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I am currently interning in a fairly large software company which is a subcontractor of important companies in defense industry.
I started the internship very passionately doing all the "tasks" my manager assigned to me. I double quoted the tasks word because they were really trivial tasks like moving java classes from one folder to another one, copy-pasting javadocs into the classes,reading long manuals which they never needed later. But I have done all without complaining although I knew that all those tasks could be done by non-programmers very easily. I learnt and used batch scripts to finish tedious tasks and to show them my will to code. But it didn't work. A week ago my manager assigned to me another trivial task which I am not finishing on purpose.A week passed and nobody asked me about how it's going.

I want to make it clear that I am by no means a programming genius but I believe I have a fairly good programming knowledge compared to other interns in the same workplace and I am really passionate about learning new things.I want to show my manager to my full capacity but I don't know how to do it. How can I achieve this?

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    Not finishing a task on purpose is no way to show that you're mature enough to be trusted with other work. Petulance will get you nowhere but out the door. – keshlam Jul 28 '15 at 18:07
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    So they are asking you to do things that need to be done but you feel that they should go to someone else because they are a waste of your time? As an intern you are the lowest person on the totom pole, you are going to get the least critical tasks that nobody else wants. – Myles Jul 28 '15 at 18:24
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    Just because nobody is checking back with you for a week doesn't mean someone isn't tracking your progress. Perhaps the manager has asked another individual how you seem to be doing? Interns are sometimes brushed aside or given more junior tasks. Look for efficiency improvements via scripting redundant procedures or creating better work flow processes. You'll be noticed if you positively impact your team's goals. – jcpennypincher Jul 28 '15 at 19:06
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    Your manager said you would get one after you finish the current task. You state you have not finished the current task. Even interns get fired. I suggest you start with performing the assigned tasks. – paparazzo Jul 28 '15 at 19:25
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    @ComradeDaniel If you're leaving in 2 weeks then you're probably asking the wrong question and/or at the wrong time. At this point you need to show that you're a professional when it comes to finishing up your remaining tasks. Also you want to make for an easy handover to the next person. Documentation is probably an important part of this; maybe you can look at it as "trivial" but it is necessary for the people who will work on the project(s) later. – Brandin Jul 29 '15 at 12:40
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I am in a similar position. I'm currently an intern at a software company but I haven't done too much developing. I've had some tasks that are kind of tedious that I also automated using scripts and other programmatic ways, like you mentioned.

In my case, the company has one main product, let's call it ABC. ABC is an MES software solution used by manufacturing companies. If one small thing goes wrong, it could affect a large portion of their production. Obviously, I would not be assigned to work on such important parts of their product. Software used in the defense industry could be similarly volatile.

Understand that it might not be the case that they think you aren't a capable programmer. We are interns and it isn't our job to do the most important work. It makes sense for us to do the smaller tasks. Why would they give these tasks to their employees who are familiar with the code and have more important things to do? We are there to learn and gain experience working in a professional environment.

If you really do desire more complicated and programming tasks, let your manager know. Keep in mind that even if you make this known to them, it may not be possible for them to give you what you want. Just keep working diligently at what you're assigned and it will reflect well on you as an employee. This will be important for the future.

  • Sometimes programmers are hired into positions that are not necessarily software developer positions. Unfortunately there is no standard for software engineering as their is in other engineering professions, although that could change in future. If you feel your position has been misrepresented to you, you'll have to decide whether or not to take action on the issue. Just do your best and make the most out of your internship. It does count for experience. If it's too slack at work, start developing some of your own tools to make your work faster or easier. – jcpennypincher Jul 28 '15 at 19:10
  • @jcpennypincher Thanks for the reply. I guess I should note that it hasn't only been tedious tasks. Another intern and I did work on a new feature that they were considering before we arrived, but didn't implement fully. It's been a great learning experience so far and I'm happy with all the work I've been given and done. – MC10 Jul 28 '15 at 19:17
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    @jcpennypincher - i think any engineering intern, regardless of discipline, is going to get a period of scutwork - that was the case when I started as a electrical/control systems engineer after graduation - just soak it all up as educational experience so that you are better prepared for when they start throwing more involved work at you – HorusKol Jul 29 '15 at 0:13
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First, do the task and do it correctly to the best of your ability. To do otherwise shows a severe lack of professionalism.

There is no indicator that you have discussed your performance or what you would like to be doing with your boss. Ask him what you need to do to get assigned to the types of tasks you would prefer. Talk to him about what is upcoming on the project and where you might best fit in.

You may find that he has plans but is waiting for a budget to get approved or you may find that you have unimpressed him with your attitude towards the tasks you distain. Or somewhere in between.

We can't know what he thinks of you and your abilities and what he needs from you to feel comfortable taking the risk of assigning programming work to you (and it is huge risk for him, you have to understand that as many interns severely overestimate their abilities). Or it may be that no one has the time to help you get up to speed. It may even be that he didn't particularly want or need an intern.

Remeber, as an intern you are the lowest person on the totem pole and you will be assigned to tasks that need to get done but which are not exciting because nobody senior to you wants to do them either. And in the work world, you can expect there will always be some things you would prefer not to do that you still have to do. It gets better as you get more experience, but it never goes away.

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You say that you have "done all without complaining", but perhaps you should be giving some sort of feedback. It doesn't have to be a "complaint", but it's reasonable to discuss your assignments and progress with your manager.

Perhaps they have a plan, which includes having you learn to do simple tasks. "Trivial" is perhaps not the best word to choose, because even simple tasks need to be done well, and can be important.

Your role as an intern is not just to accept everything unquestioningly. It's fair for you to ask for a clear road map of what progress you will be expected to make in the coming period, and how your current work contributes to this.

It's not just about the technical tasks. While you are an intern, it's very important that you make a start on developing the interpersonal skills that will make you successful in the workplace. So take some time to plan how you will present your questions to your manager. Think about what you want to achieve, what you think is reasonable to ask for, and how you will put this across in a way that shows that you are thinking and acting as a professional. Usually, being willing to take some initiative in your own development will be seen as a positive thing. Just make sure that's what you're doing.

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First of all consider talking to your manager again about assigning interesting work to you.

If he doesn't heed to your requests, finish your tasks soon and invest your time in learning things on your own. Read code of the project your peers are working on, learn a new programming language while at work or contribute to open source. Enhance your skills so that you can switch a job or perform better on any given day.

  • This may be the right things to do but why? Answers here should explain why they are correct not just what you need to do. So please consider editing your answer to explain how these actions will help prevent a manager from undervaluing the OP's abilities. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 28 '15 at 19:54

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