Three Things I Learned at a 150-Person Startup

Small server board with circuits

The “Energy Card” I used to test new scripts.

In the summer of 2013, I began my first internship at Calxeda. At first, I knew little about Calxeda itself, other than it was a 150-person company recently founded to design servers, and that I was a software intern. And since I had just completed my freshman year of college, I had no idea what to expect.

These are a few things I learned that summer:

The best way to learn is by doing

Most of my time at Calxeda was spent writing server tools and unit tests in Python, a language I had almost no experience in. Even worse, I needed to use the Linux Terminal, another tool I had rarely used.

I learned on the job by trial-and-error: writing code and querying the Internet when I didn’t know how to do something. Others at Calxeda were wonderfully smart and helped me whenever I asked. By the end of the internship, I was proficient in Python and Terminal, Git, and many other tools my classmates had yet to touch.

It’s okay to make mistakes

Due to a manufacturing defect, some of the server boards had some of their ports attached backwards. This led to me accidentally breaking a board (actually, two of them).

Later in the internship, I accidentally deleted all the variations of Linux off of a PXE server.

In both cases, I alerted the team lead. I was never punished for these errors, and I did my best to fix them. Towards the end of the internship, everyone (included myself) laughed at the mistakes we made in the beginning.

There’s still a ton to learn

Even after upgrading the firmware of several dozen servers, it took me several more months to truly understand what “firmware” meant. Nor could I identify half the cables in a server box, despite using them on a weekly basis. To this day, I still have to look at Stack Overflow for certain Git commands.

It turns out what my high school computer science teacher said was true:

The more you know, the more you realize there is to know.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn at Calxeda. In the following years, I was able to apply what I learned at UT, Multimedia Games, and Infusion. I enjoyed working at Calxeda, and I wish all my teammates the best for the future.

What did you learn at your first job?

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4 Responses to Three Things I Learned at a 150-Person Startup

  1. Pingback: CS Internship Guide #1: Create Personal Projects | Startup Helium

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