Jami Howell (January 2021 – May 2021)
Name: Jami Howell
School: Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
Major: Computer Science
Co-op period: January 2021 – May 2021
What was the interview process like?
My interview occurred over zoom. Interviewing with Mike Douglas, felt more like a conversation than an interview, which made it a lot less stressful. He went over what the Balancer team does and what I would expect.
Most students just want experience, but they may not know what type of experience they want. Please describe some of the work you did and what type of skills you needed. It is important to note the skills you could apply from what you’ve learned in school and what you learned on the job.
My primary job was fixing bugs posted by QA (Quality Assurance). I also worked on two different research projects. One of the research projects was just starting, and I collected data for proof of concept. The second one I inherited from former coops. Fixing bugs and the inherited research project required, not only c++ programming skills, but also some skill in reading/understanding other people’s code, as well as searching and finding what I needed in a large code base. Navigating through a large code base and understanding code is an essential skill that I learned on the job, as there isn’t a lot of opportunities to gain that kind of experience in the classroom.
What experience do you think will be the most useful for you in the future?
Sometimes the first explored solution, isn’t the best solution. Our team spent almost a month going back and forth with QA on a bug. Each “fix” introduced a slightly different issue for QA, and each time we believed we had a good solution. It isn’t often that we, as students, need to go back and revisit a problem, when a solution isn’t good enough; we just move on to the next problem.
How do you think the overall experience will help you in your career?
I gained and improved on multiple skills while with Hunter Engineering, including, but not limited to: programming, time management, reading code comprehension, teamwork, working independently, and learning the right kind of questions to ask. I have concrete experiences to talk about in interviews, and I have more confidence in my abilities.
What aspect of the work did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed the fact that I was working with the machines that are in the field. I could see the results of my code changes immediately on a complex integrated system. I also enjoyed the fact that there was a lot of freedom to explore potential solutions my own way.
What aspect of the work did you not enjoy?
The balancer team had a massive learning curve. It feels like once you understand the systems and how they work (or even what all a balancer is supposed to do) your coop is over.
Did you learn anything?
I learned a lot of skills that are not taught in a classroom, and while my college education is important, I feel like this coop was well worth taking a semester gap to attend.
Students often want to know if they will work alone or in a group. Was the work you did more individual or group work and how does it compare with what you have done in school or at another job?
I primarily worked alone. Occasionally there would be multiple of us working on the same bug or project, but that didn’t happen often.
What were your living arrangements during co-op? This question is especially important for those that are not from St. Louis.
I already lived in St Louis (Dogtown area), so I commuted from home, and it took about 25 minutes.
How was the supervision?
My supervisor, Mike Douglas, was great. He didn’t micromanage, but he was available for guidance. He’d give meaningful feedback on the work I did.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself, Hunter Engineering, the co-op program or the work?
This coop has provided valuable experience that I can draw on for future classes, interviews, and jobs.