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As I wrapped up my freshman seminar class at Purdue, I participated in Purdue’s “Hello World” hack-a-thon on campus where they presented the Xtern bootcamp. I immediately applied and was eventually accepted to the bootcamp.

My Xtern Bootcamp Experience Opened the Door to a New Summer Opportunity

For three, intensive weeks starting in mid-May, I went to Xtern Bootcamp, a program targeted for those interested in computer programming and software development. I learned different aspects of web programming. I even attended professional development training that prepared myself and more than 40 fellow bootcampers for working in a corporate setting. On the last day of bootcamp, instructor Davey Strus presented me with the Most Valuable Programmer award for going above and beyond on assigned homework and extra credit projects. I had no idea they were giving an award, let alone selecting me out of the entire class to receive it. What an honor and a high note to be ending my bootcamp experience. But there was one problem. I was about to leave bootcamp to start my first summer job, my first job ever actually. And it certainly didn’t qualify as a “dream job.”

As you could probably understand, I wasn’t looking forward to transitioning from coding everyday with other college students, something I really enjoyed, to cleaning the airport restrooms. However, a few days later my summer job plans rapidly changed. Costello offered me a position as a summer software engineering intern. Costello is a deal management software to align frontline sales reps, account executives, managers and VP of sales to help everyone close more deals.

Just like that, I started my first job. I wasn’t sure what to expect as my grandma drove me into downtown Indianapolis and dropped me off outside of the Union 525 building. I barely knew where I was, but I was very excited to see what working for an actual company was like. I mean it had to be better than working at the airport, right?

My Daily Work - I coded… A Lot

I walked into Suite 1A2 on my first day to my desk right inside the door. Right away, VP of Engineering, Charlie Moad, who sat right next to me, gave me an overview of the software and assigned me my first project. He assigned me the project of tracking our customer data analytics in Segment working with Heap and Google Analytics. Outside of the customer analytics project, I constantly performed QA testing to find bugs and help resolve issues, as well as creating new features and updates for the application. They placed emphasis on maintaining high quality, clean code. The skills I learned in my C/C++ class and creating programs in React during bootcamp were also the programs I coded in at Costello.

My Role as an Integral Part of the Team

Costello is a small team. When the team is small, everyone’s presence matters. Even as an intern, I played a major role. We started every day with a stand up meeting mid-morning to share tasks completed the previous day and projects we would be working on throughout the current day. Each team member set goals and worked tirelessly to reach them. Before long, I realized the projects I worked on were contributing to the speed of developing the product. I built something. And then built something better. The software features I built are used by companies daily. My work mattered, and that’s really cool.

My Three Tips to college students as I wrap up my summer:

1. Engage with smart, dedicated co-workers and students every chance you get.

Costello provided me the opportunity to work independently along with the rest of the development team to enhance the application. They included me in strategic whiteboarding sessions and regularly asked for my input.

Being a part of the Xtern program, I had the opportunity to attend tech talks, professional development, and community service amidst my internship at Costello. I interacted with like-minded peers within the industry and networked with professionals of all ages and positions from product management to sales and marketing. It also gave me the opportunity to become immersed in the tech community as well as the chance to explore downtown Indianapolis.

2. Jump on opportunities when they present themselves.

I learned new programming languages and skills, grew my professional network and saw how the inside a company really works. I urge fellow college students to get outside of the classroom and apply for real-world opportunities whether it’s a class, professional networking event or internship, each will greatly benefit you.

The opportunity to apply classroom skills to the workplace is absolutely invaluable. The everyday work at Costello has been vastly different than what I am used to sitting in a Purdue classroom. I learn about concepts and fundamentals of computer science at college, while at Costello, I am working as a part of the development team to produce software features being used in the field to simplify salespeople’s everyday tasks.

3. Adapt quickly.

I realized that the ability to adapt is a very important part of working in the real world. Each day presented new challenges. Startups move fast and constantly find ways to move faster. When I left Purdue for the summer, I would have never dreamed I’d be working in downtown Indianapolis for a software startup. I knew next to nothing about the tech industry in my hometown. However, I credit the Xtern Bootcamp and Xtern program as catalysts in helping me adapt to my new role at Costello and giving me a new confidence and passion for my future career.

While I’m excited to get back and start my fall classes at Purdue, I am somewhat sad, but mostly thankful. Sad to leave my team at Costello. Thankful that I took a chance on applying to Xtern bootcamp and followed the path it took me for the summer. The experience I gained will aid me in classroom projects and future jobs. I can’t wait to continue my career as a software engineer and developer. My involvement in the Xtern program convinced me to want to stay in Indianapolis and grow with the tech industry that Indianapolis has cumulated. Hope to see you next summer in the Indianapolis tech community. It sure beat the airport summer job I planned to have!