4. Touchdown in San Diego

Hey, everyone. These next few blogs may be split into separate categories of technology used on the job, such as programming practices and lessons learned, and personal experiences both in and outwith work. For this first one, however, I’ll go ahead and write it as a bit of both.

As you may have read in my previous post, I accepted an internship with Envision Solar, in San Diego, California. This was just before exams were due to take place so, inevitably, it was hard to keep focused knowing what was coming in the next few months. One big motivator to study was the fact that if I had failed an exam, the resit would be scheduled while I was in the USA. No idea how that would’ve played out. Thankfully, no resits here!

I’ll briefly describe the project I have over the summer. The job is titled as User Experience/ User Interface Engineer. I am to select a suitable Internet of Things enabled Backend-as-a-Service (Baas) to host a database in which all the EV charging solar systems sold by Envision Solar post their data to. This database is then going to be queried by client applications on Android, iOS, and the Web so that users can view important information about their solar system, such as the power produced, savings they will incur, and if vehicles are charging. Eventually these apps will also be able to control the systems remotely via Modbus Protocol. I am to develop all three of these client-facing apps as well as implement the database structure. No small feat for one person.

Right after finding out I’d received this placement, I spoke to my supervisor, Bryan, to find out if there was anything I should read up on before going over there. There was. A lot. It threw me off a bit, and I immediately began to doubt myself and my skillset. Bryan had asked me to read up on a list of things: programming languages HTML/CSS, PHP, Python, Java, Javascript and Swift, along with DB management skills, SQL/NoSQL, Internet of Things research, and some networking concepts. I had limited experience with HTML/CSS, Javascript, and SQL, and no prior experience whatsoever with PHP, Swift, NoSQL, or IoT. In the weeks leading up to the flight date on June 9th, I frantically tried to learn some of the stuff I had no experience with. As it turned out, I barely needed any of it whatsoever. More on that later.

We arrived at San Diego airport Saturday evening after an 11 hour flight from London. The jetlag hit us hard and we all went to bed at around 9pm that night. Wild, I know. The next day we took the chance to explore a beach Bryan recommended to us called La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya, as one of the other interns tragically found out in an Uber). Right in the middle of people on the beach were seals and sealions! They were everywhere and didn’t seem to mind people at all. Afterwards, we explored the rest of La Jolla. It turns out it’s one of the most luxurious parts of San Diego. Many art galleries line the street above the beach. A very cheery host in a natural world art gallery was eager to show us two pictures displaying the Scottish countryside. After visiting a Mexican restaurant recommended by the host, we went back to the apartment and prepared for the big first day ahead.


Reality still hasn’t sank in that we’re going to be working at a real company, producing real deliverables for their bottom line. As soon as we walk through the door of Envision Solar, we’re greeted by Andy who works in sales. He’s extremely peppy and welcoming. He gives us a brief tour whilst introducing us to most of the employees, including Bryan. The CEO, Desmond Wheatley, gave us a quick pep talk on how we’re here to work hard and play hard… but mostly work hard. He certainly gives the impression that he’s driven and I respect that. We were invited to attend his presentation to Leadership Women later that morning. The talk was mostly a promotional stunt for Envision Solar, whilst Desmond hit on key points relating to women in business and his personal belief in hiring of trainable people, regardless if they’re ex-cons. He pushed on the fact that he is a white male in a society run by white males, and his intentions for equality seemed clear. Not to mention he said the word “penis” three or four times to get his point across. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.

After Desmond’s talk, we had an opportunity to speak with all the women in attendance that day and hear their story. They had came from all over the US and plan to visit many businesses to hear talks and network. Then it was straight into the work. I met up with Bryan and we discussed tactics for the next 12 weeks. I’ll talk more about that in the next blog. I’m finally here. Game on.

La Jolla

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Written on June 14, 2018