What is an internship really like?

With two 3-month internships under my belt at Metail, it’s easy to see why people keep joining. As an R&D Intern, I’ve been continually challenged and pushed to learn new skills and apply them to often independent and in-depth projects. The responsibility and expected self-sufficiency have been well balanced to allow a comfortable attachment to my work; and now that I’m leaving to go back to my final year at university, it’s clear that a lot of what I’ve done with Metail will help me focus and push myself in my studies.

My assignedLuke Smith and chosen work has been excitingly challenging and intriguingly broad. With several weeks spent collaborating with a great team of people to build advanced features for a Facebook chatbot, I had the pleasure of working on state of the art 3D face modelling, including the challenges of adding cosmetic changes, finding ways to smoothly transform one face to another, and robustly positioning other 3D models on and around the faces. All within the context of delivering a user experience, albeit an experimental one. The surprise to me came in finding that “R&D” is not synonymous with “hidden in the back room for no one to see.” Sometimes, it turns out, it just means you don’t have to worry about perfecting a product and can focus on learning as much as possible about users and what they want.

In three months, you don’t necessarily just get to work on one project. On top of 3D face modelling, I got the opportunity to start with a blank folder with zero files in it and the seemingly simple task: recommend clothes to a user. That might only take five words to say, but it takes more than five lines of code to do. This task required me to build from an empty file tree to a framework for creating and testing ways of implementing recommendation algorithms. I found it extremely rewarding opportunity to work independently on such a project. At the same time, the real reward of working in a place like Metail isn’t just getting to take pride in your work, but knowing that at any point in time there is a whole host of people ready and willing to help you if you ask for it. With a collection of experienced and knowledgeable colleagues, I always found it easy to get help when I needed it. The technical knowledge and experiential learning gained will no doubt prove invaluable in the future.

I should also point out that the work itself isn’t the only part that’s fun. The people are wonderful and I personally enjoyed the fact that I only wore shoes to work 8 times in the entire summer (flip-flops are so much more comfortable). If you need advice on which are the best pubs in Cambridge, look no further, because Friday pub lunches serve as an excellent method of exploration. Meanwhile it’s worth noting that interns get free membership to the Friday cocktail club, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable social activity whether you care for the cocktails or not!

In the end, sometimes you have to do some work, so in my experience, you might as well make sure it’s work that is in itself rewarding and comes with plenty of added benefits; my time at Metail has been a core of fulfilling work with a periphery of positive side effects. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll soon find an excuse to come back again.

Luke Smith
R&D Intern 2015, 2016

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