Humans, Internship stories

The Day before Demo Day

It ain't pretty unless it's hard.

That's what crossed my mind while watching our interns showcase their projects on Internship Demo Day. Because - as good their work looked - I knew what it took to get there. Especially the day before, when they organized a full-on hackathon to finish their presentations.

What they did said a lot about:

  • their go-the-extra-mile mindset;
  • the 'No rules. No rest' internship motto we had this year.

We've never had interns occupy our office to have a hackathon just for themselves before :). Which made me ask myself: "What is the day before demo day like? How do you get from 5 weeks of CSS, HTML, and React to delivering a fully-fledged app and then preparing a presentation for it?"

If you're applying to an internship in the near future, this article will help you get an idea about the kind of work you'll need to put in, the kind of attitude to bring, and the kind of commitment you're making.

8-week Journey, 1 Deliverable

For this year, the internship project consisted in delivering a web/mobile platform with key features like:

  • 3 types of users with different permission levels;
  • a calendar with login and password;
  • opt-in forms, different levels of approval;

Apart from building this platform using their React, Node, or React Native skills, our interns had to manage their source code using Git & Git Flow. And, to lead by example, we open-sourced all the resources for this year's internship. Here are the repos if you're curious: React Native internship, Web internship.

At the surface, the outcome of the 2 internship months looked like this:

1 / 8
2 / 8
3 / 8
4 / 8
5 / 8
6 / 8
7 / 8
8 / 8

Fun presentations, applauses, questions, and code showcase - loads of it.

What led to all of this?

The Road to Demo Day Is Paved with Good Table Tennis

There's a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time at our internship (it implies 8 hours of coding and even more hours of learning each day). So there has to be something to carry out the mood and make the workload achievable.

That 'something' was, for our interns, the table tennis breaks. Of course, this is nothing spectacular to happen in an office, but it became such a source of personal achievement that I couldn't leave it out of the story.

All interns were raving about their newfound mastery of ping-pong. Apparently, improvements were dramatic.  

And also, perceptions were changed. At the start of your internship, you may not imagine you're going to:

  • play weekly basketball matches with the CEO;
  • fight in long food wars with your internship mates over lunch choices.
  • push your physical limits in stuff like bouldering sessions.
  • be able to express opinions about the project you're tasked with.

Internship Takeaway: As an intern you may think "Oh, working in development must be taxing, you really need to be on your toes all the time to meet your goals and complete your tasks". But you do an all-in, real-life internship and realize working can be way more balanced if you learn to do it smart - ping-pong breaks included - and with the right people around.

The Day(s) before Demo Day - a Cheat Sheet

Internship Demo Day is maybe the first time you'll be faced with actually delivering something, all by yourself. Something out of the safe confines of a school or a course. I'll give you these 2 testimonials about the day:

  1. "Demo Day was a day just like any other. I knew what I had to do, I knew how much I did, so I was rather sure of myself. That's also because as interns, we had all the Around25 people's attention from the beginning, not just at Demo Day. So I was comfortable in this position, i.e. talking to all the company about my code."
  2. "I slept for 3 hours from Wednesday morning to Friday morning. Best strategy ever 😅 (lucky me, since 10 minute before the Demo my app started to crash and adrenaline was kicking harder and harder)."

Regardless of their approach, all our interns learned how to deal with:

  • pressure of delivering;
  • focus;
  • time management;
  • being accountable for your own work.

To quote them once again, "The final project was the most challenging experience for me in these 2 months. I had to do some research to learn new libraries and it was a lot of work. A lot of work in a short time period motivated me to do my best, to get almost all features working." (which speaks to the actual value of the internship, detailed in the article here).

Let's get to the real deal now, which is: insights and practical advice on how you should pace yourself and succeed with your internship project.

This is a cheat sheet I got from our interns this year:

  • Build steadily. If you focus every day and get used to the rhythm, it will be easier for you to be more efficient the days before Demo Day. You know which tasks eat up your time and which don't. So you simply make more informed decisions with your time.
  • You can do more than you think. The day before Demo Day is when you learn how much you can actually build in 24 hours, if you're all-in.
  • Don't sleep 3 hours in 3 days. Enough said.
  • Check that your app is working. Sounds common-sense, but you might get caught in fixing everything before the presentation. So it's easy to forget you're going to present an app, not the way it crashes.
  • Hydrate.

Survival Kit for Around25 Interns

Each year, we publish an article about the internship experience (this is last year's, for example). Why? Because when you sign up to do something, you should know what you're getting yourself into. And you should know it from the right source.

My sources this year were 8 people who pushed themselves over and over, learned big lessons, and are passing on their legacy in this Survival Kit for future Around25 interns:

  1. DO learn ping-pong before the internship.
  2. DO NOT play ping-pong against Darius (or do challenge the mentors, but only at your own cost).
  3. DO save your stomach 2 weeks prior to the internship. You're gonna eat well at Around25.
  4. DO prepare for cakes - fantastic ones.
  5. DO prep your code before the internship: get used to the idea someone is going to ask to rewrite it over and over again.
  6. DO NOT panic if you lag behind in mini-projects or in the main project. It's a learning process and you know...quality over quantity.
  7. DO take TV series recommendations from people in the company.
  8. DO get ready for 7-8 hours of daily coding...and for enjoying it.

"No Rules. No Rest"

We themed the 2019 internship as the "No rules. No rest" internship.

Before the 2019 summer, this was just a tagline. At the end of the summer, it meant people survived a Demo Day that can be only described as: code, code, beer, CEO's visit, pizza, code, Andrei's visit, ping-pong, code, prayers, code, 1 hour-sleep on the bean bags, code, code, code, bugs :((, code, code, shower, aaaaand demo! And then 16 hours of sleep.

If this sounds challenging, intriguing or maybe confusing, it's because you need to live it to understand it. Follow us on our social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) to get notice when you can apply to the internship and see for yourself.

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by Ioana Budai

  • Cluj-Napoca

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