-3

I have seen somewhat similar questions to this here but I'm not sure any of them answer what I have in mind so hopefully you good people can be of more help

I am currently a second-year Computer Science student majoring in Artificial Intelligence, my university has an internship program planned for people who complete their third year of the program but honestly, I don't feel like depending on that, you see, this university is actually quite new in the undergraduate scene as they started offering these programs in 2018, it might seem like a reckless thing to sign up for a university that new but in all honesty, it seems like the quality of the program is similar to that of high-end universities, does the job but doesn't really give much real-life experience, and I'm fine with it that way, though like I just mentioned; I don't want to place ALL my trust of finding early job experience in their hands, I only want it as a backup option in case my personal efforts fail.

Now on to the question's point, what could I be studying and working towards on the side to give myself a bit of a boost when starting to do internships? What I thought about first was working more on my existing web developing skills so that maybe I can do a side job of web development to help myself start becoming financially independent, but obviously my major is not focused on that so studying web development on the side would work against me academically-wise (besides, I have barely enough free time to work on my studies and keep active so that I don't rot while staying at home during this time of plague), so what should I be doing instead? If I purely focus on my study materials I don't feel that will get me anywhere, because the real world is much more complicated than that, but I also don't want to study something that will hinder my academic performance, any tips/resources on this?

TL;DR I'm a Computer Science undergraduate majoring in AI looking for stuff to do so that I can become better at this for when I get out to the real world, help would be appreciated on this.

2
  • I mentioned this in my answer, but what exactly are the details of the internship program you mentioned? Is it more like a co-op (like at Waterloo, Northeastern, etc) or is it something like a research internship? – Daveguy Feb 6 at 20:25
  • Well, I'm not really aware of these programs since I don't live in the USA or Canada, but our program (to the best of my knowledge) is going to be either us finding opportunities on our own or the university will provide us with contact to organizations that agreed to take in students from the institution, I'm not quite sure which program description that fits from the western world but that's what I know so far. – Abdul Munem Feb 8 at 9:21
1

my university has an internship program planned for people who complete their third year of the program but honestly, I don't feel like depending on that

You haven't provided much detail as to what your school's internship program is like. Is it a co-op type of program like Waterloo or Northeastern does, or is it a research kind of program? I'm not sure if graduate school (including PhD) is in your long-term plans, but if it is and your program is more like the latter, gaining research experience in this field is definitely of importance for when you plan on applying, because it will help you network with professors and other people, who could help get you into graduate school. You'd be gaining research/relevant experience in artificial intelligence or other relevant fields, and you'd be able to secure recommendations from professors you've worked with. Even if graduate school isn't in the plans, for near-term, or long-term (at least for now), you can still gain relevant experience that could later apply to when you get an industry job. A lot of MS/PhD students in CS find jobs working in industry after their graduate studies are over, and the same can be said for BS students who pursue research while in their undergraduate studies.

If the program is more like a co-op kind of program, that's still experience you could be gaining, and having some experience and having something on your resume to talk about in future interviews will definitely trump having zero experience with nothing on your resume to talk about. It's much harder to get jobs or interviews with no experience, so there's nothing wrong with having a fallback option for gaining experience. If you get something that you think may be better than this, more power to you, but I definitely wouldn't rule out doing this internship, especially if you are struggling to get any other internship offers.

it might seem like a reckless thing to sign up for a university that new but in all honesty, it seems like the quality of the program is similar to that of high-end universities, does the job but doesn't really give much real-life experience

You will never know until you try. I'd suggest trying it out, and if you don't like it, no need to commit to it for future semesters or years. Personally, the institution where I did my undergrad just began a project-oriented program reminiscent of the one you were describing, and I am kind of wishing I had such an opportunity when I joined that institution as an undergraduate. If you end up liking it, you'll have something to talk about on your resume, which will definitely help for jobs/internships/other research opportunities/graduate school.

what could I be studying and working towards on the side to give myself a bit of a boost when starting to do internships?

