After a few internships, it’s become obvious they are the best way for a recent grad to gain their elusive “relevant experience.” An intern is usually given lots to pick up at once, and a more than likely chance to make and learn from mistakes. Whether it’s the right internship though, is a whole other, higher-level bag of questions. The developer internship at Filament has been the best choice in every way. And I only came across the opportunity through the kind introduction of a mutual contact! To think I may never have even known about Filament and its incredible team of designers and developers is unthinkable today.
Back when I first started, my understanding of web development and the creative and tech industries was fairly minimal. I had just finished a nine-week intensive dev bootcamp, mostly in back-end development with Ruby on Rails. Before that, I’d gone through two internships in the digital publishing industry, realizing that I desired a bigger challenge in my day-to-day tasks. It was a matter of knowing at the end of the day that you’ve not only tackled difficult problems, but that you’re using your best strengths to their fullest capacities. I’ve gotten a taste for what makes web development so rewarding for many others in this field. And when your talents align with what’s in demand in the real world – that’s when waking up in the morning is better than going to bed at night.
Delving deeper and looking back, there were unique elements and experiences to this internship that made me so excited to come in early every morning. The Filament team is seriously interested in and involved with each client. It shows in the work they do for them. They have one of the most well researched design processes and the most finely tuned, coordinated team I’ve come across. In other words, they’re small but deadly. It was immediately clear to me what their values were when I first interviewed with them. When given ten minutes to google my answers to the twenty-or-so most obscure and strange trivia questions as a skills test, I knew this place was different. My skills and experience mattered to them of course, but they were interested in my character traits of resourcefulness and my ability to work under pressure – with a sense of humour. Working in such an environment was exactly what had been so sadly missing from my early career.
What’s been essential to my progress is the attitude of constant improvement. In a team of people who strive to do their best work, and better, every single step of the way, you’d best get in a similar groove. The googling skill test in the interview was a way to instil very early on that you will need to find answers on your own here. For instance, I had to quickly find out how to optimize the loading time of Adobe Edge animations on the landing page of an existing client’s website. I was also once given the multitudinous task of fixing a whole round of QA issues of a client located on the other coast of the continent. They were purely my responsibility to figure out how to do best under a time crunch. But when it came down to how Filament does what they do, they were excited to help me learn. Ask the right questions – about their internal process, about what they believe are the best methods. When I did, I found that everyone was a supportive, enthusiastic mentor.
In fact, your informed opinion matters here. I had the chance to attend a jQueryTO conference this year back in March with Filament’s Front-End Developer, my most directly supportive mentor here. I quickly realized that my starry-eyed newbie point of view was different from a more experienced perspective. Our discussions about recent developments – and the lesser fads of the day – in our industry are thoughtful, which forces me to evaluate and apply innovations more critically. I also gave a “lunch and learn” presentation on a what a git workflow involves. It helped to fast-forward a conversation on how we could work together even more effectively as developers on different operating systems. (Our most experienced, senior developer works from out of the office and not on a mac.) As an intern, I was a true contributing member of the team, both in finding solutions and coming to a consensus on strategy.
Above all, each of us aspire to find meaningful work in our lives. Evidently, everyone here at Filament have found, according to each of their own definitions, what that is for them. It just took me a more meandering path to get here. And when I try to articulate what it is that’s so satisfying for me to work at Filament, it’s very similar to what certain psychologists call “flow.” Among other insights that Krznaric references in his book called How to Find Fulfilling Work, I found the idea of being in a state of flow to be most revealing:
A flow experience is one in which we are completely and unselfconsciously absorbed in whatever we are doing. As Csikszentmihalyi puts it, we are ‘so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.’
(You can find a compact, but inspiring summary of the book here, http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/04/23/how-to-find-fulfilling-work-roman-krznaric/).
The development work at Filament has been so conducive to this state that I’ve often stayed well past 6pm just to keep it going. Yes, I needed to get a lot more done at different points in the internship, but I really got hooked on staying “in the zone.” It’s no longer clear whether I’m just having fun or whether I’m working really hard. Why should there be a distinction? Flow is only possible at a workplace where everyone is intensely concerned with quality results, iterative improvement, and has autonomy in how to achieve those goals. In true Filament tradition, I’d like to coin a term “flowament”: when interns find out that it’s really fun to work here! But it’s also really challenging and hard! I’m serious.