During the Summer of 2023, Computer Science major Ryan Dawson’25 participated in not just one but two internships! During the academic year, Ryan is on the Denison Edge advisory board, is a Ronald Reagan Civic Leaders Fellow, and works as a Student Assistant at the Knowlton Center. His time at 84.51 (Kroger analytics) and NASA gave him insight into the professional world that can help any Denison student understand what it’s like outside the classroom and how to prepare for those differences.
Ryan’s software engineering internship at 84.51 focused on web development for the Kroger website, using product performance data and vendor priority to program which products would appear first when searching on the Kroger site. While working, he used Java, HTML, CSS, TypeScript, Spring Boot, and Agile methodology, covering a wide range of professional tools and coding languages. Ryan noted that he might start his day in one language and be working in another by lunch. In his eyes, a critical component of coding in a professional setting is being able to learn on the fly and stay on your toes. While you might be able to pick up some new language skills while on the job, there are still things to be aware of when you come into the application process: first and foremost, full-stack development. Independent study is the way to go because you’re not going to pick up that stuff in the classroom.
At NASA, Ryan spent a couple of hours a week working on the camera sequence for the Lucy mission. While many of his coworkers at Kroger did similar work as Ryan, NASA was much different. The team at NASA was one full unit working on one collective project, with the group covering a wide range of disciplines. Where Kroger was hands-on, Ryan’s time at NASA allowed him to focus more on creative development and taking more high-level leadership opportunities while taking advantage of NASA’s excellent internal learning platform.
The benefits of a liberal arts education were put to good use in both of Ryan’s internships over the summer. In his words, “Being able to see the whole picture and communicate effectively was something I could do where my coworkers couldn’t as well.” Being able to see multiple perspectives and bring layered thinking into a professional setting went a long way. For those who want to get the most out of their own tech internships, Ryan’s advice is to speak up when you see something you want to gain experience in. And when you’re working, don’t get too locked into the scope of your current project – it could change in a second.
If you have questions about Ryan’s experience, or want to hear his advice for applying to/working in a software internship, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.