Internships: a chance for university students to sit at desks doing menial tasks that contribute close to nothing while watching professionals work on meaningful projects. This was my initial thinking coming into Ona — I did not expect my experience interning to be anything memorable. However, I’m glad my experience was the opposite of what I expected.
My internship at Ona began on 7 May 2018. I had prepared myself for an uneventful day. I arrived at the office early in the morning hoping to give a good first impression. My day started with a stand up. My soon to be colleagues introduced themselves to me and I did the same. Afterwards, Dickson who is the head of engineering at Ona showed me where I would be sitting for the day.
At this point, I had already accepted my fate as an errand boy. But to my surprise, Dickson asked,“What project do you want to work on ?”. I was flabbergasted. I did not expect to participate in a project at all. He listed out some projects that needed help. I, being adventurous, chose to work on a new Django project called Kaznet. At first, I chose this because Django was something I was familiar with and I was sure I wouldn’t be lost in… but, boy was I wrong! Taking into account that at this point in my life I had never actually worked on an application that someone else would use, I would have no control on what the user would do or encounter.
The first step of getting involved with Kaznet was meeting the project software engineering lead, Kelvin. He gave me a quick brief of what Kaznet was going to be and introduced me to Njagi, the other member of the software development team for the project, and we started coding. Kelvin suggested we start out by creating a Django package that would implement the most basic aspect of Kaznet: creating tasks. At first, it seemed straightforward — all we needed to do was create a Django App that could create tasks. Simple, right?. But, I had underestimated a task. In actuality, the creation of the package was completely foreign to me. Kelvin decided to follow a way of creating packages I was unfamiliar with, which made me feel like I wasn’t fit for this project. The imposter syndrome had kicked in. I started doubting my ability to do anything in the project.
Before this point in my life I had never dealt with Imposter Syndrome and had convinced myself that I was immune to it due to my three or so years in University. But, university life didn’t truly prepare me for this. I had no idea how to deal with my situation. All I had were the basic concepts I had gotten from University and I couldn’t even put those concepts to practice.
I was ashamed of myself. I started questioning whether I was even fit to truly pursue a Career in Software Engineering, If I couldn’t even understand or put to work the concepts I had learned in University. Honestly, I was also scared on what my team members would think if they found out I couldn’t even confidently do something that they could do in 4-5 minutes.
But, I’m not sure if it was luck or fate, but Kelvin decided to take the team through the creation process, step-by-step as you would a newborn, explaining everything along the way. I was very fortunate I had someone to take me through the creation process because it gave me a bubble of safety to work in. At the end of my first day, I still felt like an imposter, but at least I made it through the day.
After the end of my first day Kelvin, Njagi and others at Ona continued helping me out and guiding me on various practices, techniques and habits that would help me get used to the environment. I had quite a few challenges, mostly to do with confidence in myself and what I could offer. Luckily Kelvin had already thoroughly drilled into my mind the purpose of teammates. I wasn’t building the application alone, I had a team I could rely on and it wasn’t just the small team of three developers working on the Kaznet project, but the whole of Ona. This realization truly made my experience more comfortable. I felt at home. If I had a challenge I couldn’t solve in 10 to 20 minutes by myself I had the option of asking any of the experienced individuals at Ona for help and it wasn’t a gruesome task to do so. Everyone was open, easy-going and ready to help given they weren’t busy working on something else, but even when they were, I could still schedule a time with any of them to work on an issue.
While working on the Kaznet project moving from one foreign programming language to another, I had a team — a pillar of support — people I could easily talk to who would guide me with no judgement. It was amazing. Somewhere along the way I started to feel welcomed — like I was helpful to the team. Ona started to feel like my second family.
As I finish my internship, I feel reluctant to leave and go back to pursue my bachelors degree. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. My experience at Ona has been frightening and amazing. I have learnt that as long as you have confidence in yourself and strive to learn and understand new concepts, you can do it. I’m glad the team felt enough confidence in me to extend my initial three months to four. I enjoyed every month. Having people who believed in me along the way and had confidence in what I could do even when I didn’t have that confidence in myself built me as a person and boosted my confidence. As I continue to strive onwards on to my path, at least now I can say I have a family at Ona that believes in me and is ready to guide me. Thank you to everyone that made this experience memorable.