A Sit Down with GeekHive’s Co-ops Tori and Nick
February 2, 2017
At GeekHive we have a tradition of interviewing our Co-ops (cooperative education interns) on their last day with us. We always miss them, but their words live on. Find out all about GeekHive’s Co-op program from our latest Co-ops, Nick and Tori, both from RIT. Here’s what they had to say…
This was both of your first internships, why did you choose GeekHive?
Nick: It seemed like a cool place and I felt like I fit in with the personality of the people that interviewed me, we meshed well.
Tori: The number one thing that was important to me when I was looking for an internship was that I wanted to learn a lot. I haven’t done a lot of web development except for personal projects so I wanted to get experience in this area. GeekHive also seemed like it really valued mentorship and had a good balance of work and fun.
Tori, do you feel like your goal, to learn a lot, was achieved?
Yes, I now have a much better understanding of what it’s like to work in web development, and how to work with clients. I got a lot more real life experience and I was able to apply everything that I learned on the work I was assigned.
Did you enjoy GeekHive’s Co-op Program and are you still happy with your decision?
Do you feel like GeekHive pushed you to achieve your maximum potential?
Nick: I worked on the Long-term Engagement Team who focuses on projects that need support, but have already been completed. A lot of the work I did was bug fixes which can be sort of tedious. It is a part of something I’d have to do in any role but I would like to find a balance with challenging problem solving on the project side of things once I have more experience.
*Editor’s Note: After receiving this feedback we are looking into having Co-ops rotate teams depending on the length of their internship.
Do you feel like you were treated like an employee or a college student?
Nick: Definitely as an employee. I had to communicate with clients directly and I was responsible for the work I was doing just like any other employee at the company. Obviously, some things were not given to me because they were assigned to senior team members but that’s how it is even when you are a full-time employee, tech leads take certain responsibilities that new developers don’t have the experience to tackle.
Tori: I think it was a good balance of both. On the one hand, everyone recognized that we were still learning and it was our first time in a real work environment with clients. Some of the tech we use here we haven’t been exposed to before in our classes. Everyone on the GeekHive team took time to walk us through the tools, and everyone was willing to mentor us on tough assignments because they knew we were interns.
But, at the same time, we were expected to complete projects well and ask questions if we didn’t understand something. Of course, we were not given the same tasks that a senior developer would get but it didn’t mean we weren’t contributing in other important ways based on our abilities.
*Editor’s Note: It’s very important to have full buy-in from all members of your staff in order to run a successful Co-op program since they will need to step in and offer support as needed and understand and embrace the limitations of working with someone with less experience.
Who were your mentors?
Nick: Tino – our personalities fit really well. It’s nice to have someone you can go to for any question you have. I assume (since this was my first Co-op) that if you go somewhere that you don’t have that, you’d be afraid to ask questions. Also, for general questions, figuring things out, getting used to being in an office environment, it was nice to have someone to go to to help the transition.
Tori: George – the mentor program was definitely beneficial because having a distinct mentor made it more inviting to ask questions. It was helpful to have someone from day one that I knew I could go to for support. Plus, George is pretty cool…I guess.
What feedback do you have for us where we could improve?
Nick: I understand that the mentor program was new so it sometimes felt like the training was not complete. This is more in reference to the Sitecore training and getting into the flow of things. I think that improvement on this will naturally come over time as the program matures. I’d recommend sitting down and demoing the platform with Co-ops so they can grasp how Sitecore works early on because many of us have never been exposed to enterprise level platforms like this before.
Tori: For the training project, I would have liked a bit more of a walk through during part 2 of the training, a little more hand holding and specific steps to follow along with an idea of how to approach the problem. It certainly made us think outside the box and ask questions and explore the tool first, so that was beneficial.
*Editor’s Note: This was the first time we ran a training project like this so Tori and Nick’s feedback was very helpful. The training project was broken into 2 parts. Part 1 was an intro to Sitecore including the building blocks of Sitecore, definitions, and examples. Part 2 gave the Co-ops a situation and asked them to build a solution for it in Sitecore based on Part 1 of the training.
