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I'm a Computer Science major, will be done with my degree by Spring 18'. My school has placed me at a start-up that of which I've been interning at for about 3 weeks now and it's been pure hell. I'm using React Native, which's fine, but there's one big problem.

I'm the only developer.

The pay is good, but I want to learn and I literally have nobody to turn to. I have No mentors, guidance, or senior developers around. Nobody told me it was going to be like this. I'm barely getting things to work. As of now, I've been stuck on this one particular issue for about 2 weeks now and the issue I face is that I need to build an entire app by myself by the end of the internship.

I'm self-taught in every way. I've taught myself everything I know so far, things school didn't teach. I really love to code but I feel overwhelmed and set up to fail

All of my friends from school are interning at great start-ups with great mentorship, guidance, etc except for me.

What strategies can I adopt to compensate for the lack of experienced guidance in my present situation?

  • This is likely going to get closed soon, but before it does, I'll say this. SE has plenty of people who can help. There is "code review", "Stack Overflow", and of course, the workplace. Would you mind if I edited your post to make it more on topic? – Richard U Jul 11 '17 at 19:05
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    @JoeStrazzere I've been on Google, asked stackoverflow, called friends, and more. I'm seriously just at a loss for words. This frustration is just too much. – daff laff Jul 11 '17 at 19:12
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    @dafflaff Stack Overflow and SE code review will probably be of great help. Just to share an experience with you. I had just closed on a house, lost my job and had to take one where I knew literally nothing. I had to teach myself quickly, and I did. It sounds like you have the same drive I did. Start with Stack overflow, and move on to code review if need be. Be purely factual in your questions and do not include how you feel and you should be fine. We're here for you. – Richard U Jul 11 '17 at 19:16
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    @dafflaff for what it's worth, what you are doing is impressive, and this is coming from someone who's been in the industry for decades. Don't focus on the problems, focus on the solutions. – Richard U Jul 11 '17 at 19:29
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    @Fattie that's hardly true, and I think it would be prudent to be sympathetic to the needs of someone on their first job who has no mentorship. they likely have no idea what will happen if they don't complete their project, since they have neither experience of their own nor the experience of others to build their expectations upon. – 2rs2ts Jul 11 '17 at 20:45
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This is a tough spot to be in. I sympathize. Unfortunately you are going to have to continue to teach yourself how to do the things you need to do in order to complete your project. As others have said there are plenty of online resources for that, so I won't parrot that advice. I'd like to help you overcome these feelings of anxiety instead.

You're going to be ok!

Know that all you can do is your best, and no sane employer would expect more (or less) than that. So just focus on doing your best every day. Take pride in your accomplishments. You are in a tough situation and yet you're trying your hardest to teach yourself the things you need in order to do your job. That's seriously impressive, and you should feel good about that.

Though you do not have a technical mentor at your company, you probably have a manager or some employee you report your progress to. You should let them know that progress is slow without technical mentorship, but you are doing your own research to try to finish your project. It would be wise to do so with a cool head, so make sure you take time to collect yourself first. I think giving an honest update on your progress and on the problems you are facing will help shape your employer's expectations for the project outcome, and it will also be valuable feedback for them that they can use to make sure the next intern does not have the same problems you are having.

Keep in mind that this is just your first internship. It's by no means going to be your last job, so don't stress too much about failure. You are likely going to do pretty well and be reviewed well, even if you don't finish, as long as you put in good work and are well liked by your manager and coworkers. So just do your best, take things in stride, and grow from this experience; in ten years, the problems you're having now will seem small and distant.

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    Thanks so much for your comment, it made me feel a lot better, no joke :)! Honestly, I didn't even tell my supervisor about how my progress is hindered because of not having mentorship or anything like that. I just want to keep it humble and persist through this because deep down, I know I can do this. But on the bright side, so far I've built a semi functional app... my first app ever! – daff laff Jul 12 '17 at 1:37
  • @dafflaff you should really consider giving progress reports (maybe weekly?) to help shape expectations. If you write down weekly goals that lead to finishing the project on your last week, then you can show how well or poorly things are going. If you don't finish, your boss won't be blindsided by it. Bonus effect: you'll leave the person who does complete your work some todo list as well. – 2rs2ts Jul 12 '17 at 15:54
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I am not expert in this subject but I too am interning for the first time, albeit at a startup.

