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Recently I finished my first internship after freshman year in a university. It was a complete disappointment. I applied to a position that sounds very serious - "Machine Learning Software Engineer" at a company that does research in Quantum Computing. First thing that surprised me was that the interview was overly easy. They asked no questions about Machine Learning and just a couple questions about Python programming. Then, they accepted me and told me I would be given a project in "Big Data", for now. I thought that it played well for me because to be honest, I didn't know that much about machine learning, but I hoped I would learn quickly throughout the internship because I'm a fast learner and already knew the basics (but which weren't enough for research in quantum computing, in my opinion).

So, the internship began and I was given a "Big data" project. Well, the whole project was to write a program to download a list of people's names from a Facebook group using Facebook's API. I had to do it in one month and I did that in a couple of hours. Very underwhelming experience. I asked for something more, but I was told to do something on my own instead. I expected I would work in a group of people (that's what they said) on an interesting project and that I would learn a lot. Instead, I received that... Also, one thing to note: every time I had to go to their office, I needed to get some sort of security clearance (which was problematic procedure for them) and so they said I'd need to visit them only a couple times a week, the rest of the time I could work remotely. Well, in reality when I would frequently call them to ask if I should come they'd say "No need for now, you can come a little later". I ended up visiting them only a couple times a month. The whole internship was 3 months.

So, as you can see my experience is very disappointing and underwhelming given the name of the position I was given. I'm going to apply for more internships obviously, should I include this internship in my resume?

The good thing is that it would look excellent on my resume and give me a much higher chance to pass through the HRs to the interview. However, if I were asked "What did you do at that internship?" I wouldn't be able to answer that question, I would feel awkward telling what I did. I feel like I did less than 5% given the title of my position. And I really don't want to lie on the interview.

Luckily, it's not the end of the world because I have some projects of my own on GitHub and I also used that free time during that internship to learn on my own, but I learned a lot less to be honest than I could have learned if my employer fulfilled the promises.

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    When they asked you to do “something on your own,” did they allow you to acess their data for the duration of the internship or only on those few days when you went into their office? – AffableAmbler Jan 8 '18 at 16:27
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    What did you do when they told you to do something on your own? Is it worth bringing up during an interview? – Erik Jan 8 '18 at 16:30
  • @AffableAmbler, no, they didn't let me access any of their data. I had to come up with some own project in machine learning/big data area. – John Jan 8 '18 at 16:54
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    @John sounds like relevant experience to me, even more if you had few to none guidance. Surely something worth mentioning during an interview on a job related to that field. – DarkCygnus Jan 8 '18 at 17:06
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    @John if they ask about it I suggest you answer honestly. There is nothing wrong in you doing that on your own, it even indicates that you did not take this as a chance to have some leisure and idle time for some months but instead decided to study and improve on your own. If they ask there is nothing wrong in saying "They assigned me this work, but I quickly finished it and on the absence of more tasks I did ..." They can decide if that is sufficient for the role you are applying – DarkCygnus Jan 8 '18 at 17:30
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By all means, include the internship, but first fix your perception of what happened. They gave you a few simple software engineering tasks, and then funded 2.5 months of your time to participate in a machine learning competition. You can downplay your title if you feel it overstates your role. Write it up something like this:

InQuantum Systems: Software Engineering Intern (Sept 2017-Dec 2017). Won top 10% in Kaggle machine learning competition (link to competition) and wrote informal report (link to paper).

It's better that you fully explain your work history and not leave any gaps, and it's a good place to explain this project. If asked in detail, you can simply say that your primary assignment was disappointingly simple and quickly discharged, so you channeled your copious free time into something worthwhile.

ADDENDUM:

I don't know if I should hide the fact that...

No. In almost everything, honesty really is the best policy. If you try to hide something, and it comes to light, or you get evasive when asked deep questions, you have two problems. The original one, plus a more serious one that your interviewer now thinks you are being dishonest.

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I'm going to apply for more internships obviously, should I include this internship in my resume?

First, it is worth recalling that you should include it only if it is relevant to the field and job you are applying, so it does not come as noise to your application.

Although this is up to you I suggest you don't include it if it is something you do not wish to convey on your resume. Besides being a somewhat negative experience it can be perceived as a bit deceitful.

Including it may have some negative consequences. One being the one you already figured out, that is that you may be unable to come with a good answer to that questioning, and probably harm your interview process and chances to being hired. Another possibility (maybe worse?) is that they don't ask you about that internship and assume you do have a good deal of experience in that matter, and hire you. You will then surely be expected to perform good on those tasks (something you seem to say you did not learned as much as you could).

However, if you feel it's imperative to include it, consider mentioning in the interview all the things you did "on your own" as part of that experience (your Github projects, the other things you learned on your own about, etc.). This would be a better (and honest) way of answering to those sort of questions. They can then decide if that is the sort of experience they are looking for that position.

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