Interning at EZTABLE this summer has been a fun, exciting and enlightening experience. I was led to EZTABLE through AppWorks, and they seemed more interested in my old and rusty programming background. Prior to this experience, I was desperately searching for my future career path, and programming was not on the list of candidates. However, my experience working at EZTABLE as an Android developer has deepened my insight in regards to the world of jobs and what one’s background should look like. It especially boosted my self-confidence, both in regards to my own competence as a programmer but also in my ability to decide on a future career path. Finally, the experience as a whole was a very fun and gratifying one which I shall certainly remember in the distant future.
I am a self-taught programmer, and this comes with its pros and cons. I started to learn web development around the age of thirteen. Prior to that I spent quite a lot of time online opening various kinds of discussions boards using pre-made platforms such as phpBB. However, I wanted to start my own websites and design them to do exactly what I wanted. I thus started with the basics, first learning front-end programming and subsequently back-end. As a beginner, everyone suggested I start with PHP and MySQL since they are very widespread.
Many people have asked me why I did not pursue computer science in college. It all comes down to one problem: mathematics. Programming only doubled my already existing hatred for the subject. While certainly helpful, one does not necessarily need to be a math god to be able to write code. With proper reading and practice, programming is an open world available to all those who fully dedicate themselves to it. The math requirements for CS majors repelled me, and I decided to keep it a “hobby” or simply work as a freelancer, which I did for a startup upon moving to Los Angeles. When that startup was aborted by its founder, I found myself in a rather difficult financial situation, and decided to work part-time at various jobs while focusing on my studies. My studies would keep me busy for a good four years, during which I did not write much code (learning Chinese has been a time-consuming challenge as well!). That was until I arrived at EZTABLE.
While searching for an internship, I realized that even though four years of college surely has taught me a lot, it did not help me make much progress in regards to my future career. After all, what kind of jobs does Asian studies lead one to? Translation? No thanks, I’ll pass. I certainly did not waste time, college was a time of personal growth and where I obtained an excellent education, both in general subjects and in Asian Studies; I was also able to explore various kinds of jobs while working part-time. Arriving on my first day at EZTABLE for an interview, Atwood’s offer for me to join the Android team was a surprise to me. I did not think any employer would look past the two words “Asian Studies.” Indeed, I thought my future prospects as a programmer were doomed the day I stopped writing code and started learning Chinese instead. I decided to toughen up and give it a try. After all, this might be my last and only chance to get back on the boat.
I will always remember that interview, especially when I was told “you have four weeks to learn Java.” It was a challenge I had long not been given, either by myself or by someone else. At the time I was still taking classes at National Taiwan University, which limited my time. I would learn the usual way: read brief tutorials, brief language references, do local tests, read “Dos and Don’ts” articles etc… The best way to learn after all, just like [human] languages, is to simply start coding! Having prior experience with programming certainly helped me learn Java faster, however the multi-thread and event-based nature of the language was a challenge during my first few weeks writing the Android application. As a matter of fact, writing Java for the first time in the Android environment was both a challenge but also a big help in itself. While online documentation (e.g., Stack Overflow, android doc, oracle doc) is certainly plentiful, it still took a short while to accustom myself to the different environments. Furthermore, the EZTABLE Android SDK was also an extra challenge and help.
The EZTABLE Android SDK was a clear example of the importance of team work. To Annie and I, the SDK was very helpful in that it laid important grounds to start developing the Hong Kong tourist app and provided many useful functions. However, it also felt like a jungle at times and we only discovered the existence of some functions after having coded them ourselves. Make no mistake here: I wish not to criticize the SDK or its developers, but simply wish to point at the importance of properly familiarizing oneself with the team’s code upon arrival. Indeed, when working within a team, in addition to being fast and efficient, code should be well-formatted and properly documented, with clear comments wherever needed; this is a practice I’ve tried to keep for ages, but it was nonetheless a good reminder. In addition to the aforementioned points, GIT is a crux of team work. While it surely has a learning curve, its importance is not to be debated and thus should be mastered within the smallest time frame as possible. Working with Annie, and later with Leo, proper GIT procedures had to be clearly established and regularly followed (I.E., frequent commits & clean branching). Working at EZTABLE certainly was a great lesson of team work.
Writing our application was not limited to our own ability and time, but also depended on the input of other teams within the company. I could not express how pleasant and fun it was to work with Nisha, our project manager. Nisha is a master of team organizing and keeping everyone updated and on track on the latest directives, decisions and issues. Indeed, we often had to wait for data input, but had to keep coding in the meanwhile. This taught me to be flexible in my working style and be ready to face the reality that radical changes may occur at any given moment. Annie and I arrived precisely when the API for articles was in the process of being changed, causing us to have to re-write a portion of the code. Some of the data given to us depended fully on us to be implemented, and we thus had to think of solutions that would best fit within the existing data structure. While it seemed a little stressful for us at first, I cannot fathom what Nisha must endure on a daily basis. Despite this, she always remains calm and friendly to everyone, keeping all of the teams functional and happy at all times. Thanks Nisha!! (Side note: this experience has even caused me consider Project Management as a very desirable option in the future.)
Finally, I came to realize that a career depends not necessarily on one’s educational background, but solely on one’s determination. Many people at EZTABLE who excel at their positions and duties did not necessarily study the matter in college but perform excellently. All it takes is passion and enthusiasm for what one loves to do in life; this is a respectable lifestyle. This might seem a little cheesy but to me remains a hard fact. My own experience writing the Hong Kong tourist app has lead to me fully reconsider my future career plans and while I am still open to new experiences, programming has definitely made it to the top of the ladder. Most importantly, I leave this great company with stronger self-confidence, knowing in the future that with determination, one can overcome any challenge.
I have very high regards for the employees at EZTABLE and the atmosphere that everyone strives to bring together. I could not be more grateful to have interned in such a great company this summer. I would like to personally thank all of the people I got to meet during the past three months and for what they have taught me personally and professionally. I would furthermore like to thank Alex, Atwood, Blaise, Mike, and Nisha for the opportunities, experiences and help they have given me. I could not express how lucky I have been to work with Annie this summer; Annie’s liveliness, honesty, great teamwork skills, and willingness to help are all things I hope people she meets in the future will notice and appreciate. I have made many friends within all teams (and not “departments”..!) this summer and I could not be more grateful about how life-enhancing their presence has been. Once again, Thank you EZTABLE!
Christopher Burroughs, intern of EZTABLE
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