I can tell you that I empathize with the lack of guidance and mentoring. Because of the hectic and often times unstructured workflow of a startup, I have been mostly left to my own devices for the past 2 months. I've had to discover many frameworks and familiarize myself with the product on my own, and it can definitely be a daunting task.

What I can tell you is that there are many online resources if you have nobody to turn to. Look for tutorials by well-respected developer, and don't be afraid to ask questions on forums (I've even turned to Reddit for advice at some point, and have received fairly helpful feedback).

Go at it slowly, and don't be afraid to encounter failure. Give yourself some daily/weekly goals and set out to accomplish them. At the end of the day, you are an intern and if your company expects you to do everything as the sole developer, then the fault lies with them. As an intern you should be looking to gain as much experience as possible, so on the bright side look at this opportunity as one where you have an immense freedom to learn and explore!

Best of luck.

  • You're absolutely right, thank you for your input :D! – daff laff Jul 11 '17 at 20:00
  • "I empathize with the lack of guidance and mentoring" There is no "guidance! and mentoring!" in software. Every single thing you do has never been done before. It's not a soft science like being a surgeon or whatever where you have a Daddy that guides you. You're entirely on your own in software. Enjoy and get on with it! – Fattie Jul 11 '17 at 20:35
  • I hear that StackExchange now has some sort of question and answer type thing for computer programming questions. – Hannover Fist Jul 11 '17 at 21:34
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What Not How

Your Computer Science education should give you enough background to be able to know WHAT you should be doing.

Getting good at searching the internet will give you the HOW.

Experienced technologists used to be able to tell you WHAT and HOW, but as technology changes so rapidly, and with the rise of the Internet, memorizing HOW is no longer as important - and in fact, could be a detriment if better solutions have been discovered.

Therefore, your position is ideal in honing the skills you will need for the future, especially the most important skill of all: Solving your problems yourself. That is one of the most effective ways to learn.

And, that happens a lot more often than you may realize at this time.

  • You're right. I'm going to look at this is a blessing as opposed to some horrible experience. Thank you for your input. – daff laff Jul 11 '17 at 19:59
  • Now, you've got it, lad. Exactly as Prinz says, you can instantly find solutions for API use, etc, on SO. it's not like the old days. Enjoy. – Fattie Jul 11 '17 at 20:36
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I am a software developer, so I understand your concerns.

I would suggest you do two things.

  1. Speak to your manager at work and let them know you're struggling. Set their expectations now that you won't finish the app by the end of your internship, and explain why. Explain to them your expectations too for what they can do to help you, if anything.

  2. If your school placed you at the startup, then I would speak to your placement officer and explain the situation to them. It does not sound as though the company was vetted at all. You should not be placed in an internship where there is no onsite support. How are you supposed to learn if there's no-one to help you. It may be that they remove you from the company and place you elsewhere.

If both of those fail, then so be it. You've spoken up, made your superiors aware of your situation. There is nothing more you can do other than to make the best of it, or to quit.

So if that is the case, learn what you can, but don't beat yourself up over it. Use online resources. Udemy, Codecademy, StackOverflow, etc.

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Being the only developer might not be setting you up to fail, depending on how quickly your company needs the software finished.

I am not sure how long your internship lasts, but maybe as you gain momentum the deadline will seem more reasonable. I interned at a research company which was dependent on technology but its needs did not change too rapidly. During this time I was working on a huge rewrite of our legacy software. I was not the only developer at the company, but I was the only developer dedicated to the project at the time so if I asked for help there wasn't anyone more senior who knew the legacy code base. However, my company had (in my opinion) reasonable expectations for me. They were aware I was attempting many things for the first time and they did not set strict deadlines like they might have with more experienced developers. As a result I wasn't rushed and I was able to take full advantage of the learning opportunity I had.

That said, if your company is expecting you to perform at the level and speed of a senior developer, it might be time to renegotiate your work conditions.

One last point: Stack Overflow is a programmer's best friend.

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A strategy you can add to what you are probably already doing in looking for help (google, stackoverflow, etc) is to leverage live chat (IRC, slack, discord, etc) communities for the relevant technologies you are working with.

For example you have mentioned React Native and googling about it I came across this: https://facebook.github.io/react-native/support.html . Of particular interest would be the reactiflux chat which appears to be discord.

Live help to discuss what you struggle with (e.g. I'm trying to do X but it isn't working, I'm debugging it and hitting this error, has anybody seen this before?) and bounce ideas with can be helpful though your mileage will vary depending on how active and friendly the community is. Best of luck.

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