They make Ponicode: our first intern Elio

Hello Ponicode community,

Sometimes it feels right to take the time to ask our team members to look back on their Ponicode experience and find out what we did right and what we did wrong. Our commitment to be a great place to work means a continuous improvement process. We thought we would share an interview of our first intern so you can get a glimpse into what makes our team magical. We strive to find the fine line between a fast paced startup  and an office culture that goes way beyond collaboration. Enough said, let’s hear it from Elio and see how he retrospectively looks at his experience at Ponicode.

Hello Elio, can you share with the Ponicode community who you are?

Hi everybody my name is Elio I am 25 years old, I previously worked in sales and I have a business background but I decided to shift to software engineering in 2019 and I signed up to study at 42. I decided to do my first internship 9 months into my studies thus becoming Ponicode’s first intern and its 6th employee.

I was hired as a software engineer, I helped the team on several development projects: some web tasks on the Ponicode.com website such as managing the incoming flow of visitors and new users. I also worked on documentation. Beside that I worked with the data team on projects such as writing a monitoring script.

Being a software engineer in a small startup team means that you have a continuous flow of tasks coming your way and you have to try to prioritize them the most efficiently possible. In a startup, the diversity of tasks can be quite broad: sometimes it is some back-end work, sometimes it can even be non tech tasks. Since the team was so small back then we had to get outside of our comfort zone and get hands on with business development and marketing. I personally enjoyed that variety which reinforced my understanding and my involvement in the global vision and ambition that Ponicode has.

Tell me more about why you chose to join Ponicode?

The first reason why I joined Ponicode was my interview process. Of course I was initially interested in the position but during my interviews the different team members took the time to show me their work at Ponicode and explain why they worked there. It showed me the great lot of energy and passion that drive them into this project. The combination of different personalities with unique backgrounds working towards a common goal left me with a very strong impression. Seeing passionate people aiming for success was a big trigger for me.

I already knew I wanted to join a very young company to counterbalance my previous experience in a 200+ employees wide company. I really wanted to experience what it is to be in a tech startup in its first year. I saw it as an opportunity to be more hands-on in the different projects, be more involved in the decision making process, and be heard by my management. Things that are not always possible in bigger companies.

What are the best and worst sides of your experience at Ponicode?

I don’t think there were. It is more a matter of having a match between your personality type and the startup culture. The whole point of a small structure is that you are led to deal with a lot of different topics in a fast paced process that has started before your arrival and will continue beyond. The Ponicode solution has changed so much over the course of my 6 month internship and it was absolutely fascinating to be part of this creative process and see how decisions made on a monday are put into action on tuesday and bring visible changes by friday. That start up DNA was the number one positive aspect of working at Ponicode against working in a big company.

Beyond that diversity in the daily life at Ponicode I think I found the tasks very rich and I was delighted to see there is a culture of listening and exchanging between co-workers. All along my internship my coworkers always paid attention to what I wanted to do and where my work interests were at.

The downside to this for some would be that you need to be eager to do things beyond the scope of what you were brought in for. You should have a start up friendly personality to work at Ponicode, be capable of going beyond your role and keep in sight that the only success criteria is the product and the company’s goal. If you are like that there will be no downside to your Ponicode journey.

I will have to admit that for me the confinement due to the covid-19 pandemic was a big downside too. I came to Ponicode and I had to work remotely only 3 weeks after I began. The perks of togetherness were lost, the more informal times where we can discuss and create some bonds were more difficult to create…

What did you learn at Ponicode that you couldn’t have learnt at university?

My university 42 has a very high requirement when it comes to code quality. If there is the slightest mistake in our code you will fail. That means meticulosity is a skill you need to adopt at an early stage. The reality of a startup is that time is of the essence and you need to be capable of shipping features quickly and moving onto the next step or iterate at speed.

I found out that a product is a fast evolving thing and that my coding skills needed to adapt to it. You should ship something even if it is only 90% ready in order to have a quick sense of the relevancy of your work and finish off the 10 last percent if you have market validation. Being too meticulous is a flaw for an early stage startup because it will impediment its capacity to bring a MVP to the market with the right timing.

If you are too slow you put the startup success in jeopardy. I also learned about team organisation and how several people can collaborate efficiently on the same solution thanks to sprints and accurate task timing. You become a responsible actor to a project and that is a very real skill to get that you might not learn in a university.

Ponicode also showed me that a young team can make great products. 20 years of experience in software engineering is not mandatory to have a vision and take the right decision to drive your creativity and energy in the direction of successful product development.

Last but not least, even though I didn’t initially join Ponicode because of artificial intelligence, working along with a team dedicated to creating AI was really interesting. I gravitated around their model making work and learned a great lot about it even if I was not directly involved in it.

What would you like to tell our future interns?

I think future interns should be eager to deal with a great diversity of tasks and not just be front-end focused or back-end focused or even just interested in only just one part of the product. I think interns should arrive with an open mind ready to learn a lot of things. Also I would recommend being capable of asking for help, knowing when you need the team supervision in order to move forward.

Finally I recommend not to take what Simon, our Tech Lead, says too literally. 😉

What was the most special moment in your internship?

The highlight of my internship was our public beta launch. It was a big day after a month of product development. Our team had the unique idea to take 2 days off from normal work and have everyone focus on marketing and communication for this product launch. It embodies the company DNA, everybody brought their creativity to the table and we had the opportunity to show our product to the world in our own words. It was really enlightening and confronting our ideas and personalities generated something really cool and funny.

Another meaningful moment was when I was invited to the company seminar even though my internship had already finished long beforehand which I think says a lot about how they care about the people who join the company’s journey. It was an amazing time and a real human experience. To be part of these few days where we gathered to look back at what was achieved and forward to what lies ahead for the company and have a meaningful conversation about Ponicode’s vision, values and the  team was amazing. I felt closer to the team.

Beyond that, I think I remember every time my features were put in production. It is always a very thrilling moment!

Thank you Elio for sharing your experience. We wish you good luck with your studies and we hope you will visit us soon.

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