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Internship Dilemma

By texas_gal ·
I'm an undergrad working a paid internship over the summer at a state agency. I was hired to rewrite the UNIX Systems Administrator's operations manual. Most of the info is available. I am editing and reformatting the existing documents. However, I have no UNIX experience or coursework. My major is CIS; I have other skills like Java, JSP and Systems Analysis & Design. I understood I would be able to do OS installs, and other administrator duties to help me understand and document them for the manual.

So the SysAdmin who is in charge of my internship let me install Solaris 9 on a server. The second CD never would read, and he left work early to renew his truck resgistration and told me to call if there were any problems. I called twice over a three hour period, since I was under the impression that if this were not running it may cause other problems in the system. So I left two messages, he never returned my calls. The next morning he was not in. I could not go any further and the other team members were taking a 'hands-off' kind of stance with me, so I did not push the issue. I was able to document the install up to that point, and not any further. He wrote me an email telling me he was swamped because the budget year end is comimg up, and basically said he did not have any time for me, just to work on the rewrites, and there probably won't be anything else to do hands-on.

I don't want to rock the boat. If I lay low, I will pretty much be hired straight out of college to work for this agency. But I do wonder is this a group I want to work with? There are many interns in the building, I see them interacting with their sponsors, being taken over to the fitness center, which I was not even told about. Geez, it's really hard not to take this personally, and it's affecting my attitude.

I thought a proactive thing to do would be to ask my sponsor if he can meet once a week for about 10 or 15 minutes and I would come over to his cube. He has not answered my email. Of course going to his cube he does not have time then either. It's so convenient that this happened when his boss was out of the office. She's quite personable. I'd like to stay on good terms with her, so I hesistate going to her with this.

I really don't understand the shell scripting I am typing up, and parts of the document appear to not be at all consistent, which leads me to believe there may be some bad code in it. I do have a UNIX account but not root access, so I can practice basic commands. I tried to run a simple Perl script and it would not execute for me.

I really want a plan, knowing what will happen over the summer will help me feel a little more secure. If rewtyping documents is all there is, why am I in an internship when a temp admin would have been cheaper? Those promises of working on systems, doing installs and such were just hot air.

So what would be the best thing, flying under the radar and being an underacheiver or risk burning a bridge to push for more interaction and learning?

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Take the risk

by jmgarvin In reply to Internship Dilemma

Tell your boss that you WANT to do these things. It sounds like your boss doesn't know what to do with you, so tell him (her?) what do to with you.

Don't stress and have a fun summer!

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Do the right thing for you career

by robmcinnes In reply to Internship Dilemma

You need to talk to your boss again, if you have no joy there you need to talk to someone higher up in the company.
You seem to have set yourself goals, which is a very good thing! And if you are not being helped to achieve these goals now, how will you feel in five to ten years time working for the same company in the same position.
Do the right thing! It may not be easy but it is your career!!!
We all have to make difficult disicions, you'll notice it is the people who make the difficult disicions that are higher up in the company.
Anyway take it easy and have a great summer!

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Slightly different advise

by stress junkie In reply to Internship Dilemma

I understand your perspective. Your goals are both smart and admirable. Some time ago I worked for a state agency for almost a year as a contract employee. I was amazed at how busy people were and how hard they worked. This was in stark contrast to the many commercial employers which I had worked for. I mention that because your "boss", (for lack of a better word), probably is very busy. I would expect that his end of quarter work should be coming to a close since it is now June but maybe his work has a deadline some time this month. I would be extremely diplomatic in your situation.

You could probably just take note of what he is doing during the day just to verify that he is busy. Drop by his office to say hello once or twice a day. This would also provide the opportunity for you to keep in contact with him without interfering with his work.

