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Lessons learnt from a virtual internship

At the start of April, despite lockdown, we were delighted to welcome Yasmin onboard to join Principle One for a ten-week virtual internship. I don’t think either of us knew quite how things would work out, but having met Yasmin when she came along to a Coding Black Females event earlier in the year, we were confident that she would throw herself into the experience and take a lot from it.

Yasmin joined us as a self-taught coder who had yet to put her skills to the test in a software engineering role. Over the course of the internship, we wanted to help her understand how she could apply these skills to help solve some real life customer problems and gain some broader experience of some of the wider aspects of software delivery. And, of course, all while learning how to work effectively from home.

The internship kicked off with a series of mini training sessions, covering a range of skills from Business Analysis to Systems Engineering, as well as an introduction to our sector. Delivered remotely, we kept these to bite size chunks and ensured they gave Yasmin a chance to meet most of Principle One via video before she could join a small team to deliver some new engineering productivity tools. Yasmin quickly got to grips with the rhythm of virtual stand ups and remote sprint reviews and gained a good grounding in the tools we use to manage agile delivery.

We then moved onto a customer facing project and Yasmin had the chance to meet her first customers – via Zoom. It was a new experience for us as well, beginning work on a User Experience Review with a new customer, where we would normally expect to be in the room working closely with users to understand their pain points and how we could identify areas of focus. However, with some good preparation and screen sharing in place of shoulder surfing, we were able to get to grips with the problem far faster than we would have done in person.

Working with an experienced Business Analyst, Yasmin was able to support the assessment, drawing on her new BA skills to capture motivation models, user journeys, user personae and map out the key business processes the system had to support. She learnt the importance of precision in capturing requirements – and how, as a developer, to make sure you get the information you need.

The team then moved onto design and build and Yasmin had the opportunity to apply another new skill set – building wireframes based on the user requirements captured to inform design work - which enabled us to move quickly onto build.

Coming into a new team during lockdown can be a daunting experience, but Yasmin has thrown herself at the challenges we’ve set during her internship with enthusiasm and has shown a lot of resilience during her time with us. We’ve also learnt a lot from the experience. When we decided to move ahead with the internship at the start of lockdown, none of us expected to still be working remotely at the end. Working with Yasmin and the open and honest feedback she has shared with us will help us improve our lockdown ways of working as virtual onboarding and virtual teams remain our new normal for now.


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