3 Things I Learnt During My Internship

Aakash Sasikumar
July 6, 2018

In this post, I’ll be sharing a few things I learnt during my internhip at Thermo Fisher Scientific

Internships are sort of a “fling” or a “casual” relationship where you get all the “fun” without any of the “commitments”. Internships are no doubt a great way for students to learn about the corporate world. After a pretty easy online exam and an Interview with a person who turned out to be my manager, I snagged myself an internship at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Bangalore, India.

There is a common myth, that interns are always given menial work and never work on the more serious stuff. As a student who has no prior experience with any sort of internship, I fell prey to these misconceptions and prejudices but I could not have been more wrong. Before I started working, I knew I would be working on something related to automating a robotic arm using AI, but later I found out that this project would have a huge impact on the company and I would be laying the groundwork(for the AI part) for future employees to work on.

I already had a pretty good knowledge of neural networks, especially CNN’s and this was the reason that my manager chose to hire me. I was required to build a robust object detection capable neural network that could identify objects (Thermo Fisher Instruments) and identify a particular point in each of these instruments, the only catch was that we would not be allowed to generate the training data by taking photos of the instruments. We needed to generate the training data from the 3D CAD models, and use that to train our neural network. This idea was something along the lines of OpenAI’s Domain Randomization. Over the course of my two-month internship, I learned a lot about neural networks, Unity (simulation) and a lot of other things. Apart from all the technical things I learned during my internship, here are some things that helped me improve myself as a person and helped me be better in the corporate environment.

1. Ask Questions

During the first couple of weeks of my internship, I was negligent in asking questions. This was a big problem because I was not able to understand the full scope of the project and I didn’t know how to even begin solving my problem statement. One day I asked my teammates (as they were as clueless as I was) to accompany me, to set an interview with our manager to get full clarification on our project. This was extremely helpful, as this allowed us to completely understand how each of our parts was going to fit together. This understanding then led us to be able to segregate work among ourselves and work on getting the next deliverable ready. If we had asked all the questions, to begin with, we would have started working on the project a lot sooner and would have been able to get a lot more things done.

2. Sell Yourself

Provided that you do a good job and people like you, interns are handed a pre-placement offer at the end of internships. This is the way of the company letting you know that they want you to come work for them after you are done graduating. One of the most important ways you can ensure getting a PPO or be it any other thing form the company, as a matter of fact, is that you need to sell yourself. In the eyes of the company, you are an investment, and it is your job to ensure that you make them feel that you were worth it. I am not sure if other companies follow this the exact same way, but at Thermo Fisher, we were asked to give a presentation each Monday showcasing what we had worked on the previous week, and what we are going to work on the following week. This was usually done in front of all the other managers, and even the HR heads, this was the best place for interns to sell themselves, to let the other people know that you had done meaningful work for the company. According to our manager, the best way to sell yourself would be talking about everything you worked on, be it some partial documentation for code, or even writing a small script that helps you do things faster; communicating what you did plays a major role in selling yourself. Another major factor would be confidence, especially when speaking. I know this isn’t an innate trait in everyone, but it is definitely something that can be learned through practice.

3. It’s okay to not be able to deliver on time

When you have the pressure of people expecting you to do something and when you aren’t able to deliver, it can be very devastating. But as I have experienced, this is completely okay as long as there is a valid reason behind it and that you were struggling to overcome this hurdle. When you are in such a predicament, the worst thing you could do would be to tell your superior that everything is going fine and that you would be done with it soon. This gives your boss a false hope and if you aren’t able to deliver on time, this would be a huge blow to your reputation as a prolific employee. As soon as something goes wrong and you think this would be a particularly persistent issue, informing your manager about it would be the wise thing to do. Not only would they understand your problem, but they would offer a solution for it as well, and you never know, the solution may actually solve your problem.

To sum it all up, these are few of the things I learned during the internship I thought was worth enough for sharing. Instead of pondering about the possibility of getting a job opportunity from the company or when you would be receiving your stipend, the most important aspect of an internship is that you have a lot of fun and learn a lot of new things.