Honestly, this question depends a lot on what you want to do. Is web development actually your passion, or are you majoring in AI because you actually want to focus on AI later in your career? If it's the latter, I would definitely say contact professors and try to get involved with research with them. You can always pick up web development on your own later, but you are only in school and have the opportunity to do undergraduate research for so long. Plus, doing research is definitely not the same as just taking classes. It will teach you many things and skills, such as work ethic, that you wouldn't gain if you were just taking classes.

3
  • I actually did participate in research as an undergraduate, a professor liked my performance in her course and decided to let me and a couple of other high performers work as research assistants with her and her colleagues which ended up being a decent experience and definitely would help my resume, another professor offered me and my group to publish a course project as a paper which is also great, I plan on keeping in contact with these academics and their colleagues so that maybe it will help me out even more later on, thank you for the advice! – Abdul Munem Feb 6 at 11:54
  • And regarding the last point, I do like web development but as a hobby not as a professional goal, AI is a much more intriguing field of study and work to me so I'm sticking with it from now on. – Abdul Munem Feb 6 at 11:55
  • Since you said you like AI and web development is a side interest, then yes, AI should be your go-to as far as portfolio goes and you should be getting more experience in that. Ideally, while you're in school, get more research experience in that (including maybe participating in REU's or doing a thesis). And YES, keep in contact with academics in case you want to get a MS/PhD (since many AI/ML careers will want a PhD) – Daveguy Feb 6 at 20:08
1

Obviously that internship will be helpful in building up your resume for when you search for a "real" job. I would not simply go in and do your work and just sit there. Try to build relationships with people at some professional level and be sure to leave your contact information. You never know that person may someday be able to offer you a job or let you in on one.

1

To build a portfolio in field "X", you do projects in "X". Then you list the projects you have done, like this:

  • For A, I did the X
  • For B, I did the X
  • For C, I did the X

For example, a 3D artist will say "I did the 3D art for game blah, blah and blah."

A database programmer will say "I did the database for online stores blah, blah and blah."

A person who engineers the suspension cables for bridges will say "I did the suspension cables for this, that, and the other, bridge."

The only way you can have a "portfolio" in computer science is to have done jobs, projects (however small) in computer science.

Aggressively try to find real jobs (however small) in your field, do them, and then list them in your folio.

  1. You mention doing "other" things on the side (say, web sites). Don't do that. Concentrate your entire being on your main field of interest. (Sure, if you have to get a "job at Starbucks on the weekend" for money, that's life.)

  2. "If I purely focus on my study materials I don't feel that will get me anywhere, because the real world is much more complicated than that." This is wrong. The "real world" is dead simple. Focus single-mindedly and entirely on your life's topic. If that is "AI subfield X", think and do nothing other than "AI subfield X" every waking minute, other than

  • eating
  • toilet
  • exercise

Nothing else.

if you do that, everything else will fall in to place.

1

Let me also suggest this ... "talk to your academic advisors!" Discuss your concerns with them. Because, "the industry really isn't that far removed from academics," and "internship programs" really are intended to begin to fill that gap.

It's perfectly okay to take your concerns – whatever they might be – and to say to someone: "I think we need to talk about this." Believe it or not, they will listen.

So: "what should you not do?" Take those concerns, bottle them up, and thereby let them "cook you from the inside out." Trust me on this one: "Doctor so-and-so, can we please walk over to the student center, and can I please buy you a coffee and a donut?" Pretty sure that "Doctor so-and-so" will now tell you things that you'd never considered before.

1
  • I definitely will try this maybe after this term is finished, thanks for the pointers! – Abdul Munem Feb 6 at 11:58
0

Portfolios are for artists and fashion models.

Concentrate on things you need to learn for

  • Your university courses
  • Your work (including internships)
  • Anything you want to do as a hobby

Don't waste time learning things because you think somebody might want to see them on your resume at some time in the future. You don't know what you are going to end up doing in the long term anyway.

1
  • Working on your own portfolio project can really propel you to learn much more effectively during your university courses. Also, sometimes you can take an existing university course project, extend it, and make it your own if you work on it enough. This too is a great learning opportunity. And yes, a good internship would be good, but in the meantime, working on a portfolio is not such a bad idea. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 6 at 6:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .