Summer musings, part 1

Our final demo is tomorrow and I had planned on sleeping two hours ago. Ha. For the uninitiated, I’m interning at a Fortune 100 company this summer and our project was to create a .NET web application from scratch. I decided it would be a good idea to iron my clothes tonight and talk up a storm on the phone. First, I’ll process the “bad” stuff and give my first batch of musings on : to say today was stressful is putting it lightly. Why? When a group of 7 opinionated (in different ways) interns are tasked with creating a presentation for higher ups with less than a day of preparation, almost anything goes. In processing what happened today, I think part of the problem was a failure to communicate and an unfortunate series of misunderstandings. From differing visions on what should be highlighted to sheer obstinacy, controlled chaos ruled. However, the important thing is that we were able to create a presentation that we can be proud to put on for the senior vice presidents. My experience at this internship has reinforced my belief in openness & transparency.

This summer was fantastic in so many ways and it was a growing experience for me. Here are my thoughts in no particular order:

  1. I wasn’t the most mature person (despite being the oldest intern!) but I know that as long as I’m striving to learn from my mistakes, there is yet hope for me.A lot of trouble comes from incorrect assumptions and insinuations and I need to continue to work on assuming the best in people until they show me otherwise.
  2. I should continue to work on being a better listener than I am a talker. I have a habit of attempting to (genuinely) empathize but it can come off as being self centered.
  3. I should continue to speak up and be heard. My opinion is just as valuable no matter any misgivings I might have and I made some significant contributions to our project. I want to thank CH, the PM for the division I worked under, for subtly buttressing my points whenever I got lost in the fray. In the real world, I may not have a CH who will have my back so developing this backbone will be crucial to my career.
  4. I should continue to work on my networking skills. I am sharp, have a great personality and I just need to let my hair down (figuratively speaking) & be natural about whomever I am chatting with. I did a much better job of meeting with strangers and getting to know a lot more about the company which made my unannounced decision a lot easier. 🙂
  5. I should continue to form mentor relationships. Our manager, JM, set us up with mentors to fit our desired careers and he did a great job of the pairings. I met once weekly with mine and I got to know him personally. For the future, having more than 1 mentor is okay and I will be sure to reach out to someone else I respect and get a conversation going.
  6. I should continue to work on my coding chops. I feel confident when I’m knowledgeable about a subject and this will come in handy when defending my development choices or providing alternative solutions. “Use it or lose it” applies to coding and I now know that I need to find a way to hold myself accountable for my professional development.
  7. Agile development for interns (especially companies where software is not the product being sold) is probably the way to go (YMMV). Our intern team was, in my opinion, the most productive and happiest intern team. JM and his team ‘made’ us develop our application using Agile and finally putting Agile into action made our team be productive. After the 3rd week of being at the company, we had weekly presentations to our product owners and biweekly (end-of-sprint) presentations to our business partners so we had timelines & responsibilities to complete stories we committed to covering. So, kudos to our manager, JM, for grooming us to be the best intern team of the summer!
  8. Conflict resolution is still a sore spot for me. I’m what I affectionately call a “low energy harmonious person” so my “fight or flight” hormone levels spike whenever there is trouble but I apparently do a good job of covering the distress that discord brings me. So, when I say conflict resolution is a sore spot, I mean that I sometimes get frazzled and forget to think. Case in point: during a demo dry run, we discovered that there was only 1 Ethernet port that worked. I was stressed and hyper-focused on finding one port that did work that I didn’t give heed to the fact that we were burning precious time. It would have been more productive to move on to alternatives. However, one thing I pride myself on is that I do try to “catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. For instance, when things went wrong today, it would have been counterproductive to focus on the past and what could have been. Instead, I opted to focus on helping fix the problem on the ground and not dwell on what anyone else could have done better. The point is (here comes another proverb): you don’t pick out thorns from your skin while you’re still in the midst of thorns. There is a time and place for blaming but not while the crisis is underway.  Continuing on the theme of conflict resolution, I would not be above taking classes or courses on learning more ways to handle conflict so that I can be part of the solution during times of chaos. It never hurts to have more tricks to resolve issues.
  9. I need a better poker face. 🙂 My face is quite expressive and I didn’t realize this about myself. It’s great to wear my heart/feelings on my sleeve but I need to remember to make sure that I remember my context.
  10. I should continue to strive to be a straight and tactful shooter. More importantly, I should continue to make sure that my integrity can never be called into question.
  11. I should continue to make sure that I mean what I say and that I say what I mean. It sounds incredibly corny but my experience this summer reinforces the truth of this saying i.e. committing to things and making sure I follow through, not assuming others know what I mean but clearly & accurately articulating my thoughts or relaying information, etc.
  12. Being mad about something that I can’t control is painfully unproductive. I need to invest in methods of venting frustrations about said uncontrollable events and move on once I’m done venting.
  13. Honesty and straightforwardness is incredibly important to me in personal relationships. What does that look like? It means he/she can tell me when I’ve got crumbs in my hair, if I was being rude or tactless, whether or not I dropped the ball on something, if I offended him/her via actions or words, etc. To me, it means no silent treatment which is funny because I’m guilty of imposing silent treatment on Matt! So clearly, I have standards for friends that even I don’t meet at times. 🙂 I don’t know that I’ve truly found that kind of friend yet but I know that the seeds of such a relationship have been sown here. I roomed with some incredibly talented girls and the ball is now in my court to nurture these relationships that I’ve formed.

That was a mouthful. I didn’t realize I had this much to write and I’m sure that I’ll have a lot more once I fully digest the import of this summer. 🙂