11. Signing Off

This blog is whizzing over the internet to my website from 30,000 feet in the air. Don’t you just love the 21st century? Somehow I feel this is the best chance I have to really think over my internship experience at Envision Solar, San Diego. Likely because this truly marks the end of my time in the USA this summer - you could say I’m reminiscent - but also because it’s currently 9pm and I won’t arrive home until 8pm tomorrow - I’m not exactly lacking in free time.

I have had a wonderful time in the States, and I learned a hell of a lot along the way. Not just in a technical sense, but also on a personal level. I now have a better idea of what I’m capable of when I put my mind to it, an improved sense of worth and confidence, and an awareness of what work needs to be done to better myself intellectually and emotionally.

The American culture has rubbed off on me, too. No doubt, I’m going to be berated for a change in my language if I’m not careful. Ten weeks may not seem like a long enough time to alter how I speak, but I was just offered service from the trolley and I asked if they had any “sodas”. It’s not like I was even trying to accommodate the host; this is a British Airways flight. I’m actually struggling to remember what I used to say instead of the word “soda”. I’ve also noticed I now say “for sure” a lot. Positive affirmation? This kills the British cynic in me.

Let me move on to the experience at Envision Solar itself. Without getting too technical, I’d like to sum up what I have achieved whilst there, just in terms of the products I was working on. If you have been following my previous blogs, I discussed the overall goal of the internship right from the very beginning, as I was lucky enough to knew what I would be working on before I even arrived in the US. It then became a matter of iteratively researching, manoeuvring some tricky obstacles, collaborative designing, and coding. The project I was assigned was to comprehensively research and select an appropriate database backend, write Python scripts to upload customers’ realtime system data, and design and implement Android and iOS applications to link with the backend and view the data.

It’s no surprise that ten weeks seemed like a short period of time to complete this project, especially as the software/computer engineering department consisted of, well, me. However, my supervisor was helpful in discussing requirements and solving many issues I had, and I would have fallen far behind without him. There were a couple of minor caveats before I even began the project: firstly, I hadn’t programmed an Android app in around two years, and, secondly, I had never programmed an iOS app (Swift). I’m happy to report that my Android coding experience came flooding back with relative ease. I did attempt to learn Kotlin for Android, as this language is the new kid on the block that everyone raves about. “Java is dead!” early adopters screamed. I tried it and then almost immediately reverted back to ol’ faithful Java for the sake of time. When it was iOS’s turn, I gave myself approximately a week to learn XCode and Swift well enough to be able to implement our app for Envision. The hardest part was understanding the mesh between the UI and the functional code, but the Swift language itself was straightforward enough due to my knowledge of Object-Oriented languages. By the end of the internship, I became pretty comfortable in developing with Swift.

I was still adding and amending code well into the weekend after the internship was over, and even today I’m in contact with my supervisor for quick fixes, but I’m pretty confident in saying that I achieved what was asked of me. I would have liked to have implemented some features that are not evident in my final applications; I would have liked to have cleaned up the code a little for any future maintainers; and I also would have preferred to have had the apps released before I left the company, because currently I’m still kind of “on call” for any issues or small changes. Once the applications have been released on their respective stores, I’ll update this post with screenshots.

To finish up, this summer in California was a fantastic experience, and I am proud to have provided Envision Solar with products that they will use for both themselves and their customers. As a result of the internship, I have far greater confidence in working in team environments, asking questions, opening discussions, and conquering daunting tasks. I would like to thank Saltire Programmes for this life changing experience and everyone at Envision Solar for hosting me this summer. Good luck to the next round of Saltire Scholars and Envision Solar interns. I cannot recommend both companies enough. Here’s to the future.

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Written on September 4, 2018