8 weeks as a 43-year-old software engineering intern

During the second term of my coding bootcamp, the career coaches connected me with a reference for an engineering internship with Forbes Media. I didn’t expect to be called in for the interview, but I was pleasantly surprised when it happened.

Everyone I met at the interview was extraordinarily nice, but they challenged me with technical JavaScript questions. Looking back, there were several areas where I could have formulated a better answer. However, I was very lucky, because the Frontend Engineering team decided to give me a chance!

Everything became very real when I received and installed my equipment. After gaining local admin privileges, I started feeling like a developer again! This feeling didn’t last long as I immediately fell back into impostor syndrome when I couldn’t install the necessary packages for my repository.

My mentor came to the rescue and helped fix the problem (missing settings). From then on, I was able to use git, clone the appropriate repositories, install the packages, and set up my local development environment! 😊

The next big step was to attend and participate in meetings and team meetings. It is quite a privilege to be able to listen to these discussions, as they have helped fill in the missing technological vocabulary. During one of the meetings, it was mentioned that a new component was needed, specifically a button with an embedded image. I got excited, because I had done something similar on my wallet. However, I didn’t have the confidence to talk about it in the meeting.

After I finished, I quietly messaged my mentor and showed him a screenshot of my GitHub Readme button. My mentor and the Frontend Engineering Manager discussed, and decided to assign me my first ticket! Everything I’ve developed so far has been coded in a silo. Working on a large and complex code base with a group was therefore an eye opener!

After creating the button and verifying that it looks and works as expected in my local development environment, I had to push it to the GitHub repository and make a pull request (PR). Imposter Syndrome was kicking in at this point, as I was about to expose my coding insecurities to the world (or so I felt)! I contacted a junior developer on the team and shared my files with him, hoping for reassurance. He gave me a thumbs up, then encouraged me to push the code, and I did.

People had warned me that your first PR as a developer could result in a lot of comments. 55 comments later, my button component could now be dynamically rendered with SVGs, text, click functionality, and even a unit test suite! Every comment pointed out weaknesses in my code, such as redundant and inefficient code, as well as the inability to have good test coverage. This created a good back-and-forth rhythm with the experienced software engineers on the team.

My first three weeks at Forbes validate my decision to leave my pharmaceutical career to pursue my passion. I enjoy every minute of work, learning every new technology is exciting and rewarding, and the team is very warm and welcoming. Maybe that will change if I ever lose the status of “trainee”; however, I won’t worry about it at this time as I only have a limited time with this team.

A month of internship… During a department meeting, the subject of the UI Showcase was discussed. All members of the Frontend Engineering team were encouraged to contribute, as well as recruiting developers from other departments.

What do I do ? My mind was an empty cup, which can work really well for learning and a “student mentality”. For creativity… Not so much. So, I started by setting a goal.

The “purpose” of my UI experiment would be to re-imagine an existing Forbes.com feature. I decided to target image carousels and used a personal project component as a starting point. The first draft was functional, but looked like an early 2000s website.

That’s when I started looking for React animation libraries. The library I chose is well supported, has lots of weekly downloads, and is relatively simple to implement. It’s almost as simple as adding “movement”. to your JSX tags, then set the desired effect as properties in the opening tag.

After two months of internship… I had the privilege of working on more than two dozen pull requests. This included building unit test suites, debugging, fixing code quality issues, and creating new React components. I had the opportunity to contribute to the UI Showcase, participate in performance testing to support the React migration, and help write the report that was presented to management.

I actively participated in stand-up meetings, as well as pair programs with frontend engineers. With the Forbes Frontend Engineering team investing in me, I feel like I’m learning at an incredible pace. I only hope I was able to reciprocate by adding value with my contributions.

Thank you so much Forbes, for turning a dream of more than 20 years into reality!

-Pete Chu

Frontend Engineering Intern, Summer 2022

Gordon K. Morehouse