During the 9th week at the office not many things changed. Routine is something that sooner or later gets us all unless you have some kind of adventurous job or lifestyle.
I kept handling the issues regarding computers and information systems. I started working on the code, appearance and content for a new website for the organization and I started getting my hands on the CMS (Content Management System) of the current one as well as getting a better idea about how the server worked (as the person responsible is on vacations I have to deduct some aspects of it).
I also started designing a proposal for new features such as an automated intern application intake in the website to ease the process and selection of future interns and increase the personal of the organization. I also proposed dividing the organization into concrete sections such that specific tasks and functions could be more easily assigned. My recommendation was to create 3 sections which I believe would be key factors in the expansion of the organization.
- An IT department with people in charge of the maintenance, upgrade and development of the resources of the organization.
- A Media Development department with people in charge of generating the news updates for the website, the graphical content such as banners and advertises, instructional videos for the services and so on.
- A Marketing & Public Relations department in charge of seeking new members and handling the old ones, publicizing the organizations work and working on the organization’s image through conferences, symposiums and academic gatherings.
Yet I found that from ideas to reality there is a wide gap and that expansion might not necessarily be the goal to achieve.
As my first week at the office began, the first issue was inserting me into the general workflow of the office and giving me an idea of how the systems worked, which programs were used, how the database of the organization was accessed, modified and uploaded and other routinary matters.
The second issue was deciding on which task I should focus first. As I was the first employee in the IT “department”, we had to first define an order of priorities as well as an order of possibilities. Unfortunately many of the main tasks that I thought I would be fulfilling were not possible to do at the time as many people who I needed to talk to were on vacations.
While my boss was arranging appointments with the necessary people and setting things up to give me access to the necessary resources, I was assigned to mostly two tasks. Evaluating the code of the website and the website applications and working on the maintenance of the troubled equipment which I have learned in the last couple years to be the most common task an IT person has to handle. There will be always an issue to solve in an environment where a bunch of computers are being used; Specially if the equipment has some years on it and if it is not being periodically cleaned.
Some of the most common issues that you will find are slowness, long boot times, freezes, overheating, outdated/unused/corrupted programs, bad drivers, lack of updates, issues on the system registers, overloaded system schedules, malware in general and so on…
Luckily I was able to clean all the systems, solve all the severe issues (a couple blue screens, viruses and computers not booting) and bring 4 computers back from the death. After which one of my coworkers pointed out another issue, “Now we don’t have enough people to use all the computers!”.
The rest of the week was pretty relaxed. I had a couple more meeting with the person in charge of me to sort out some doubts, plan tasks and discuss what could be done to improve the systems. Instead of being faced with requirements, objectives or a defined “mission” I was basically given all the freedom in the world, which was unexpectedly dazzling. As cliche as it might sound, having too much freedom also brings a lot of responsibility. When you are not being told or required to do something specific, you have to face the questions “What do I require from myself?” and “How far should I set the goals in order to achieve the most, but not drown in the process?
All in all it was a good and productive week and I really enjoyed the routine as well as the working environment!
After meeting my friend from Argentina in Berlin, we decided to go on an adventure around Europe!
We had to spend a couple more days in Berlin so I could finish wrapping up some of the things that I was working on and making the necessary arrangements to leave. As soon as all the responsibilities were dealt with, we took a plane to our first stop, London!
The first impressions of the city were great! The first interactions with bus drivers were not so nice.. but after arriving on the house of some friends, getting our Oyster-Cards (the cards necessary to use public transportation) and getting an Internet connections to send e-mails and keep up with the deadlines for my online courses, things got a lot better.
To be honest, I made very little progress regarding research for the internship during this week, but at least I got to set foot on the United Kingdom for the first time in my life and I got to experience another city’s lifestyle. I must say that even though London is very nice and I would love to spend some more time there, I would not choose it as a place to start a long lasting career. Most of the city is quite calm, but the critic parts such as Waterloo are so crowded by tourists that it becomes quite hard to actually do anything. The value of the currency there compared to the American dollars or even to the Euros added to the high costs of the public transportation can become excruciating very fast. Also as far as I saw, there was little presence of technology-related companies. IBM was the only big name that I saw in the city, although after researching I could find some smaller companies.
After finishing visiting all the iconic places such as the London Eye, the Big Ben and the famous palaces and doing all the classic silly things as posing for the Abbey Road picture and getting a photo with a British police officer, we headed towards our next destination.
