For many Code2College students, the paid, technical internship is a transformative professional and personal experience. The novelties and challenges that arise from working alongside professional coders on long-lasting projects can result in not only stronger technical abilities, but in greater self-confidence and tenacity. Laila, a rising high school sophomore, is no exception. She wrapped up her first technical internship with our Visionary Partner VMWare, an innovative cloud computing and virtualization company that provides multi-cloud services for apps. Working with VMWare, she learned entirely new coding languages, integrated apps with browser extensions and became successful with troubleshooting problematic code. But less than a year prior, she was entering her freshman year of high school – and had never coded a thing in her life.
“I’ve always loved technology,” says Laila, who gave Code2College a try after hearing about it during freshman orientation. She thought the coding courses could be a great opportunity to invest into herself and gain clarity on different career opportunities in tech. But two weeks into her very first course, she doubted herself and nearly quit. “Everything was just so new!” She admitted to being a little nervous to speak to others initially, but once she started asking questions, things got much easier. “Code2College really got me out of my comfort zone and taught me to be more comfortable with asking a lot of questions.” She felt empowered to stick out the course, and after completing it, quickly enrolled in two additional courses to qualify for the upcoming round of internship interviews.
Even with all of her courses successfully completed, she wasn’t sure if she was capable of getting the internship. “I was a total newcomer. Everyone in my class had more experience than me, so I was nervous.” Nevertheless, she prepared for her interview through Code2College’s professional development and interview training workshops. Finally, the waiting and the suspense came to an end – she had her very first internship offer from VMware! She was thrilled of course, and laughs to herself, “Code2College really prepared me well for the interview. I was nervous for nothing!”
Laila enjoyed all of her projects at VMware. From coding an entirely new event function for a music streaming app to working on language and currency translations for browser extensions, Laila was excited by the independence and responsibility of her role. “You’re really treated like an adult. My mentor [at VMware] encouraged me to explore and learn on my own.” Learning on her own, incidentally, entailed navigating unique communication challenges – her supervisor was based in Eastern Europe and 10 hours ahead of her! “When I’m working, he’s sleeping, and when he’s working, I’m sleeping! So when I woke up I would try to get a meeting with him before he ended his day.” Needless to say, she feels her communication skills are extra sharp following this collaboration!
By far her biggest challenge, Laila says, came from trying to integrate an app called React with a Google extension. No matter what she tried, she kept getting back error after error. Her VMware mentor had no doubts about Laila’s technical abilities, but offered help if she really wanted it. Like her very first Code2College course, Laila was determined to figure it out and see it through, this time on her own. However, with the deadline approaching the next evening, she could feel the stress and the pressure mount. It was then she realized that taking some time away from the work would benefit her in the long run. “I just closed my computer and thought, ‘okay I’m just gonna take a breather.’” When she returned to the project the following day, she came back refreshed and motivated, and felt herself “lock in” to the task at hand. Shortly thereafter, she had her eureka moment – her code was finally working!
She laughs and smiles broadly as she relives her success. “I was telling everybody in my house, ‘I did it! I did it!’ They had no idea what was going on, they were like, ‘What is this? What are you showing me?’ I was just so so happy.” Her mentor was very happy, too. After receiving the exciting update, she congratulated Laila on her successful integration and sent her a message on Slack: “See? I told you you could do it by yourself!”
Laila replied back: “Yeah… you did!”
Looking back on her experiences with Code2College and VMware, Laila feels she’s grown so much in a variety of ways. She’s much more outgoing and comfortable with bringing inquiries to people she doesn’t know well, which has helped her work more efficiently with technical teams like VMware. Her international collaboration with her supervisor showed her how to prioritize and ensure reliable communication no matter the constraints. And finally, she’s seen her confidence and resolve strengthen from that hardwon coding breakthrough. “It can be hard at times, but you just have to persevere and do your best.” Although she hasn’t chosen a specific profession yet, Laila is confidently making plans to major and pursue a career in STEM.
We are so grateful to count VMware among our Visionary Partners – those who hire our Code2College high school summer technical interns. Since 2021, VMware has been providing critical growth experiences that allow our diverse technical talent to tap into and realize their professional and individual potential. We are thrilled by VMware’s support of our community and their empowerment of the next generation of diverse STEM professionals like Laila.