Inside My High School Summers at a Tech Company
“Get me coffee. Water the plant on my desk. File these papers.” What do all of these demands have in common? They are all tasks associated with an office intern. The motivation of most interns can be whittled down into two simple words: “Work Experience.” Now more than ever, it is important for high school and college students to gain this not only to beef up their resumes, but, in some institutions, to graduate. While companies differ in their treatment of interns, in my experience, MATRIX has fully embraced me into its culture.
As one of the youngest ever to intern with MATRIX, I started work in the IT Department the summer before my junior year of high school. As with most job applications, I was called in for a face-to-face interview and had no idea what to expect. Would we each sit at opposite ends of a 15-foot long table? Would I be asked to take a test of my tech knowledge? Would they take me seriously at 15 years old? All of these and more were thoughts running through my head before my interview; however, once the interview began, I quickly realized I made the wrong assumptions. The mood was relaxed, and my boss (IT Director Bob Pendley) structured the meeting so that it flowed like a nice conversation. I landed the internship, and so began the first of several summers working at MATRIX. Over the next two summers, my daily tasks consisted of imaging computers, setting up desktop workstations for employees, and manning the support phone lines.
Fast-forward to today. This past summer has been my third summer working for MATRIX, and my first working on the Professional Services team. What led me to Professional Services? Well, having the skill set to create an application to fix a computational problem or simplify a previously arduous task peaked my curiosity. In fact, in a computer science class at Marist High School, I built an app for my school to help manage attendance. Furthermore, I felt as if working in IT for two summers gave me experience in one aspect of technology, hardware; however, I wanted to see what software was like. So, here are some of the lessons I have learned from my years working at MATRIX on both the hardware and software teams.
Always Be Willing to Learn
What set this summer apart was the volume of knowledge I learned in a short period of time. From the first day, the team wasted no time with the traditional “intern tasks” and instead had me create a sample web app to learn the development process. My so-called ‘boot camp’ consisted of learning about and implementing RESTful APIs, Component Based UI, and State Management, to name a few. One important lesson that I learned in my first week of working with the team was that you always must be willing to learn new things. Part of the way this is encouraged is through weekly meetings in which everyone presents something they learned that they believe the team should know. Whether it is reading an article online or a good book, the fast-paced evolution of technology demands continuous learning, and the MATRIX Professional Services team embraces this wholeheartedly.
Communicate Clearly with Your Team
There are more ways to learn than by simply reading about a topic. No matter how embarrassing the mistake is, the Professional Services team creates an environment that encourages it as long as it results in learning, and the mistake is not repeated. At first, this somewhat contradicted my original thinking that as an intern I needed to do everything correctly in order to make a solid impression. I learned that clear communication creates a positive work environment, something that begins with a team that fits together well. This summer, I was privileged to participate in the face-to-face interview of a candidate for an open developer position on the team and was able to see that one’s tech knowledge is not the only aspect taken into consideration. After the interview, one of the frequent questions that we asked each other as a team was, “Will the candidate fit with our team culture?” I believe this commitment to building a cohesive and knowledgeable team is one of the reasons that the Professional Services team continues to excel in the corporate world.
Enjoy What You Do
The last key to building a solid team is having people who enjoy their jobs. Being on a team where everyone likes what they do is truly a valuable experience. I have seen firsthand the quality of work that can be completed when there are 4-5 people who care about what they do and want to make things work better. Furthermore, having passionate people builds the team up and encourages others to follow their path. Every person on the Professional Services Application Development team acknowledges this and uses it to create an elite and highly effective group of developers that constantly exceed expectations.
I have had a great opportunity to work at MATRIX and have enjoyed every summer that I have been lucky enough to spend with them. Although I begin my college career this fall at the University of Georgia, I look forward to working with MATRIX again in the future.