Things to look for: Searching for internship/shadowing?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by foshizzle, Oct 13, 2009.

  1. foshizzle macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2007
    This question is geared towards the web development side of this forum.

    I am a 3rd year ME major, but starting a double major in CS. I've been working as in-house IT person at an engineering firm for 2 years, so I'm pretty technically inclined, hence the CS major. I'm really really interested in web development and I've started searching Google for some companies in the area (tampa) that I could give a call to see if they have an internship available or if I could even shadow for a few hours here and there.

    Should I be looking for anything in particular to separate the web design places from the web development places? Any questions I should ask them before-hand and once (if) I get a chance to intern/shadow? I'd like to make sure I'm checking out a place that is using open languages, instead of stuff like ASP and .NET, but I guess having a general idea of these would be alright too.

    I am looking for something completely educational, hands-on, where I can learn some good web development. My goal is to write intranet type sites, not blog-type sites but web apps to interact with data taken during tests (for the engineering firm I work for currently). Making any sort of money would be a bonus, I'd really just like to learn some good PHP to start with, beyond what the books say. And also Ruby on Rails, but I'm not sure how many companies are using that so I also have a book for it. I'd also like to know the setup of a web server from scratch and how to keep it secure and expandable. Would the average web dev company have this knowledge or would it be something to look for elsewhere?

  2. SrWebDeveloper macrumors 68000


    Dec 7, 2007
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    Web design involves graphic design, template and theme creation, basic HTML, CSS and Javascript and understanding the concept of macros. Developers also know HTML, CSS and JS but in depth, based on standards, and focus on database and server side coding as well.

    Sure, never hurts to know ASP and .NET, but find out what you want to focus on and learn that well. For alot of us these days it's still .NET and PHP5 for open source, and on the database side MySQL and Oracle. I'm not referring to the only RDBM data sources and technologies, just my opinion on skills that will get you hired faster than knowing some specialized format only a few shops use. Generally open source PHP/MySQL is popular these days. Check online other people's resume's as well to see what they're doing in web development, etc., for example. Then check pay scales based on experience in the sector that interests you. This can be done online, i.e. the current industry pay scale for a web developer in Virginia with 5 years experience. Look it up.

    Traditionally a "webmaster" is someone who does all the above, including content management and webhost server side setup, i.e. Apache or IIS, *nix or Solaris, Windows, etc. I learned all these things by first doing engineering for an ISP so I learned routing/router config, BGP, how to setup DNS and edit zone files manually, using the vi editor in Linux, cron setup, Apache and how to build an RJ45 cable and so on. I quickly got bored with that and opted to do something more "creative" than firewall setup and configuring routers, so I went into development. This included learning the coding stuff on my own. I went back to college, got credit for level one stuff due to life experience and could have taught some of the classes, but I got the paper I needed in the end.

    The other skills, leaning XML, optimizing sites for SEO, 508 accessibility compliancy, P3P policy creation, XSS and SQL injection security measures and so on come from me doing it. Examining alot of code, coding alot, and researching alot using forums like this and "Google University" (if you catch my drift). Knowledge of the software development life cycle came from school, as did CRM.

    The average company does not expect developers to know system administration or advanced graphic editing. But knowledge of both in basic format, i.e. you can build a basic site from the ground up including web server setup all the way to publishing a site will do you well in interviews.

    It also helps to understand what's "under the hood" as much as the database and presentation layers, i.e. how to debug cron setup, file permissions and ownership, DNS, web server virtual host setup, load balancing issues, basic firewall stuff, etc., to troubleshoot issues. Or if you're coding stuff that does calls to system functions, or you're the top tech dog on the project responsible for starting up Cold Fusion when it crashes as much as coding their eCommerce engine.

    My advice is absorb as much as you can, but pick something of the litany of buzzwords I listed in this response and specialize in it. Market yourself accordingly, yet keep your resume' well rounded so you're a "go to" person on more than one aspect of the job.

    Make yourself VALUABLE, is the key.

  3. Cerebrus' Maw macrumors 6502

    Mar 9, 2008
    Brisbane, Australia
    I just want to add something to the great post above by Jim.

    In the search for your employer, dont necessarily always go for the largest corp that will offer you employment, even if it offers higher then average pay.

    To substain myself at college, I worked in the IT department for a bank back in Ireland. The job was pretty cushy, well paid, but it was incredibly compartmentalized. You basically worked on a conveyor belt. You recieved your piece of code, did your work and passed it on. There wasn't much room for advancement, or to branch out into different sectors.

    I moved to Australia about 3 years ago now, and began work for a start up company. There was only 2 of us in the IT 'team', and the other guy was the Technical Director/Joint owner!

    With this type of company, you will probably be paid less, work more hours, and run around like a headless chicken when something goes wrong that no one has an idea to solve, plus dealing with more pressure. But it's great exposure. I left college with a Bachelors Degree in Java programming, with (I think you would called it a Second?) in php/web. Right now, I would completely reverse that. In fact I havent really touched Java since I left 3rd level education. Now I have skills in Design, Services, Coding, UI's. You build up a pretty good looking CV quickly.

    This is the part where Jim says to make yourself invaluable. When you integrate fully with smaller companies, they rely on you far more. While no one is indespensible, they will usually be keen to keep you, and offer a corresponding pay pack, simply because of the headache trying to replace you and your knowlodge of how their systems/business model works, especially if your name gets passed around to companies in the same business you are in (you will be surpirsied at how often this happens).

    I'm not saying to pick or choose, or to be selective in your choice of employer (especially in this time if economic instability), but be aware of your choice and how you see yourself in a few years.

    Good luck!
  4. foshizzle thread starter macrumors regular

    Oct 17, 2007
    These both are great posts, thanks for taking the time to give me your input and clarify the role of designer, developer, webmaster. Very helpful.

    As for my 'focus', in terms of a development language, I think I've found it in Ruby on Rails. I've been reading up a lot on it (as well as PHP/MySQL), watching some screencasts, checking interoperability with Active Directory for login (which it is capable of, as well as LDAP, with a simple ruby gem install i believe), I like that it is database independent, and I just found a site that has built a framework for objective-C so that an iPhone app can be built natively, but has the ability to connect to a Rails project. It seems like it is everything I've been wanting to do, which is build a database-driven webapp for the company I work for, but integrate it with a native iPhone app to take advantage of the extra features you don't get with an iPhone webapp (camera, email, dock connector, etc.).

    Now, I've also found jQuery to be interesting, and the ability to do really neat animations and effects without Flash at all using jQuery and CSS, and I'd love to also get a huge grasp on these technologies as well. My sister got me a jQuery book for my birthday, and I've been looking through and like what I see.

    I believe my focus will be on open-source stuff. I feel it is more fun to work with (worked with VB over the summer, work at an all windows-shop past 3 years, so I have it to compare to) and I feel there is much more you can do with open-source.

    I'll be giving a few places a call in the next week to find out if they have any internships or positions available (I know, tough luck in this economy, but worth a shot). Fortunately, I've been working as in-house IT (among other things) at an Engineering firm and I have great flexibility in the job. If I can pitch my idea for a company-wide webapp that has the ability to integrate into an iPhone app once I gain the skills to do both, I am positive I'd get the go ahead to work on the project. I just feel like these skills will come from working at a real web dev shop. I have tons of networking and IT experience from my current job which I believe will benefit me greatly down the road.

    Again, thanks for the helpful insight.

    Sources for the Rails features I mentioned:

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