Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My summer internship (the beginning)

Last summer, my job was through the Monmouth County Summer Employment Program; I worked for the Public Relations (and Member Services) departments for the county-wide library system. It was not a bad job by any means, and the PR people were very friendly and nice to me (which was great). However, for this summer, I wanted a job more related to the kinds of things I've learned so far in my major, Digital Media Design. (And maybe I'd even get to actually use some of them! haha.) So as the months of the spring semester went on, I watched people around me going to career fairs, updating their resumes, and getting internships. I'd thought a bit about where to start looking for jobs, but I didn't even write my resume until spring break. (It definitely took at least a solid day to condense my experience into one organized and pretty page.) I still applied to the county summer program (requesting something computer/design-related on the app), and googled around to look for anything interesting that'd be local (and I don't live in a city, or near one of any acknowledgeable size, so it's not so easy...). One night I really started panicking that I hadn't found something good, and stayed up really late rather frantically searching PennLink (Penn's Career Services job listing thing) but to pretty much no avail.

So what happened? Well, my mom turned out to save the day. Thanks to Google, she found an IT internship being offered by Dow Jones, and near enough to home, too. (They have locations in Princeton and South Brunswick.) The internship description was rather vague. It listed probably 30 technologies (programming languages, database stuff, and other words of which I don't really know the meaning :P) and said if you were familiar with any one or more of them, that would be enough. I was glad, because most of the job postings I'd found or seen had requirements that I just didn't fulfill, and it was getting discouraging. (How do people learn all this stuff anyway? I don't think there's enough time to teach us most of it in college...) I think Java and C++ and even Microsoft Access (lol) were on the list, so I figured I might as well go for it. I didn't really expect I'd be successful; I mean, "this is Dow Jones, how can I be good enough for that?!" I thought.

So I wrote a cover letter and completed the application online just after spring break, then waited for awhile... And suddenly I started being contacted (!!). An "Application Architect" from the Wall Street Journal first emailed me, then called my house the next day (my mom passed on the message to me). I called him back that same day and he interviewed me on the phone. I wasn't too hopeful though, because he asked me some things about Java and other stuff, and I don't think I gave a solid answer for any of them... Soon after that, I received another totally unrelated call, and had another phone interview, with people representing three different departments. And then there was a third call, with yet another group of people. I kept trying to get a good explanation from all these people about what they really did in their departments, but to be honest, I didn't understand most of what they were telling me haha. Thus, when I thought about it (and conferred with my parents; my dad tried to give me some clue about the terminology with which these people were explaining their jobs), it seemed that the first person I'd talked to would be the best match. The Wall Street Journal Online sounded good to me, and maybe I'd get to do some programming... So when another guy who works with the first one emailed to offer me the position, I decided to accept it.

Fast forward through more emails, a few more phone calls, the end of the school year, and a number of forms and info packets, and I was almost set up to be a Dow Jones employee. I had a couple weeks or so between getting home from Penn and the start of my job (the Tuesday right after Memorial Day), during which I enjoyed sleeping in, reading, shopping... and I worried that I wouldn't be good enough for the job. Seriously, I didn't know why he accepted me when I thought I'd done pretty badly on the phone interview. I kept telling my family and friends I was petrified, and of course they all said I'd be fine and not to worry so much. (Worrying is something I do too much in general, probably.)

One thing about this Dow Jones internship is that the complex ("campus", I think they actually call it) is in Princeton/Monmouth Junction. My parents of course think the value of this opportunity overshadows the hour-long commute, and I guess I didn't really know what to think of it. My dad helped map out a more back-roads route which would hopefully avoid the worst traffic, and on the Thursday before I was going to start, I got up early to practice driving there. We took Dad's truck and made it without a hitch (well, perhaps aside of being late :P); after making sure I knew how to get to the parking lot and entrance I'd been directed to use on my first day, we turned around and headed home.

A few days later, my first day arrived. I left my house around 7:45am...and shortly thereafter, realized I'd forgotten my purse at home. And obviously couldn't call home to tell anybody, because my phone was at home in it. So there was basically nothing to do except continue driving, else I'd be late. With the help of Google Maps printouts and two sets of written directions (mine and my dad's), I arrived at the Dow Jones entrance guard booth at 8:51am. (I know this because the guard labeled my one-day parking pass with the time.) I had survived the first trial of the day (driving there), but was still so nervous that the guard had to ask me to repeat my reason for being there because I wasn't loud enough...

I walked inside and told the guy at the reception office window that I was starting my internship. As he was looking me up and trying to call Matt (the guy who had interviewed me) and then trying to call Frank (the other guy who had emailed me) since Matt wasn't answering, and whatever else, he asked for my driver's license, and I was like "umm... I kind of.. forgot it..." (hahaha). Luckily he just asked me to spell my name and then gave me a visitor's badge. Then I headed over to HR, where I had another minorly embarrassing moment: the receptionist asked who my contact person was in HR, and without really thinking I mentioned Matt, then Frank... she was like, "Do you have your letter?" I finally realized she meant the guy whose name was on my official job offer letter. Oh well. Said guy came and filled out my I9 (luckily I had my passport with me despite not having my purse, so I didn't look illegal or anything). He took me back to the check-in window and got me a real Dow Jones employee badge (which, yes, I think is kind of cool, haha. It's retractable and I can scan it to unlock the building doors!) I went back to HR, where I called home to discover that my parents had realized my forgotten purse, Mom had called Matt to tell him, and Dad was already on his way to deliver it (oh brother).

