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Businesses IT

What Can I Expect As an IT Intern? 325

Posted by kdawson
from the here's-a-hint-it-flows-downhill dept.
p3np8p3r writes "I'm in college and working towards my Bachelors in Computer Science. Last year I passed both my CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications and now have been offered (via a staffing company) a full-time Internship at a wireless lab of a major laptop manufacturer. The pay is going to be around $8 an hour full-time but that is not my primary motivator. I'm considering this significant decrease in pay from my previous (non-IT) job to be counterbalanced by what valuable knowledge I may gain both in the technical aspects and industry insight while I finish school. This field is all new to me and I don't personally know anyone who has worked in it before who will give me their honest opinions on it. Although I know circumstances differ greatly, in general, what can I expect as an IT Intern? What have been your experiences?"
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What Can I Expect As an IT Intern?

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  • by Beowulf_Boy (239340) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:40AM (#30363350)

    And have worked here about 2.5 years now, including my year as an intern. It was alot of fun, and I learned an immense amount.

    Plain and simple, kiss your bosses ass. If your lucky enough to be liked, you may end up getting a job offer when your hired, and in this economy, you'd be considered lucky.

    Expect to be doing alot of grunt work. Your coworkers are going to use you as a "gopher". Don't take it personally, but also be insistant on wanting to learn their jobs, not just get their coffee. Alot of people are going to be afraid to give you an indepth look at what they do, their afraid if someone else knows their job, they'll be fired. This not much you can really do about it, besides just pick up what you can from the sidelines.

    Be outgoing, and don't slack. If that means working through lunch everyday, it'll be worth it in the end when you come away with a better knowledge of whats going on.

    Try to ask intelligent questions. You'll catch people off guard and look alot more intelligent by asking "How could I use cat and grep in order to do..." instead of "Whats grep?"

  • by marmoset (3738) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:03AM (#30363454) Homepage Journal

    I really have to wonder about the pay level. I can still remember what my first intership paid: $7.37 an hour -- in 1986.

  • Re:$8 an hour? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:40AM (#30363632) Journal
    "Once you go to married life, you'll never put serious effort into furthering your technical career again."

    Contrary anecdote: I quit my my factory job and started studying for my BSc aged 29, two school aged kids and a wife. Taxi driving and the wife's cleaning job paid the bills. However I'm not from the US, uni fees were paid via a modest tax increase after I graduated.
  • Re:$8/hr !?!!?! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Beowulf_Boy (239340) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:44AM (#30363662)

    Interships really vary in pay.

    I applied for several a few years ago when I was a junior in college.

    Many payed 10-12$ an hour doing crap work. Others payed the better part of $20 and were still crap work.
    Really depends on the company and the level of student they expect to get in.

    I was 2.5 years in my college degree when I applied at a computer shop as an intern, this was in 2007. They offered me $4 an hour, UNDER THE TABLE. I laughed, grabbed my resume back out of the bosses hands and walked out. That was half of what minimum wage was.

  • by anerki (169995) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:45AM (#30363666)

    In Belgium all Bachelor IT studies have an intership in the last half year or year before graduating.

    They're unpaid, though included in your schooling so no harm done there. In most of the cases the interns are hired as full employees. For companies this just is common sense. They shorten the official trial period a new employee has to go through by the duration of the intership.

    The company where I work now I was able to get promoted a year before schedule, and since I worked here 3 interns were hired as employees, 2 more interns will start in Q1/2010 and those will likely be hired when they finish their internship (assuming they don't screw up ;))

    I don't know about the US of course, but taxes on employees is ridiculously high in Belgium, so a 3 or 6 months free employee is a great way to start their training and put them on new projects where the technology still has to be discovered. This then gives the intern a step up on other people as they spent their internship exploring and working with the new technology, without being bothered by a full planning with regular work on clients.

  • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated@e[ ]il ['ma.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:08AM (#30363756) Journal

    I can second the OP's statement. Every co-op that I've had, including the one that eventually turned into my full-time position, has paid at least $18/hr, with the average holding at around $20/hr. $8/hr for an IT internship is close to minimum wage here in New York, so that makes me question what kind of internship this is.

    What's the description of your internship? If you're getting paid this little, I'm going to assume that you're taking a help desk role (I hope you're not). In that case, at the very worst, expect to be answering phone calls all day and reading from a script, performing the most rudimentary of technical support tasks almost monotonously. You'll probably have to assemble reports as well, which isn't terribly exciting, nor is it contributional to your goal (ref: Office Space).

