Interview NikitaInterview with Nikita Sazhinov
Last month we sat down with our very own Nikita Sazhinov to chat about his experience as a Full-stack developer intern at Miyagami. We talked about why he chose this career, what he learned at university versus what he is learning in the industry, and some of the unexpected skills that have proven crucial to his role at Miyagami. Continue reading for an honest take on doing an internship at Miyagami, and a deep dive into the headspace of a computer science student about to start his professional career.
Hi Nikita! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. Can you briefly introduce yourself?
Hi! I am Nikita Sazhinov, and I am 22 years old. I was born and spent part of my childhood in Russia, but have been living since my early teens in Uruguay, and the last 4 years in the Netherlands. Currently, I am enrolled in the 3rd year of the bachelor in Computer Science at VU Amsterdam, and for the past 6 months, I have been doing an internship as a Full-stack developer at Miyagami, developing both my programming and soft skills.
I want to first talk a bit about your studies. Why did you choose to study Computer Science?
I thought it would be a good match for me as I have a passion for mathematics and I am good at rational thinking. The truth is that I did not know much about programming and technology when I chose these studies. I had done some programming classes when I was 15, but I did not remember much from it. These bachelor programs often assure you that you don't need previous programming experience, but the reality is that the students that did learn to program when they were much younger, excel in these studies, while those that start from zero or close to that, don’t do quite as good. That said, in the end, it all worked out for me; I am thriving and I enjoy a lot what I do.
I think that was as well the case when I studied design… previous experience is always a pro when starting your studies! And why did you choose to do an internship?
My bachelor's does not offer the option of doing an internship as part of the study curriculum. It is more focused on the theoretical aspects of computer science than on its technical application. I was not aware of that when I applied for this specific bachelor's… I was just trying to find the best university in the Netherlands while applying from abroad. To be honest, I did not think much back then about how I would apply my studies in the industry! By the time I was in the third year of my bachelor it was clear to me that I needed to gain practical experience. It is something people talk about in my studies, how different it is to work in the industry from what we experience in class. So I chose to do an internship independently from the university.
Interesting! I would have expected that by now every study programme keeps in mind the importance of practical experience. It’s great that you seek that on your own. What did you want to learn during the internship?
I wanted to see how all the theory I’ve learned in my studies plays out in the “real world”, once you have to get things done and contribute to real products. I have programmed a lot during my studies, but university projects sometimes feel like you are reinventing the wheel, so to say, or that you are creating things that only work on paper. What I wanted was to experience programming something truly useful, something that people had to use.
…And what have you actually learned?
Well, first of all, my practical programming skills have excelled incredibly. To qualify for the internship I had to do a coding case, and when I look back on it now… let's just say it was ugly, did not work that well, and just overall makes me realise how much I have improved at programming. Now I am making production-ready apps and websites.
A very important skill I am also training is problem-solving. If I come to the office today, and one of the things I made has an issue, I have to solve it today, and the best is that I know what I have to do, or at least I know how to get started to figure it out. So I don’t feel lost anymore when given a problem.
Aside from that, I have trained a lot my soft skills, how to deal with clients and translate better what I do into non-technical language. I think that is very important to be able to communicate your work with people that don’t know about programming, especially when you have clients and users depending on it. I think before this internship I would have no idea how to do that. I still remember trying to explain to my parents what it is that I am studying, and it was tough!
Was there anything you’ve learned that you did not expect learning?
What I wasn't expecting is the way I learned to organise my time at work. The sort of “hustle” idea of working hard but also knowing how to work smart. I think I learned a lot about myself and how I work. That I like to go head firstt and get it done, which in practice, sometimes just doesn't work. So I have learned to stop myself and say, "Okay, let's first make a plan”.
How would you describe your experience working in the industry?
There are a lot of surprises that come with it. But I also think that it really depends on what company you work at. Miyagami was a good fit for me because there is a good startup culture. It would be much more difficult to adjust my work style to a corporate structure where I'd have to clock in and clock out and document every single line of code that I write. Still… it’s been a big difference between my expectation from what it actually is. There are still a lot of new responsibilities that I have that I didn't expect to have.
And what do you enjoy the most about the “daily grind” as a developer at Miyagami? And the least?
What I enjoy the most is seeing my creations coming to reality and living their own life. And even though there's also a lot of additional stress that comes with it, it’s good to know that there is actual people using a product that you’ve made. Something that makes me happy is when there's a big new update, and it finally goes live. It's just a big weight coming off your shoulders. Then you see it there in the app or website, and it is a big boost of good chemicals in your brain.
And as far as what I enjoy the least… There is a lot of pressure that comes with having real people relying on your work. But it is just part of the job, and you have to get used to and accept it. Other than that, sometimes it can be difficult when you have to work with clients. Because at Miyagami we are a digital partner, we are not making things just for ourselves, we're making things with other companies. Sometimes they may have different opinions that you don’t fully agree with, and that can be really frustrating. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to be able to find the balance between the positive and negative aspects of the job.
How does your studies at university contribute to your daily work as a developer?
The summer before I got the internship I got really determined to learn how to make a website. I had taken some classes on how to do that in my studies, but when I dived into it, I was shocked about how little of what I had learned at university actually applied to it. I started watching YouTube tutorials to learn to build the website, and I thought the theoretical background I had should give me some advantage in knowing what he was talking about in the tutorial, but I had no idea.
That said, the advantage my studies give me is that, back at that moment, I knew right away what it was that I needed to practice more of. Because of my academic background, once I dived into it, my learning curve for building websites and mobile applications was not steep at all. Another thing that my university studies taught me, that doesn't directly have to do with programming, is how to research properly and find out what it is that you have to do in order to continue with a project.
How do you look at the profession of developer after your internship experience?
I think I have mentioned that there were a lot of expectations that I had, which were completely off. In the end, I had a naive idea about the profession. And a lot of times, I had no idea whatsoever. I think it is a very broad profession, so in the end it is what you make of it. And it really depends on what kind of programming you're doing, what kind of application you are making, what kind of company you're working for. I could be working in another company with exactly the same professional name, Full stack developer, while doing something completely different, something boring. Or maybe I could be doing just a couple of small fixes a week, instead of grinding the way I am, which would probably bore me really quickly.
What is next for you after the internship?
Hopefully after this internship I will continuing working with Miyagami. The internship is ending soon and I would like to finish my studies and continue my career here. I think here is where I can develop and broaden my skills because, even though I started as a Full Stack Developer, there are a lot of different concepts within programming or soft skills completely unrelated to programming that I've learned here. I think, ultimately, there's still a lot more room for me to grow.
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