If you find that he is not doing what he said he is doing then you could ask him for a quick chat. Keep it light and friendly. Ask him if you could divide your time between the documentation and other small projects, taking on one small project at a time. If you do that and you honestly feel that he is just ignoring you then some time near the end of June you could approach his manager with your concerns. Once again, keep it light and friendly. Say that you simply have a question about how work is being assigned to you. Don't argue if you don't hear what you want.

Whatever you do make sure that you don't sound like you are criticizing your "boss". One thing that I found out early in my career is that when a temp accuses a direct employee of misbehavior the temp always loses. Managers get defensive. Direct employees are like the manager's children. The temp is always an outsider. Avoid at all costs giving the impression that you are starting a pissing contest. You will lose.

Lastly try to understand that documentation is a very important job. Most IT departments need up to date documentation but almost never have it. Documentation is very time consuming and is difficult to justify when you have a task list with ten items that people are waiting for you to complete. A busy system administrator dreams of having someone to devote to updating the department's documentation. It is very important and it is almost always neglected. You can be confident that you are making a valuable contribution by updating the department's documentation.

Smile. Relax. Appreciate the opportunity that you have been given. Enjoy the summer.

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by jgarcia102066 In reply to Slightly different advise

I agree with this post, especially in that one should always remain professional and non-critical in conversations with direct supervisors and managers.

I do feel, however, that more needs to be said about internships in general. There are typically two types of internships that you will run into and both of these exist where I work, depending on which internship you get. There are structured and unstructured internships.

The main characteristic of a structured internship is that the sponsors interact and provide guidance to the interns on a frequent basis. The intern has a clear understanding of the tasks that they must accomplish and the timelines that they have to accomplish those tasks. The work is very well defined.

The main characteristic of an unstructured internship is that the intern is typically thrown into a sink or swim situation. The intern will typically have little to no guidance from the sponsors. You are on your own to solve the problems and get the job done.

Each of these types of internships have their place in the professional arena.

It seems that your internship is unstructured and you were put into a sink or swim situation. It is reasonably safe to assume that if you were hired full-time for this agency, your experience would be the same.

You need to ask yourself if you can be successful in the sink or swim world (little to no guidance). Some people have the personality traits to be extremely successful in this environment and others don't. If you are the latter, then find an internship and resulting full-time job that has more structure so that you can be successful at what you do.

In my experience, people tend to flourish in one environment or the other. It is a rare breed that can be equally successful in both arenas.

Good Luck!

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Need Help

by jadoon101 In reply to Internship Dilemma

Hello Friend.
I belongs from Pakistan.I have completed master degree in computer science and want to become expert in networking field.Can I get an internship.If you can arrange an internship program for me than please contact with me either on or
I will thankful to you. Thanks

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by texas_gal In reply to Internship Dilemma

I wanted to let y'all know how I have handled this so far. I went into a lay low and watch mode. I decided early on to spend time with this person's peers, if for no other reason than to gather info and get to know the team. Here's the situation as I see it. He wants to promote and has been passed over because basically he's not too swift. I am a project to appease him. His manager stopped by my cube one day to touch base with me. I did not mention what had occurred, just showed her the work I was doing. She's pleased with my work, and she mentioned "in passing" that he is not that busy. How funny. The main skill that I've pinpointed to be the problem with him is just plain people skills and the ability to communicate effectively. There is a certain level of tension between the SysAdmins. I personally think there are too many, based on a friend of mine in the industry who administers more than three times as many machines. He could do all their jobs. But I digress. I also have started to take every opportunity to socialize with everyone around him. This makes me feel less isolated, and I am getting a good feel for the team dynamics. It's a state agency, and is so different than the corporate environment. I'm not sure it's where I want to work, although if I can't find a job I feel confident they would have a spot for me. And maybe it will help me get a job in another agency later. Oh and I learned how to set up, kick off and restore backups on a handler, as well as get a good copy of Sol 2.9 and do a clean install, then load a ton of patches. My internship ends in three weeks. If I had it to do all over again, I probably would. Thanks for everyone's perspective.

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