    Additionally, a description of your work would be helpful for us because IT is an extremely diverse field. Most people assume IT to mean computer support, but there are so many non-technical roles that coalesce with these support roles that appropriately belong in IT (Project Management being one of them). For instance, one of my co-ops, which was also one of the ones I enjoyed least, was as a business analyst, where I was responsible for assisting in getting software projects off the ground from conception to "go live." I was intrigued by the fact that I never had a role like this, but was quickly turned off to it when I realized that while I was discussing technology, I couldn't touch it. Having to work on boring HTML all day didn't help either.

    Nonetheless, in most good internships or co-ops where your manager actually lets you play with stuff and, even better, allows you to possibly break things (which hardly ever happens, especially in critical IT roles), you'll be expected to assist in low-risk projects that should be educational to you, but not be a terribly significant contribution to the company or division overall. I know that might sound discouraging, but you really do learn in some of these projects, and they give you a chance to show your managers what you're capable of IF you like what you'll be doing. I've done projects that were so dull (to me) that sleeping on the job and/or reading Slashdot OFF lunch-hours (that's when you know it's bad) was preferable to actually working on my assigned tasks. However, I've had projects that I really enjoyed and ran with them, with excellent results at the end.

    As an aside, if you find that you're not enjoying your gig, try your best to finish on a good note. It really helps make you look more professional in the end, even though most managers expect the worst from their interns (i.e. wasted space). I know I've ended on sour terms with some of my previous managers, and looking back to it, I wish I hadn't. It didn't affect me too much in the grand scheme of things, but it still sucks to look back at those experiences and realize how undesirably they've ended.

    Good luck, and enjoy! (Unless you're gonna be help desk; that's a lost cause. :-p)

  • Nope. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:28AM (#30363850) Homepage Journal

    Sys Admin jobs in banks are very boring. But you earn more than most IT people.

    Research jobs are very interesting (I was tangentially involved in some in my early years) but you are paid peanuts.

    At the end you have to use common sense, be realistic about what you want and be willing to compromise in some aspects in order to achieve what you want (if you want money don't whine about a well paid albeit boring job).

  • by pcardno (450934) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:30AM (#30363862) Homepage

    At my work (3M - number 7 on here: []), we get our IT interns to generally come in and do support / content management related activities to begin with, but with the expectation that they'll move beyond that after 2-3 months and then spend 20-40% of their time doing project work equivalent to what a new graduate / any other employee would do. In recent years we've had interns working on developing website translation software that they proposed themselves (saving us several hundred thousand dollars per year), software license management / reduction and loads of other things.

    Find out from the company at the start whether they're expecting you to have an open-ended project activity or whether you really are just the tea boy / doing incident management / desktop support. Emphasise to them that the internship you're looking for is a key part of your education and also your decision as to whether you would consider a graduate position with them. Companies spend a fortune on recruiting grads, so if we can just hire the interns we've had once they've graduated, it saves us time, money and potentially the disaster of hiring an unknown who turns out to be useless.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:43AM (#30364350) Homepage

    Actually, thanks to the recession, you have thousands of young people paying search firms to get into internship programs that pay $0 an hour (for instance, this story []).

    As I wrote in to a magazine recently, the interesting thing about the recession is that it started for young people long before the housing crash in 2008. Wages were dropping like a rock for our parents too, but they could keep afloat with home equity loans until the entire system unravelled. 20-somethings, on the other hand, almost never have a home of their own and thus no home equity. The best the new BA grads could manage was to use grad school as a way to delay entering the real world, and a strikingly high percentage of them have done just that, running up massive student loans in the process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @12:06PM (#30366232)

    8 Simple rules for being an IT Intern

    1) Your job is to keep your boss's boss off your boss's back. Nothing more. Do NOT incur the wrath/ire/attention of your boss's boss at any cost. You are invisible.
    2) Your co-workers are your best resource -- USE THEM. You may interpret that any way you wish. It's all good.
    3) World -- dog-eat-dog, food-chain, big fish, little fish, etc. Know your place and start the buffet. The only way up is through the competition.
    4) When in doubt about a tricky project/task ask the guy who is fast-tracking to management. He won't know the answer but asking him will show him that you respect him and stroke his ego. Then go find someone who can find his ass with both hands.
    5) There's always someone lower than you. DELEGATE! 'Nuf said.
    6) Lunch is the most important two hours of the day.
    7) Don't piss in the pool. Keep your hands out of your pants. Date outside the office. Dress like your boss. Brush and floss every day. And...
    8) Keep a copy of EVERY document you are sent. It is very likely that someone will throw your scrawny ass under a bus. It's your only hope.

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