Second year Computer Science Engineering students of IIT- Palakkad did a short stint at the Kochi branch of Zyxware Technologies as part of their summer internship. Here are some excerpts from a talk with Adrian McDonald and Anish Mathew. We also got a chance to hear from their professors after they did a presentation about it at their college, which we have added at the end.
Q. First let’s start with some casual questions on life at IIT Palakkad, how do you relax?
We have extra curricular activities. We have tennis and football other than that we spend our time with friends. So that is our main form of relaxation.
Q. Anish, you are from Kerala but Adrian, how do you find Kerala different from Kolkata?
Kerala is a beautiful place especially Kochi. Culture is different but yes, it is really scenic.
Q. Have you been to any other part of Kerala?
Kochi and Palakkad so far.
Q. Why did you choose to intern with Zyxware? How long was it?
Anish: We were actually looking for internships and we wanted to target companies where the number of employees were small in the office, so we could get a more real life experience. And then our professor told us about Zyxware that they had come there to the college and might be working on our website. We heard about it and we read that you were working on Drupal: Drupal Open Source , so I got interested in that. That was the reason.
Adrian: The main reason was that because it was Open Source. Our professor did tell us that since we were working in a small group, the focus that we would get will be more concentrated than anywhere else. That was why we choose Zyxware. We had another offer from a company in Bangalore but they said that your evaluation will be done weekly but here we get evaluations every single day. So I think this is more focused and it is much better this way. So we made the right choice. We are at the tail end of our 6 week internship.
Q. What were your first thoughts and observations when starting the internship?
Anish: This is my first interning experience. I thought the atmosphere would be more strict but then after coming here I found out it was much more pleasant and people are more supportive. The expectations are that I would learn something new and would be able to contribute to Drupal. So we have been going through the course. I find that I can contribute with some more effort.
Adrian : It is the same.
Q. What were some of your internship responsibilities?
So the first responsibility that was given was more of an examination, more of a test. We were given a list of a few of the things that were needed to be done over Drupal, over the site builder. And then we started understanding how Drupal works from the inside.
Q. Were you both familiar with Drupal before or Open Source?
No, we weren’t. About a week before we came for the internship, we received a link to a site to catch up with the site builder. That is what we did.
Q. What was the most interesting thing that happened while you were interning here?
Anish: Honestly, it was the treats that we got on Friday. The atmosphere here is almost like a college. There during intervals and lunch break, people are like shouting. At lunch time here people are talking and interacting. That is fun.
Q. What was the favorite part of your internship experience with Zyxware?
Adrian: We had sessions with our mentor. He told us about his experiences and about how Open Source Software developed and what were the other applications of Open Source. That was also good.
Q. As your time at Zyxware comes to a close, what has it been like or what did you learn from your overall experience at Zyxware?
The experience was very good. We got more than what we expected. We had more mentor time. We had two mentors. Vimal and Mishal. They explained to us a lot which was much more than we expected. It meant a lot to us. And then whenever we sent a mail we got a reply whether it is good or not. That was also good. We are planning to maybe come back in December during our winter break, we have not finalized it yet.
Adrian: Well, that is a request we are trying to make actually.
Q. How would you describe our company culture?
Everyone is co-operating with the interns. Helping each other. So when anyone has a doubt, we can always see them asking others. So it is not one person that answers but everyone comes and gives their input.
Q. What about you, Adrian?
The same thing because we had a doubt on a particular project and we were stuck for a while. Our mentors guided us through and helped us solve it.
Q. How would you describe your experience working on Drupal?
We actually were not trying to make a website. That was only the first week. Then we started learning how Drupal works. We were reading Drupal code and all that. So actually we are working on Drupal 8. Since it is object oriented it is actually challenging to find out how Drupal 8 works. But then over the weeks, we have come to a good understanding.
Q. Adrian, would you like to add something?
I think the community is very vibrant in Drupal. So while we were learning to contribute to the pipeline, we saw a lot of people were contributing. What is a contribution, to add a particular feature or not, the discussion went into all of this. We had to read through that. Then we had a chance to collaborate with people that were experienced in Drupal and all that.
Q. Did you find Drupal a steep learning curve?
Steep learning curve definitely. Cause we were not used to so much object oriented programming.
Q. What are your future plans concerning contributions to Drupal?
When you asked us what have been our responsibilities for internship, what we mentioned was what we did for the first week. After that we made a presentation. We made a slide for the presentation on Drupal . We will be making the presentation this weekend. And then we started searching the Search 404 module and giving patches for it. So we have started contributing to the contributed modules now. So after this internship, during the coming months we will be continuing to contribute to Drupal. We are interested in doing that.
Q. What did you learn in your internship that you can now apply to the classroom setting or to your future?
I think firstly it is writing proper codes. Our mentor stressed on following the style guide and writing the code according to that. That is one thing we are going to take away from here.
Q. What about you, Anish?
The same thing of course and working on Open Source has been a good experience. So we will be definitely writing that on our CV. Plus this internship. We came here because we were interested.
Q. What skills did you acquire or what did you learn during your internship that you will be able to highlight in your resume, cover letters, and/or interviews?
We got the opportunity to work on Open source. That is the main highlight. Plus what we said earlier. Before this, we had done lab courses so we could do coding ourselves. Working on a single project by ourselves. Here we saw, other people are working on team projects so we know how they collaborate. Vimal gave an extensive talk on how to manage a team project on a Git environment and all that. So that is something we will be taking away from here. When we work on group projects we will be making use of that. So I think more than what we are going to put on our resume, Zyxware helped us to use this information to make something else and then apply that on our resume.
Q. What will be a word of advice you will give to those who seek internship? What are its benefits?
One major thing that our professor actually told us, while trying to choose internship was to focus on places where you will get a personalized atmosphere. So when we chose Zyxware, one of the main reasons was that apart from the Open Source part we were informed that the set up was small. So whenever someone is trying to get an internship our advice to them is to try to go to a startup or a small place where you will get personalized attention rather than going into a big company just for the name of it. And the experience has been very nice at Zyxware.
Q. Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve the internship programme of Zyxware?
If it is possible to work with a team. We have been directly mentored, but if we could work on a project that they were working on. And also if we could work on something called pair programming. If we could be allowed to work on something like that. That would help.
So we now know how the software works. But we would also like to know how the software is used. It was kind of like a crash course. We would like to know all about it. How to build a website using Drupal and all that. We can always learn it. But getting a personalized experience is much better.
This is pure learning, having more interns would have been nice.
Feedback from the Professors
"One of the major objectives of the internship is to get hands on training for our students with real life experience and working in a professional software development environment. This gives them the familiarity to deal with live projects instead of the experimental ones done in our labs. With regards to the presentation that they did at the institute, this was one of the best in terms of quality. The regular feedback the students got from their mentor in Zyxware really helped in their internship learning. Based on the presentation and the input from the students we would love to send more students to Zyxware as part of our internship program.”
Dr. Jasine Babu, IIT-Palakkad
"The presentation of our students who came to Zyxware for internship was well structured and informative. Many internship presentations tend to loose the audience because the students focus only on what was learnt and do not put enough thought on how to convey that effectively in a 15 min presentation. We are also happy that the students could get to work on a complex problem and familiarize themselves with the issues of scalability and maintainability. This exposure that they got in Zyxware cannot be replicated in a college setting and really benefited the students."
Dr. Deepak R., IIT-Palakkad