Life of an IT Intern at bol.com

On 11-09-2018
Category: Blog, Culture, Development

At bol.com, we deal with a lot of complex, technical challenges. Luckily, we also attract a lot of people who like a good challenge. This blog features two of our valuable interns, who chose to do a project with bol.com to benefit both us, and their studies. Read about their experiences, and the fun they had while doing their awesome work.

The first story is told by Paul, who rose up to the challenge of automatically testing one of our most complex new systems.

My name is Paul van der Bles, and I’m a third-year Software Engineering student at the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. I recently finished my five-month internship at bol.com and it’s been quite a journey! In this blog I’ll try to give you an impression of my time as an IT Intern at bol.com.

Automated testing to find nasty bugs

During my internship, I explored the benefits of property-based testing by building a tool for the Axon framework that generates integration tests on-the-fly. The goal of the framework is to automate the boring part of testing, so engineers could actually focus on solving problems at hand. Engineers at bol.com could use this way of automated testing to save time and find bugs that they otherwise wouldn’t find. When I used the tool on one of my team’s systems the results where promising: by using the tool’s randomly generated test scenario’s I found bugs that occur only under very specific circumstances. Without the use of automated property-based testing these bugs probably would’ve never been found before causing any trouble.

My thoughts on bol.com as internship company

I think that bol.com is an awesome place for IT students to develop themselves. My teammates are a great group of people to work with. Everyone is always willing to help, and I never feel discouraged from asking questions. I also liked the additional trainings I took part in, where colleagues teach you more about the subjects that they are passionate about.

Work hard, play hard

All IT interns at bol.com are part of a group called the IT Intern Guild; aka the coolest buddies, you never knew you needed during an internship. During biweekly meetings the guild comes together to discuss the progress of their internships. Next to these meetings we also do fun stuff like challenge each other for a game of FIFA and doing some Friday afternoon drinks. I would like to give a huge shout out to team reptile for their tireless support and commitment to help me become a better engineer. Because of them, I can look back at my internship as an amazing experience. Goodbye for now bol.com!

The second story is told by Laura, who will soon major in Mathematics. Laura successfully optimized the order picking process by doing some great research.

Nearing the end of my internship I was asked to write an article for techlab and tell you about my internship and my experiences here at bol.com.

Let’s start at the beginning: Who am I?

My name is Laura van Hees age 25, soon to be Master of Mathematics. I studied at Eindhoven University of Technology and soon started to specialize in optimization. Applying mathematics to real-world problems has always drawn me, so it was no surprise to my study advisor when I asked to do my graduation project at a company.

In search for a company

The process of finding a suitable company to do your graduation project can be quite a challenge. You have to know what you want, the company should know what they want and you have to find a match. This match was easily made once I met the recruiters of bol.com at a company market (career day of the wervingsdagen) of sorts. They were enthusiastic about me and soon we were emailing back and forth about the planning, contents and details of the internship.

Let’s go: start of my internship!

When I started last February, I was super excited. Bol.com had organized a start-up day for the almost 100 interns starting at the same moment which was kind of chaotic, but more importantly very useful and a lot of fun. After that, time has seemed to speed up. Nearly 5 months have passed, but it feels like so much less!
From day one people have been very helpful, kind and interested. Whenever you ask someone to help you out, they will do it in a heartbeat. Even though I worked on a model on my own laptop, separated from the rest of the IT world, I was included in lunches, social events and of course the intern’s guild. During my time as an intern here, 7 others were interns within the IT department and we formed a group that had meetings every other week. In these meetings, we would update one another on progress in our projects, discuss problems and sometimes solve problems for each other.

Okay then, what about my project?

The original question was the following: there is a system in place that decides items to take from which warehouse whenever a customer places an order. Can we do this better? To tackle this question, I built a model in a mathematical programming language to solve the selection optimally and compared this to the result of the system currently in place. The results were stunning: in about 19 percent of the cases, a cheaper choice was possible! Though it should be considered that cheaper is not always the best choice in the long run, there were some interesting situations where profit was possible.

Side events are a lot of fun!

At bol.com every opportunity is turned into a (small) party. Just recently there was the IT conference: Spaces Summit. As interns, we were urged to deliver a talk and so I (and some others) did. It was about one of my hobbies that can be used as a tool to improve one’s concentration: juggling. If you are interested, here is the link to my talk.
Collaborating to make this event a success has been very educational for me. Presenting is something I can do quite okay, but in front of an audience like this; I was very nervous. Mastering these nerves, and making it work has prepared me for my final thesis defense. Whilst writing this I am finishing up my final report and starting the preparations for my graduation presentation. Fingers crossed!

In conclusion:
I look back at an inspiring time that has been challenging and fun. I delivered new insights in a process that was considered good, and the changes will really be set in motion. Are you considering an internship at bol.com? In my opinion, there is no reason not to do it! Everything I have seen here is awesome and I’m hoping to stay here as an employee, for which the negotiations are ongoing.