Boyd (left of Billy) was an intern at bol.com from September 2017 until January 2018. This blog is a conversation between him and his intern mentor, Maurice Zeijen (Software Architect @ bol.com), about his experiences as an intern.
Maurice: Hi Boyd, please tell the readers something about your background?
Boyd: For the past three years I studied Software Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. I have gained some experience at other companies during my time as a student, but most of my IT-related skills are self-taught. I am currently focusing on becoming a better software engineer in general and just having fun building cool software with my team.
Maurice: Of all the places you could have done your internship, why did you choose to go to bol.com?
Boyd: Beforehand I heard a lot of good things about bol.com. When I got the chance, I visited one of the bol.com Young Professional events. I really liked the overall atmosphere, the use of cutting edge technologies and how approachable and kind everybody was. I immediately knew that bol.com was the place to be to learn from some of the most experienced people in the field, so I applied for the Young Professional program and during the interviews I was given the opportunity to do an internship as well.
Maurice: Also, at bol.com we are always looking for new talent. So, besides the points you already address, like that bol.com is a great place to learn from IT professionals, you can also show what you can do and thus you get a great shot at landing your first job.
Maurice: Now that you finished your internship, how did you experience that period?
Boyd: I wanted to learn from experienced people and I got to sit at the desk right next to you, Maurice. So, from the start I felt like I hit the jackpot. I really liked having a lot of freedom to work on my assignment and thesis, even though this caused some confusion at the start as to what exactly was the end-goal. At the start of my internship I was a bit hesitant to ask questions, which may have been partially the cause. But I quickly found out that everybody around me was actually really interested in what I was doing, this motivated me a lot. I also liked not being treated like “the intern”. I felt more like an employee and part of the team. Because of this I got to see and learn a lot of things I think I would otherwise not, like that I could join you when you had a meeting with Google to discuss tooling for the Google Cloud.
Boyd: I know it was your first time as a fulltime mentor. How did you experience this?
Maurice: I enjoyed it a lot, but it comes with big responsibilities because I believe that as a mentor you have a great influence one someone’s career future. So, I felt it was important to make sure that I made time for you when you needed it. But, because it was all new to me too, I had to learn a lot of things as well, like that it is important to help at the beginning with the planning and defining goals.
It was awesome that I could share my knowledge and experience with somebody who is eager to absorb it all and that I could help you in getting a great result. In the end I think we both succeeded in giving each other a great experience and we learned a lot from each other.
Maurice: What are your thoughts on why doing an internship at bol.com is a great idea?
Boyd: I think an internship at bol.com is great because of a lot of reasons, mainly because of all the knowledge and people at the company. Besides that, they try to facilitate meetups, workshops and encourage you to stay in touch with other interns and employees.
Maurice: And, what surprised you the most during your internship?
Boyd: Oh man, a lot of things! But the thing that surprised me the most, in a good way, is that with every opportunity to celebrate, a big party is being thrown and everybody is invited. I never expected that at an IT company, but I am not complaining, haha! Other things I noticed were that everybody is approachable and kind, even the directors, and that relatively large changes were being implemented really fast. I think a big reason is that the teams get a lot of responsibility and can make a lot of decisions on their own.
Maurice: We have been talking a lot about your experiences, but I guess the read is curious about your assignment. Can you tell something about it?
Boyd: My assignment was to research binary alternatives for REST with JSON. I did a thorough analysis of a couple of protocols, like gRPC with Protobuf, and the end-result pointed out if such protocols could be useful for bol.com. Besides an analysis of what these protocols can do, measuring performance was very important. For this we started a project to benchmark all kinds of protocols. The readers might wonder why we would do this, as the internet contains plenty of such comparisons. Can you explain why we did this?
Maurice: For one, don’t believe everything on the internet 😉. We want to be sure that we got correct results and that the benchmarks where done right. Also, many of the benchmarks are simplistic. They often only test one situation, like the performance of serializing a simple data structure. This doesn’t suffice for us. We want to know if the performance is consistent for all kinds of different data structures, and certainly those that match similar situations at bol.com. So that is why we wanted you to benchmark all the protocols and we reviewed the benchmarks to make sure it didn’t contain any mistakes.
Boyd: It sure was a lot of fun to work on, but caused headaches as well, haha! But readers might want to know what the impact of the assignment, and assignments of interns in general, is/could be?
Maurice: We made sure that you produced a result that is immediately useable. The insights we gained about gRPC and Protobuf mean that we now have a good case to start introducing these technologies.
If my predictions are correct and the technology will have the impact that I think it can have then your internship will have been the start of introducing a new technology that will make our infrastructure, software and the technical lives of our engineers better.
Maurice: You are now one of my colleagues 🙂. So, what are you doing now at bol.com?
Boyd: I am very excited to join bol.com as a software engineer! 😁 I am also enrolled into the IT Young Professional program. Together with my team I am working on the order candidate back-end service. This service is going to be responsible for keeping track of a possible order up until payment.
Maurice: Boyd, thank you very much for doing this interview with me. I am happy and proud that you did such a good job with the internship, that you graduated and that are you now my colleague for the foreseeable future