Learning experience

Pilot fish and his classmate are winding up their college degrees in computer programming, and they have one last hurdle to clear: an unpaid internship to get some real-world IT experience.

"We both completed the internship requirement by working for two months at a startup," says fish. "It was a very small startup -- the owner was basically self-employed and had no other employees, and was working on three C# apps."

The three apps share some similarities, and fish can't understand why his new boss doesn't just develop a common code core for all of them. But fish figures he's the boss, so it's his decision to develop them all separately.

That means fish, his classmate and the boss each get an app to work on, with the boss providing guidance and help if needed.

Fish has never developed code in C#, so the first thing he does is to buy a book and study up. Within a few days he's made enough progress to start writing useful code.

"Meanwhile, my colleague was struggling mightily," fish says. "He asked me if I could send him my code, which I did. Since the applications were similar, all he had to do was to edit a few things to adapt the code to his needs."

But that doesn't really help. Classmate pastes fish's code into his own, but he can't get it to compile. Fish doesn't have time to provide more help, and the classmate ends up commenting out all the new code.

The boss checks on their work from time to time, and he sees that fish's code is well on its way, while the classmate still where he started.

So the boss gives the classmate more time. But after a while, it becomes clear that there's no progress in sight for the classmate's app -- either his skills aren't up to the task or he just doesn't grasp how C# works, and he's not likely to any time soon.

"The boss asked my colleague if he wanted to do help files with HTML formatting instead," says fish. "The guy protested that he was there to learn, and that HTML help files didn't give him any opportunity to learn anything.

"So the boss fired him from the unpaid internship.

"Lesson learned."

If Sharky has learned one thing, it's that everybody has a story. So send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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