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Old Sep 23, 2008, 02:40 PM   #1
JLatte
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Programming internship

Hi,

I'm about 10 months to graduation for a B.S. in Computer Science. My goal is to be a software programmer. Obviously I need to start somewhere, as industry programming is a completely different story from class homework. I recently got accepted at an internship with a company where I would be doing a lot of .Net development (VB.net, maybe some C#) and database programming, all which is experience that I need for future careers.

I know there are paid and unpaid internships, however the premise was that this is an unpaid internship which is fine. I need to start somewhere, and essentially they are "paying" me with work experience. Very friendly and laid back company. My question is: is this worth it? Obviously I know that the experience will help me more long term, but my only problem is that I still have bills to pay, and need about $500 / month just to pay bills and what not.

Do I try to bring this up later on to the guy I would be working under, seeing if I can even squeeze minimum wage out of them? The experience seems too valuable to just discard, but I just really need a little cash. If I'm doing the job full time, then getting a 2nd job isn't really an option because I'm also doing school full time, and already have plenty to study / homework. For those of you already in the industry, how did you start? Any recommendations? Thanks.

-JLatte
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Old Sep 23, 2008, 03:29 PM   #2
garethlewis2
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You're getting screwed over. They are getting free development work and are paying you nothing for the pleasure fixing bugs for them.

Don't believe a single word about this being valuable experience. That is total CRAP.

Ask a few questions like the following.

Do they do unit testing. If no, ask why. If the answer seems to come across as they can't be bothered, look somewhere else, they are noddy developers who can't be bothered to test code.

Do they use source control like SVN or GIT. If no, don't bother asking more questions, just leave the interview, they are cowboy developers who can't be bothered doing software engineering properly.

Do they perform agile development, e.g. iterative development phases, where the customer, who could be internal is always included in all discussions? If not, walk away. Everything they write will be crap.
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Old Sep 23, 2008, 04:26 PM   #3
liptonlover
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I don't think you need an internship to even get into the business.... at least experience wise. One of the awesome things about programming is you can do it at home, learn at home, practice at home, etc.. If you want to work for a company however, it may be best to start with an internship with them. But definitely get a paid one. Then again, I'm sure plenty of people get into companies with internshipping, and plenty just work solo at home as well.
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Old Sep 23, 2008, 04:43 PM   #4
Catfish_Man
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Most of the CS internships I'm aware of have been in the $20-30/hour range, usually towards the lower end of that. An unpaid internship had better have some pretty awesome learning experiences attached to be worth it...
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Old Sep 23, 2008, 05:26 PM   #5
iSee
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Bring it up with them NOW, not later.

Say it just like you said it to us: "This is great, I'm very interested, I'm sure I can contribute a lot, etc., but I've got bills that I just can't ignore. Is there a way you can give me minimum wage? Without it, I don't think I can afford to take this internship."

Ask respectfully and the offer will probably remain on the table, even if they won't budge.

Your answer will likely be along one of thee lines:
1. "No, absolutely not. This is an unpaid internship, and that's what it is. We've got a dozen candicates lined up for this." In this case, you've got a decision to make.
2. "I don't have a budget for this... I'm not sure..." Reiterate how much you want the internship and how eager you are to contribute and then give them some time to think about it. They can probably find a few $ somewhere, if they really want to, but it may take a day or two and a conversation with an exec to get the money. If not, you can still decide to take the internship.
3. "Yes."

Remember: minimum wage is *nothing* to any vaguely serious company. If you are productive in even a minor way, it will be well worth it for them.


But don't try to grill them on their software engineering practices. I don't see how that could possibly be productive. Not to mention that agile development is not the most appropriate methodology for all software projects.

EDIT: By the way, even when I was working for a non-profit we paid interns $10/hr (or was it $12/hr, I forget) and bought them lunch. These were not even programming positions -- they did software installations and 1st-line tech support. Minimum wage is *nothing*.

Last edited by iSee; Sep 23, 2008 at 05:31 PM.
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