Goodbye, IBM

As of yesterday (I believe the next day starts around sunrise, not midnight), January 26th, Australia Day, 11pm, I completed my internship with IBM Australia. This experience was easily one of the most significant of my life, so having handed my gear back in today and wrapped everything up for good, I feel like writing a brief report about the whole experience.

My internship was full-time for 12 months, and was for all intents and purposes a ‘real’ job. I would catch the train into the city and walk to the office each morning, put in a full day of productive work, and head off home in the evening. If you’ve ever had a full-time job (or even if you haven’t) this probably doesn’t sound very exciting, but it was for me, because it was the start of a new way of life, the way I knew I would spend most of my life after graduating from university. At first I was enamoured at how much work I was able to get done by putting in a solid 8+ hours each day, but by about month nine the novelty of working all day on all weekdays began wearing thin. This was a remarkably long time, I gathered, as my friends, family and the other interns found it difficult to believe any job could be this good.

The critical factor in my enjoyment was that I loved my work. I was developing a complex internal Rich Internet Application (RIA) with Adobe Flex, and since I was working to implement my own manager’s vision, I was more or less in complete control of the development; a team of one. This might not sound very attractive, and indeed it made those all-important networking connections a little harder to come by, but there were an array of benefits too:

  • Having taken a prototype and effectively started from scratch, I had the freedom to design the structure of the application from start to end, meaning I could actually make it good – decoupled, flexible, extensible, scalable, all the things I would need it to be if I was going to be working on it for a year. What’s more, as the sole implementer, I learned a lot about all of these things in the process.
  • My choice of technologies (I ended up using Flex, Swiz, MySQL, PHP and XML, needing a little HTML and CSS too). I certainly learned a lot about all of these as well.
  • The freedom to work any hours I liked from anywhere I chose (including home), just so long as the work got done. This kind of freedom is exactly what makes you want to get the work done, and to the best of your ability.
  • And, of course, I get to take all the credit ;) .

Very long story very short, it was a very, very good year. My manager was sublime, always challenging me to do better and offering all the support and information I could hope for, all the while being completely fair, friendly and approachable. Unlike the ‘traditional’ vacation/internship job roles, I was never stuck printing photocopies or making coffee; every day I would come into work, sit down and start creating, extending, expanding my own little project. The feeling of progress was palpable as the application gradually came together before my eyes.

It was everything I could have hoped for from an internship and more. I learned so much about the IT industry, IBM, the software delivery life-cycle (SDLC), software engineering and programming, and just the corporate world in general, and I now have the development of this application as a major achievement next to my name. All of it has worked wonders for my confidence, and I feel as optimistic about the future as I ever have.

I also feel compelled to evangelise IBM as the amazing company they are. They may not be as trendy as Google or Apple, but they exhibit at least as great a commitment to innovation, quality and excellence. This is reflected by the fact that they’re one of the most successful companies in human history – this year is the 100th year they’ve been around. That’s a very large number.

If you’re a bright, motivated student looking for an internship opporunity, you could do much worse.

And I know that personally I couldn’t have done any better.

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