Amsterdam was our second city of choice. From the first moment it was shockingly beautiful, extremely relaxed and also quite crowded and expensive. After some issues with our hostel reservations (a good lesson learned there was always to double check not only the day but also the month and the year of your online reservations) we managed to find a cheap place to spend our nights. Having solved that issue, we left our bags and set sail to explore the city. We were both astonished! Never before had we seen such a beautifully fascinating mixture of streets and canals. There were hundreds of colorful little bridges connecting one block to the next one and boats passing underneath every couple minutes. The houses were also very interesting. All of them were bended towards the front to ease the uploading of merchandise to the higher floors and most of them were bended towards the sides due to the unstable foundations of the city. It was once of the nicest cities that I have seen so far, and I must say that there is certain beauty in the freedom that one can see in Holland, which is not only limited to prostitution and drugs.
Although there was much more to see from Europe, the freedom that I could allow myself reached it’s limit so my friend and I had to take different roads. He took a train to Paris, a couple days later another train to Barcelona and finally a plane to Argentina. I on the other hand, took an early train to Berlin to keep working and prepare for my arrival in Bremen were I would finally meet the office.
It was a really overwhelming week in all possible sense. And now that I have time to sit down and process it, I would like to say:
1) Some people choose to change to accompany the changes in life while some people prefer to avoid that pain. Whether you are one or the other it’s up to you, but keep in mind that the people around also face that decision. Don’t assume that they will follow the same path as you and don’t assume that because in the past you used to see each other eye to eye, so you will now.
2) Be mindful of your situation and your resources, but also be mindful of the chances you have in your life right now. Things such as money can be a cruel reality but you never know if you will be in the place in which you are right now and have the same opportunities. If you already made a huge effort to get to visit a different country, 5 Euros won’t destroy your credit history but they could become a wonderful memory.
3) As you start facing the world alone, you will come to realize that sacrifices are an inescapable truth. Unless you have the fortune of counting with unlimited time, everlasting health, unbreakable psychological resistance and an overflowing bank account, you will have to deal with not getting everything that you wanted and sometimes even enduring things you wont like. This might seem like common sense but one should also understand that the magnitude and the quantity of these sacrifices grow in parallel with time and you can’t turn this off.
The last week finally arrived and with it also came the time to say goodbye and prepare for a new beginning in a new city, Berlin.
Frankfurt an Der Oder was a great first impression of Europe and a great place to meet people both personally and professionally. The language course and the workload from the seminar and the excursions were not too demanding, which allowed me to carry out the work for my internship and also (as it was mentioned on the previous posts) to explore some options for the future.
I found a place to stay in Berlin thanks to a professor from Dickinson and I was able to easily move to Frankfurt with all my belongings thanks to one of the people that I met there. This was a great weight off my shoulders, so I cannot emphasize enough what a great resource networking is.
Once in Berlin I got to meet with a friend from Argentina, so I did take some time of to visit some of the most important landmarks of the city including the Brandenburger Tor, Alexanderplatz and the remains of the wall of Berlin. Another incredibly interesting characteristic of Berlin is the amount of cultures that blend and make the city so unique.
Going back to business Berlin has been a tough place to continue with my work for the internship as internet connections are very complicated to get () and so one has to either go to a coffee shop or to a “shared work space” but all of this ends adding up to a lot of money. Fortunately I will be going to Bremen and start working at the main office in just a matter of days!
I have officially passed the 1 month milestone since I arrived in Germany and since I started working for the Stiftung Frauen-Literatur-Forschung. It has been indeed a very mixed and interesting experience as I spent my time not only working but also studying at Viadrina University, getting familiar with the Polish and German culture and socializing with people from all over the world thanks to the Erasmus Student Network in Europe.
I must say that despite the bad fame that Frankfurt Oder has and the yearly steadily decrease in town population, this is quite a nice place. There is always something to do or get involved into, the proximity to Poland and to the Oder river are very charming and both the university and the town administration are always organizing events.
Regarding my work for the internship, I focused my research during this week on mostly one field, server maintenance. Particularly external conditions that can affect the performance of a system such as temperature, integrity of the components and cleanness of the environment. I also covered some ground on optimal operative systems for server mounting and stripping of unnecessary services and processes to achieve higher performance.
I also came across a very useful resource for server tips, maintenance, upgrade and many other related topics. It is the Microsoft TechNet Magazine online catalog (TechNet homepage) which records a formidable amount of notes and excerpts from books and journals written by professionals with decades of experience on the field. There are entries covering all levels of knowledge, from very basic and general concepts of servers to very specific and unusual tweaks.
