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To Intern or Not to Intern

We recently said a sad farewell to our first web developer intern, Luke Hadley. It was an interesting experience for all involved and, as it was our first time offering an internship, we learned plenty along the way (as we hope Luke did). We thought it would be worth writing a little article about internships, a subject that can be fairly controversial, with our thoughts on whether it’s worth it to someone who needs more experience and from a small agency perspective.

Prospects

It’s a tough world out there for job seekers and internships are one way of building commercial experience for your CV/resume. We were initially against asking someone to come and work for free as we felt it might not be a completely fair deal but after hearing positive stories from similar agencies we thought we might give it a go.

The role

Over the course of the three months he spent with us we saw Luke’s skills progress massively. From having played around a little with PHP, CSS, jQuery and the like at uni and on personal projects he worked his way up to being familiar with the WordPress API, picked up SASS, got his head around responsive design and showed a vastly improved understanding of how to build websites. We had him working on smaller client projects and he walked away with 5 or 6 URLs for his CV that he could say he’d contributed a fair amount to building.

Worth it?

As a two man agency we were worried that having an intern would take up a lot of our time and there were occasions when this was the case. However, having an extra pair of hands in house meant that many of the smaller jobs that we usually don’t have time to take on could be handled by Luke freeing up our time to work on other tasks.

In his own words

For the intern’s perspective, we’ll let Luke speak for himself. After leaving to head back to uni for his third year we got in touch to see how he’d found the experience.

From my experience I found the 3 months to be invaluable. Straight away it allowed me to develop existing skills while at the same time acquiring new ones. I gained insight into the industry through working on a wide variety projects from the initial meetings with the clients through to the design, development and launch. Although I worked mainly on the smaller projects I still got to observe lots of the start-up work which provided me with an insight in how to approach these projects using lean methodology.

There were definitely times when I found the work tricky, sometimes frustrating, especially around some of the logic of programming which after a long commute took a few coffees and the patience of both Dan and Tom to overcome. There were also times when mistakes were made (thank god for version control!), however I learnt from these and improved my project management.

For the intern it’s a great way to absorb knowledge and gain experience in the industry, provided you’re not just making tea and answering phone calls. You can feel undervalued for not being paid but you have to think what’s more valuable to you in the long run, in my case, knowledge.

For those who are currently deciding whether to do an internship all I can say is take the risk we’ve all herd the story what’s the worst that can happen?