amazing. It has been hard, but it also been a great challenge that has inspired me to continue as a software engineer. I’m not sure what area of technology I would like to go into yet, but this internship has opened doors to fields I didn’t think I would go into. Computing is a career path that is constantly changing and adapting – luckily I love to constantly learn!
How has your internship made you feel more prepared for working life?
The internship has taught me how to take the skills I’ve learnt from university and use them in industry. I have been able to work in team-orientated and independent settings, problem-solve to an industry standard and contribute professionally to the team. I’ve also been able to work a lot with AWS [Amazon Web Services], which is a new tool for me but something I have always wanted to learn. I’ve also been able to work with people who have been in the industry and learn from them via pair programming.
Would you recommend this company to others looking for an internship?
I would highly recommend Liberty IT because it has such a strong sense of community, alongside a genuine commitment to equality and diversity. Liberty IT really encourage learning about people’s differences and loves to create events to support and celebrate them.
Some of the events include Liberty IT Women in STEM events, LGBTQIA+ pride events and our Social Club events to get to know each to other.
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