During the past 4th week of the internship the workload was pretty much the same. It is interesting to experience that unlike in a class, the topics and issues that you have to deal with at work can remain constant for long periods of time. I am still working my way through books and guides about databases, servers and applications and thinking about possible ways to improve the system at the organization.
I dedicated part of the week to the task of finding more markets in Germany with need for professionals with backgrounds in informatics and engineering. I found encouraging reports and a lots of job/internship/formation offers in the automotive industry and in the oil and natural gas production companies such as Audi and Wintershall. I will be considering this options while looking for a second internship during my stay here in Germany.
During the weekend I went on an excursion to Krosno Odrzańskie, Poland and to Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany both in the edge of the Oder river. The trip included a 4 hour boat trip in which I could prepare a list of questions for my employer and coworkers to comply with the “interview” requirements of the program.
With all the passion for the world cup this 3rd week passed amazingly fast!
After moving into the next round thanks to the victory against the US and also after today’s new victory against Algeria, national proud if overflowing on every corner. Almost all passing cars have 2, 3 or even 4 flags, balconies all over town are pained in black, red and yellow and fireworks are keeping us up all night hahaha.
Besides the excitement for the Weltmeisterschaft or WM (World Championship in German) this week of work has been pretty standard. No trips to Berlin, Bremen or Frankfurt – simply attending my language classes, learning on my own vocabulary specific to my field of study and deciphering the instructions of the software that was used 10 years ago to create the database.
I must say that I have found the following tools particularly useful and that I would recommend them to anybody going through a similar experience.
The first one is Evernote, an amazing software that can help you create quick notes, reminders, manage your schedule and more. You can install it both on your computer and cellphone and everything gets synchronized automatically. This means that if you suddenly forgot one of those complicated German words, you can look it up wherever your are pretty quickly.
The second one is a tool almost as old as language itself but presented in a very modern wrapping. An online dictionary, particularly “Leo” dictionary (https://dict.leo.org) is excellent resource to keep at hand. It can not only translate German words into English, Spanish, Russian, French or Chinese, but it can also give you examples and phrases so you can see how a certain is used and get a better grasp of it.
And lastly is the software “MySQL Workbench OSS Edition” (Warning: Check for the open source keyword, OSS! Otherwise you will have to pay for the program). This program is very helpful to try out, test and play with databases. Test out your structures and see how some some requests are handled.
During the past second week of work I have been doing an intensive language course at Viadrina University in order to master the German language and therefore be able to communicate better while doing my internship, in my daily life and also preparing for a future year of study and a possible second internship.
I am still working my way through the previously mentioned books, guides, manuals and diagrams of databases in order to gain a deeper understanding on how the database of the organization could be improved as well as some code examples and applications to get ideas for renewing the search engine and the website that hosts the database service.
I also had to do a trip to Berlin during the weekend in order to meet with my internship contact, coordinator and advisor in Bremen. During the meeting we discussed the tasks that I was expected to fulfill and planned the dates of the meetings and visits that I will be having with the people working at the office in Bremen and drafted a plan on what I should achieve during the weeks of August. I also got to see part of the city and try some amazing typical pastries and meals such as berliners, brotchen und rostbratwurst breakfast and käsebrot.
After having taken two planes, four trains, two buses and walked 25 blocks with two 50 pound suitcases I finally arrived my apartment in Frankfurt Oder, the town in Germany right in the frontier with Poland where I was supposed complete a language course that would prepare me for both my internship and my future year abroad in Bremen University.
As with many other things that I had planned before moving continents, the time frames that I had designated to my language courses and to my internship were changed slightly. Yet in this occasion the change was not for the later but rather sooner!
As the language program showed to be quite flexible in terms of workload and quite allowing in terms of time, it was possible for me extend the time of my internship and start getting some hands on remotely in parallel with my classes.
During this first week I have mostly gone through an “introductory” stage. I am taking advantage of the resources that the organization provided me to get familiarized with the system that they are currently implementing as well as with some external material regarding database design and handling including the textbooks “Beginning MySQL Database Design and Optimization: From Novice to Professional” by Chad Russell, Jon Stephens, “SQL Performance Tuning” by Peter Gulutzan, Trudy Pelzer and “High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, Replication, and More” by Baron Schwartz, Peter Zaitsev, Vadim Tkachenko, Jeremy D. Zawodny, Arjen Lentz, Derek J. Balling.
This possibility of interlocking my language courses with the research stage of my internship will allow me to make a more efficient use of the time that I will spend in the office of the organization.