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I am halfway through my internship in software development. The physical structure of the company is as follows: two floors, with different teams working on each one on a specific project.

The project which I have worked on (downstairs) since my arrival has ended, so most of my colleagues have recently been assigned to the upper floor. In the meantime, I had begun a separate project to comply with my school's requirements, with the subject being given by my manager and a qualified programmer. The field is a bit difficult, I chose it because it's something I didn't have time to be proficient at in class; only the above-named programmer is actually competent to help me.

I would love to make rapid progress on this work so I can be assigned to the new projects, but I am encountering many problems which I am unable to solve by myself (after trying several days). After a three-weeks holiday taken by the programmer, and now the current two weeks off taken by my manager, I have managed to do very little, since I get utterly more involved in team work than in this kind of "research program" I have to do. Unfortunately, as soon as he was back, the skilled programmer has now been called upstairs to be part of another project.

How can I go on? It's all about looking at my code and giving advice about what's wrong in it. I certainly can't call him from upstairs everytime since he is now thoroughly in his new task, can I?

Should I send the whole program by e-mail? Should I ask my questions through the company's instant messaging?

Should I ask the company's management to move my work station upstairs? May I ask my manager to definitely switch to the next project upstairs and skipping this one (I have proposed myself)?

  • The manager won't be here the whole week again, so I'll probably have to ask the programmer myself. I have been concentrating on the past team work but the current research has taken place only after it, this is why everyone goes on vacation during my work (the others have nothing to do). – Ety Jun 17 '14 at 14:03
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    Given your field I would also suggest stackoverflow for software problems, or programmers – llrs Jun 17 '14 at 14:38
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    Llopis: My problem is not related to my field, really. It's about how an intern should be supervised in the office. I dared to go up to ask my question and then continue the discussion via instant messaging, sending pictures of what I get, but that's just... too artificial for me. – Ety Jun 17 '14 at 17:22
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Speak to your manager or the senior programmer.

Explain that you think you need a bit more help and would like to be closer to the person who can support you if possible, but you'd be happy with another solution if they have any ideas. Basically, what you've just put in your question - ask them.

Asking for an appropriate level of support during an internship is a reasonable request - you're not expected to be an experienced hand at this point.

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    +1 for requesting to meet the skilled programmer and explicitly asking the skilled programmer to make time to specifically support the OP. Moving upstairs achieves nothing if the key people are not cooperating. Securing their cooperation is the first and foremost requirement and priority. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 17 '14 at 11:53
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To put it simple: Don't. If it is your internship, nobody should expect you have enough experience to work without supervision.

If you can't find any step forward in one single thing in an hour alone (this applies for more experienced programmers too), then find help whitin the company, this applies if you have absolutely no idea how to attack the problem. It is never a shame telling "I don't know". It is way worse choice to keep up trying for days.

If you are in a transitional period (new project assignment), report to your boss (most likely your senior programmer, or if you don't have yet, then project manager) that you would need some assistance. Calmly tell them you would like to make bigger progress, than by yourself, in the worst case they will tell you, that they can't provide help right now, then just be patient and ask them later.

Also if it is matter of stairs and distance between your collegues, ask them if they can provide a temporal space between senior programmers or use some kind of chat program (for example skype) where you can access to help more interactively than you/they run up or down on stairs.

  • An hour is a little short. If you go to a senior programmer after every problem that took more then an hour to resolve you would quickly find yourself out the door. Programming requires critical thinking which often takes more then an hour to figure out. – Ramhound Jun 17 '14 at 14:30
  • I wouldn't say "an hour to resolve", but "an hour to figure out some idea how to attack the problem". If after an hour you have no idea where to start, an experienced developer might be able to give you that start in two minutes. – gnasher729 Jun 17 '14 at 15:02
  • @gnasher729 correct: "an hour to figure out some idea how to attack the problem", I am updating. – CsBalazsHungary Jun 17 '14 at 15:24

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