Why do you think you fit in so well here?
Nick: Because I like making jokes and it’s a fun office culture, everyone is really friendly so it’s easy to be friendly back and enjoy hanging out with people at work.
Tori: A few things, one will sound super cliche – but we are all geeks, I can talk to Tino about a card game, and Nick downstairs about TV shows we like, and Dave about League of Legends, everyone has a nerdy hobby or interest.
The other thing is that everyone is friendly and willing to help and easy to talk to and I like that the company’s main value is People First. It’s welcoming and you know if you have problems in your life, personal or professional, people will care and want to help you.
I also love all the little things we did outside of work together, like playing soccer, kick ball, the company BBQ, off-sites, going to Eddie’s for burgers – it made it more of a family instead of coworkers.
What’s your Geeky passion?
Nick: Rubik cubes, of all shapes and sizes and board games.
Tori: Yeah, I tried to get Nick a really cool Rubik’s cube and of course, he already had it. For me, it’s video games, card games, and anime.
What is your biggest takeaway from your time with us?
Nick: Experience working with clients. You don’t get that at school, they can only simulate it so much, it’s nothing like being in the office and having to communicate with clients. That was probably the biggest hurdle, communicating over text when they are not physically here, or jumping on calls to figure out what the client was looking for. Whereas at school, you are given a list of requirements and a sheet that gives you a point value, it’s a lot different than real life where needs change. I learned you have to be flexible during a project and find a balance between what you think is the best recommendation and what your client wants.
Tori: It’s okay not to know stuff. It sounds obvious, but I was nervous, especially for my 1st Co-op, that I wouldn’t know enough. I was paranoid that I’d be unprepared. Something that surprised me was this one time when I was working on a project with another developer and there was a next step that he had to do and he actually asked me how to do it because he knew I had some experience with the tool. I didn’t expect someone older to be asking for advice from me, but I realized we are all learning together. Even when you work full-time, it’s okay to ask for help and admit you don’t know something. Don’t be worried to be out of your element because everyone is sometimes.
What advice do you have for other Co-ops who may be interested in working at GeekHive?
Before your interview:
Tori: The most important thing is to be yourself and be honest. You think you have to be super great and they will expect someone perfect but that’s not the case. Don’t look down on yourself for not having the experience you think they want, show them how passionate you are about what you have done. You don’t want to show up and not be able to do the things you said you could, that won’t reflect well, instead show them why you care and why you’re passionate about doing this work. Don’t psych yourself out.
Once you’re working at GeekHive:
Nick: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because people are helpful and you are going to need to ask for support sometimes because you won’t and can’t know everything.
Tori: Shoot nerf darts at Phil, because it’s funny. No, but seriously, be proactive, try and put yourself out there to get more work so you can learn and gain experience. The point isn’t just to learn technologies but also to learn what it’s like to be in a workplace like this one, so you can narrow down what you may want to do when you graduate. The more you do, the more you can get a feel of what it would be like to do this as a full-time job. It also gives you tools to have in your toolbox for future use.
What challenges did you face while working at GeekHive?
Nick: Communication with clients was a big challenge, especially explaining things in layman’s terms to clients that don’t have the technical knowledge of how the back-end works. Learning how to advise them on what do, making sure they’d get what they want, and also helping them to understand the implications of what could happen if they don’t do what you recommend, it was all a challenge!
Tori: When we first arrived it was a challenge to get caught up with the workflow and learn Sitecore. The second challenge was when I did get more responsibility on a project. Up until that point I was given modularized assignments that contributed to an end goal, but on this project, I was told the end goal, and it was somewhat up to me to come up with the steps to get there. I had a lot more freedom to make decisions – along with my team and the PM. This was a challenge in a good way because now I feel like it was a good experience to have and it helped me become more independent. It definitely challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone.
What are your plans for after you leave us?
Nick: Heading back up to RIT. I am interning again in Spring of 2018.
Tori: The same. In the time before my next Co-op, I want to refine what I want to do in the computer science field to see where my interests really lie.
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