Finally, Frank came to fetch me from the HR office and took me upstairs where I was introduced to several people whose names I don't remember anymore lol. Matt still wasn't there, so someone showed me where the cafeteria is, and then we headed back towards where I'd entered (Building 5, by the way--though Building 1 and 5 are connected) and picked up my purse from Dad. Somewhere amidst hallway touring with somebody, we ran into Matt, finally. I discovered he is young after all, as I'd guessed from the phone conversation. (It feels weird to call him "young" when I'm years younger than everyone else there, haha, but it's all relative.)

So Matt and I walked around and talked, trying to figure out what I should work on for the summer. I told him I was up for anything, since I didn't know what to expect. Eventually he decided on something for me, and left me with the instructions to go through Javascript tutorials online. This sounded good to me, because after all, Javascript was one thing on my mental list of things I wanted to learn, so I dug in...

Lunch posed a bit of confusion for me. For some reason I could not understand, I'd been placed at a desk within what I now call a "rectangle" (defined by these cubicle wall things) containing nine desks total, but most of these were empty, and Matt wasn't even in the same large room as me, let alone my rectangle. So I walked over to another rectangle in another large room where I thought I remembered his desk was, but didn't see him there. However, several people in that rectangle looked up at me and one guy asked if I was looking for Matt. I said I thought I should tell him I was going to lunch, and the guy kinda laughed and said I didn't have to tell anyone I was going to lunch, then showed me where the cafeteria was for like my third time that day. At least they are friendly :) .

As the afternoon went on, I kept reading about Javascript (and some HTML, because I was only vaguely familiar with most of it), and as 5pm approached, I started wondering if I should go talk to Matt at all. Luckily he came to see how I was doing, and then briefly showed me a little more about what I should be looking up and what kind of code I'd be working with. He asked if I was good to go, and I said "Well.. can you tell me how to get out of here?" He laughed and walked me back to Building 5. I followed Dad's reverse directions, and managed to get home. And my first day had gone pretty well, I figured. :)


The next days included a variety of challenges and experiences. I eagerly worked on the Javascript tasks Matt gave me, looked up tons of little quirks, found out that Firefox usually does what I want and Internet Explorer doesn't (hahaha), and tried out extra things just to see if I could do them. Matt sometimes took me to a conference room and drew diagrams on the whiteboard to try to explain larger structures and concepts to me, and I usually was (sorta) able to understand. I found the cafeteria garbage cans and the nearest bathrooms, and read Tuesdays with Morrie during lunch, sitting in the comfy cafeteria lit by the sun coming through skylights. I found out that my "group" or whatever was in the process of moving into the rectangle, and gradually people populated most of the remaining empty desks. Matt is now next to me (though the desks are pretty wide, so he's probably at least 6 feet away), and next to him is Jeff. The next side has a "doorway" into the rectangle, but they've kinda blocked it with the whiteboard, haha. The next side (opposite mine) has Steve, Dean(?), and another guy whose name I don't know. The fourth side is moved away to make doorways, and two women whose names I also don't know sit there. I've come to recognize some other people who stop by the rectangle and/or apparently sit in nearby rectangles, but I mostly don't know names, especially the Indian ones. I think everyone I've talked to has been friendly, which is really great. Our rectangle is not without its silliness, either. This includes various goofing around, such as taking tables from the center of the rectangle and claiming them as extra desks, then placing stuff there and joking about opening a bazaar... throwing around a compactible (what?? Firefox spell-checking tells me that's not a word? oh well) Commerce Bank frisbee... joking about "Sue's balls" - these were golf balls, hahaha, but I guess guys will always be guys :P ... Steve getting Facebook... "I'm too sexy for my code" (because those center tables look like a runway LOL)... Oh man, there's more but I can't remember all of it. At least I'm learning that just because Dow Jones is a big intimidating-sounding company doesn't mean there aren't real normal people inside who like to have a good time :).

And speaking of that, one day, Jeff came over to me and asked if I played foosball, haha... I told him not really in awhile. I used to play really hardcore with Greg, back in the day, with that little table that caved down towards one end and the plastic players moved around and all...such good times though. So we went over to the "game room" or whatever and I requested to play defense (3 goalies? what? I guess that's the standard and ours was just old or something), but I am definitely out of practice, and my left hand is better for snapping the players, so I wasn't doing so well with the defenders (right hand). Jeff and I lost the first match to Steve and Dean(?), but then Steve left and someone else took his place, and Jeff and I switched positions so I played offense, and we won :).

...aaand that was a bit more than I planned, so I didn't get to the past few days, which were the original subject for this post.. but hey, it's all good.


Rebecca said...

So much information in so little space! haha But at least you like your internship. I had no idea you were even applying for it!

Back to pretending to work...Oh wait, I never stopped...

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