Life with the SEPeers: Being an Intern at SEP
It's pretty hard to summarize life at SEP in one sentence, but I think I could do it (Xavier: Let's be honest: he'd just write a whole blog post filled with semicolons and call that "one sentence"). So here's a one-sentence summary: I got to work on awesome projects with awesome people: SEPeers!
As I mentioned previously, interns at SEP got to work on exactly the same type of stuff that fulltime hires did. All summer, I was working with my team on the first minor release of our financial analysis Windows desktop application. Although the enterprise-level software was a multi-year endeavor, I got to help release version 0.1 before I left the internship. I got to get my hands on everything and do all kinds of work. First, I was assigned to look into analytics solutions for the application. I did lots of hunting online, contacted numerous companies (by the way, talking to someone on a company phone for the first time is really cool), and finally pulled together an official SEP document containing information about the different solutions, comparisons, and pricing. I eventually got to present about the solutions onstage when they came to visit SEP to discuss the project. The client green-lighted an analytics package, and then I received my first software taskset: implementing the package into our application.
Plugging in the analytics pacakge wasn't a terribly difficult task. A couple weeks later, analytics had been implemented to the satisfaction of the client. Any concerns that I would be bored in the office were put to bed when our lead engineer put me on feature work. WOOHOOOOOOOOO (Xavier: Caleb held down the "O" key far too long here, so I've had to greatly shorten his "woohoo"). For the rest of the summer, I was assigned features hot off the backlog to work on. They included a stacked charts comparison page, exit survey, and cost list views. I got to explore the codebase, learning about the datamodel and the different elements that made it tick. I really buffed up on C# and WPF, that's for sure! Of course, I got to do code reviews, debugging, and participate in the more intense couple of weeks right before the 0.1 release. It was definitely more challenging to squash the last few bugs and make sure everything was on-point; we all put in more hours each day and worked very hard, but I had tons of fun. The best part was when we released the build to employees at our client company who tried it out and liked it. A lot.
Clearly, the work was challenging and impactful. But it was the wonderful group of SEPeers that made the whole experience enjoyable. (Xavier: If you work at SEP, you're an "SEPeer".) As an employee-owned company, everybody at SEP is truly a peer to any other employee. Interns got access to everything that fulltime SEPeers did: there were "Brown Bag" lunch-and-learns multiple times a week (we even got to host a Brown Bag ourselves), fun Get To Know the Executives meetings, picnic lunches, game nights, and paper airplane competitions. I won a company-wide inflatable javelin-throwing competition in the office hallway (yes, we had one of those). It was very easy to meet people; I made friends with several colleagues outside my team in a matter of weeks. Interns also had time to hang out with each other: we went to lunch together every week (Carmel, Indiana has some pretty fantastic food) and spammed our own Slack channel with emojis and puns. We even worked with the new hires to put on the annual New Hire Cookout, which was a lot of fun. And right before we left, my project manager took us all outside to take fun photos (Xavier: as seen in the heading of this blog post.)
But enough about the SEPeers all around the company. As an intern, I spent most of my time with my team. Those were the SEPeers that made the heaviest impact on my summer. And boy, was that impact good! The two lead engineers were incredibly kind and helpful; I paired up with them several times to write code and I was always impressed with their command of the language and of software engineering. I also bombarded them with zillions of questions, but that's a story for another time (Xavier: I believe the exactly exaggerated question count is 49,713,260). The other two engineers were also excellent resources and it was a joy to work with them on the bulkier tasks. Everyone was easy to get along with; just a few weeks in, we were throwing jokes around and discussing everything from purchasing new cars to maintaining fishtanks. I loved spending time with them; the camaraderie was great and I always looked forward to our team lunches. I'll always treasure those relationships (and the awesome food in Carmel).
Team ice cream was great, too! On my last day, the team treated me at a local ice cream parlor at which they gave me a card with personalized well-wishes scribbled all over the back. Our project manager told me that the team wanted me to feel free to explore different work environments, but that at the end of the day, they'd all love the chance to work with me again. As I left the company, loaded down with SEP swag (everything from a jigsaw puzzle to a classy windbreaker), I realized that the best parting gift of all wasn't material. The best gift was a simple three-word sentence: "Come back soon!" Obviously, being a college student, I'll definitely be looking to expand my horizons and try new software engineering experiences. But one thing is for sure: No matter where I end up this summer, I will always be grateful for that gift: the offer to return to life as an SEPeer.