Sit down and learn more about the ins and outs of a First Mode internship with program alum Tyler Weir, graduate in computer science and physics from the University of Puget Sound and member of our Embedded Software Team!
Congratulations on making the transition from intern to full-time engineer at First Mode, Tyler! Can you tell us a bit about your experience and how you’re feeling now that you’re in this full-time role?
I love being a full-time engineer here at First Mode. The embedded software team is an absolute joy to work on. Since it’s a small team, I’ve gotten to work on a variety of different problems rather than just be focused on a narrow domain, which has really helped to improve my software engineering abilities. It’s exciting to watch myself become more and more capable. It’s equally exciting to continue to be challenged and know that there’s so much more to learn.
What do you enjoy most about working for First Mode?
I feel like the work I do at First Mode really matters and I’m involved in something bigger than just a job. I usually have to hold back my excitement when I tell people outside of work about what I do. I mean, how cool is it to write code that will run in a zero-emission, ultra-class haul truck? I always get so inspired seeing videos of our proof-of-concept truck driving around and I’m thrilled to help develop the next generation of trucks.
I also love the breadth of experience I’m gaining working at the intersection of so many domains. Who would have thought a career in software would lead me to become a certified miner? I also really like writing code that controls actual hardware. Some of my favorite times here at work are spent down at our SoDo research and development facility working to get our software to correctly control the hardware.
What were your hopes for the internship going into it?
I was very excited to learn how to work alongside other developers and shift my solo schoolwork to a professional team environment.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the transition and how did you overcome them?
It was deciding not to continue with my plans to attend grad school and get a master’s degree in software engineering—choosing instead to continue my First Mode journey. It was a hard choice to make, and I consulted software blogs/forums and multiple people while I made it.
My initial motivation to go to grad school was to continue learning and become a better software engineer. But upon reflection of my internship, I realized that I was learning so much here at First Mode that I didn’t really need to go anywhere else. Further, multiple resources mentioned how the best resource a software engineer could possibly have is a strong, smaller-sized team. Such teams offer a breadth of problem spaces to work in, along with knowledgeable team members to help provide mentorship. That’s exactly what I found here at First Mode.
In what ways did your responsibilities or tasks change when you became a full-time engineer?
I began to take on work more directly related to our team’s goals. For instance, one of the very first things I worked on as an intern was writing code to get our brand-new HD+ fuel cell up to its standby state. Fast forward to be hired, I was working to help set up the environment in which we’re building our new software system.
How did your relationships with your colleagues or managers evolve during the transition, if at all?
I think it was going from being called “intern” to “esteemed colleague” ironically. In all seriousness, I always felt like I was treated as a colleague, not a liability or a burden. Now that I’ve settled into this role, I communicate much more with my colleagues and customers about the work I am doing.
Did you receive any additional training or support during the transition, and if so, how did that help you?
The transition was honestly very smooth, especially with the support I received that helped me make the decision to not pursue grad school. One of the biggest things to reaffirm my decision was when my team hosted an “Intern jersey retirement ceremony.” They had had an intern jersey made with my employee number on it (#260), which they hung above my desk as a surprise. I still have it hanging and I’ll keep it there as long as I’m here at First Mode. They also made a video featuring interviews of everyone saying their favorite thing about my internship. All of this made me feel so loved and welcomed—I’m so grateful to be a part of such an amazing team.
Did you develop any skills during your internship that have carried over to your position now?
I learned the value of communicating with my colleagues and mentors. Throughout most of school, I was determined to figure everything out by myself, so I rarely reached out for help or worked with others. While this behavior got me by, my internship showed me I could be much more successful by collaborating and reaching out for help when needed. Everyone around me has such a wealth of knowledge that helps me grow and overcome harder problems with greater ease than before.
What advice would you give to other interns out there who are hoping to secure a full-time position here/or somewhere else in the same industry?
Reach out early and let your intentions to come on full time be known. I told my manager relatively early in my internship that I was interested in staying here full time if such an opportunity existed. This jump started the hiring process and showed that I was serious about becoming a contributing member of the team. The end of the internship comes fast and, frankly, sneaks up on everyone. It would’ve been such a shame to have missed out on this role simply because I was afraid of putting myself out there.