Kyle Shahenian, Contributing Writer
This past summer I was fortunate enough to work for DriveTime, a used automobile company, as a Robotic Process Automation intern at their national headquarters in Tempe, AZ. At the conclusion of the internship program, I was offered the opportunity to stay on through the school year as a part-time employee working remotely here in Lebanon. Without hesitation I accepted, not knowing how it was going to work with the busy year ahead.
In a few weeks, I’d be going back to McKendree with something completely new: a real-world job. I was excited about the opportunity but anxious about what having a part-time job would do to my schedule and my sanity. Would I have enough time to get the work done? How will this work with the time-zone difference? What if I’m out of town when a project is due? Am I good enough to be in this position?
Being a student-athlete for the past three years, I’ve learned that time is the most valuable resource we have and that you need to be very mindful of it when you have a lot of work to do. Going into my senior year, I already knew I was going to have a full plate from having practice, classes, and a ton of schoolwork. Throwing another commitment into the mix and performing well at that may have proved to be a tall order.
I never thought I’d look at my small dorm in the new halls as my remote office. I bet my supervisor would’ve gotten a good laugh if he saw where I was working. I had been fortunate enough to receive some hardware that would make the job a little more manageable (an external monitor) and with that, I turned my desk into my workspace.
For a few hours per week, I would work on whatever my supervisor sent my way. My work revolves around automation projects, commonly referred to as ‘bots,’ and if one of them was having some issues, I would be the guy to take a look at it and try to fix it. It sounds pretty simple at face value to just fix something that is broken, but it is quite the opposite of simple. A lot of things can go wrong with these bots and in many cases, there is no simple fix. As a developer, you think you know what the problem is, fix that problem, and then something else breaks and the cycle starts all over again. It got stressful when the cycle would never break and I’d be stuck on something for a few days, not to mention the times where a deadline would add to the pressure of getting a bot back up and running.
When I wasn’t fixing any of the bots, I was doing more housekeeping oriented things. I’d have virtual meetings with different departments, outline and develop new bots, and update documentation. While I liked the development side of my job a little more, it felt nice to be involved in the other aspects that I’m not always a part of. Sitting in meetings and updating documentation was definitely less stressful than fixing bots so it was nice to catch a break every so often.
I worked through the fall semester for around 10 hours per week and got a lot done. To note, my biggest accomplishment, one of the bots that I had developed over the summer was fully implemented and has been performing well beyond my expectations for the past 5 months. Other notable achievements include getting a newer bot up and running tests that have been successful thus far. The home office has definitely seen an increase in efficiency in those departments that utilize what I’ve developed.
Working a real-world job from my room was definitely a huge learning experience for me. The biggest change I needed to endure was going from working in an office with actual people that I could talk to, to working in a small room 1,500 miles away where I can only communicate through emails and instant messages. Throughout the summer, my supervisor was right behind me so I could easily communicate with him. I definitely learned just how important communication is in the real world. All those unread emails, all the alerts on your phone you just dismiss, any form of communication you receive should not go unnoticed. I like to think I check my email on a pretty regular basis, but there are times where I find myself in a position where I was emailed 3 days ago about something important. We all have room to improve.
Another challenge I faced was more or less a personal problem. When the internship began and I realized what was expected of me, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to deliver. Even though I eventually overcame this self-doubt, I still found myself in that position again when the fall semester began. I was more concerned with how I’d be able to effectively do my job with two other major commitments already on my plate. It was clear to me that there would be no easy solution here and that I would just have to work twice as hard. For a while, it was difficult, but I managed to prove to myself that I was capable of doing my job and doing it well.
For anyone who is currently looking for an internship, I 100% recommend it. The experience, for me at least, was great and the skills you learn will definitely benefit you when looking for a job. An internship is also a great networking experience (which may also lead to a job). I recommend you have a well-reviewed resume, a cover letter, and the pursuit to apply to as many internships as you can. Take every interview you are offered, too; you have nothing to lose by practicing your interview skills. And when you get to your internship, just have a good time and do the best you can do. After all is said and done, you might even have a job offer on the table!