Q & A with Appnovation internship winners
In May 2015, 15 SFU students took part in a new competition launched by Gastown-based IT services firm Appnovation Technologies, a global leader in open source technology development.
The Portico competition challenged students, working in small teams, to create a landing page using open source coding and design, then pitch it Dragon’s Den-style to a panel of Appnovation staffers.
The winners – computing science students Gurinder Hans and Bosco Noronha, and engineering science student Jin Ng Choong – netted a two-month paid internship at this fast-growing, dynamic company, and a $500 cash prize to boot.
We caught up with the students as they wrapped up their internship to hear what they learned, and how the experience might help shape their future careers.
Tell us about some of the projects you worked on during the Portico internship?
JNC: I was placed on a team working on The Economist website, assigned to backend development and reporting to a lead developer. It was an amazing experience as I learned many things I wouldn't have learned in the classroom. I saw how my knowledge in algorithms and databases is used first-hand to construct real-time systems to quickly parse through information in an efficient and scalable manner.
GH: I was lucky enough to be able to cycle through multiple projects. I started as a backend developer on an internal Appnovation project called OSAccelerate, later moving onto FUJIFILM SonoSite, followed by working with a non-profit organization that partnered with Appnovation to build themes for other non-profit organizations.
What has been your greatest achievement during the Portico internship?
BN: Improving my team-building skills, and turning my teammates into friends. Also, the homepage of the Amani Zen theme website for Peace Geeks.
JNC: The joy of scrolling through the website with the knowledge that I had a hand in seeing it being built!
GH: I wouldn't vote on one thing, as I find many of the things I did to be equal. From learning a new website platform (Drupal), to enhancing my programming skills, and making new connections in the company. Now I am more aware and question myself on various things that I learned this summer while programming. I also have another tool to add to my stack of things that I can use, plus my social circle is a bit bigger now!
Has this internship helped you focus on what you want to do in your future career? If so, how?
BN: Yes! It reminded me of the true value of my degree, and the reason I chose it in the first place. It encourages me to continue working hard towards it and showed me the type of people I'll be working with in the field. Working at Appnovation rekindled my interest in computer science and motivated me to continue. I've also taken an interest in web development, using some of the skills I learned at Appnovation to build my own website, nbosco.me, and giving back to the SFU community by building the Frosh week website: csssfroshweek.ca.
JNC: This internship has convinced me that I want to work in software development. It has also taught me to see beyond what I know, as it's not only software development.
GH: Definitely, because now I am coming back to school with a fresh perspective and I can already feel that it will help me focus on my studies more than ever before. Getting real-life job experience is totally different from reading lecture slides and solving problems on a piece of paper. You learn that you don't just get a nice equation given to you to solve; you have to find the equation and then modify it according to yours and your client’s needs and then solve it.
2. What did you enjoy most about working at Appnovation?
BN: Their people are A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. They are honest, humble and intelligent to the bone. A developer would truly feel at home there. Transparency goes a long way, and finding a company like that is rare.
JNC: I also think it's the people. Everyone is very passionate and very skilled at what they do, and are very friendly and outgoing. The team members I worked with would pause their work to answer my questions. We’re also not afraid to crack jokes every once in a while!
GH: From the projects that I worked on, to the Appnovation team itself – everything was fun. You could ask anyone a question and they wouldn't hesitate to help you with your problem. The work schedule was also very flexible.
Describe the experience in three words!
BN: Engaging, monumental, ecstatic
JNC: Seriously fun work!
GH: Enthusiastic, amazing, unforgettable
What advice would you give future student interested in taking part in the Portico contest?
1. Work hard and enjoy the moment
2. If you're doing something, do it better
3. Ask as many questions possible
4. Push yourself over the limit – this way you'll know what you're truly capable of and grow in the process
5. Put your team before yourself
JNC: Don't be afraid to ask questions and to learn something new. These two things, I believe, will make you successful in life (and the Portico contest too).
GH: Be open, don't hold back on anything and ask any questions you may have, because every answer will teach you something that you didn’t know about before. This competition is all about learning: you will learn how a company in today's job market needs to run to differentiate itself from the competition and you'll gain lots of social skills.