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Hello, Interns

Skylight Insiders receive periodic updates from the engineers building and maintaining our product. These updates are personal, technical and informal; our so called developer journal entries.

This blog post is a repost of the Skylight Insiders email from October 28th, where our newest pair of Interns introduced themselves. To sign up to be a Skylight Insider, visit your My Account Page.

Greetings from Brett and Dylan, two new engineering interns at Tilde. We recently graduated from Epicodus, a vocational school for aspiring programmers, and are jumping right in to our first real-world programming experiences.

Brett has a background in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, and recently moved from Louisiana to Portland. She got into programming after reading about how coding bootcamps are the solution to a tech industry labor shortage. She went on to fall in love with the discipline, and is excited to be officially starting her programming career.

Dylan hails from northern California, and spent his recent years in China working in education and startups. After working with developers on technical projects in a previous position, he's excited to be the one helping build things now!

Our first real programmer challenge: we do lots of pair programming at Tilde, and pairs have come to get their own "names" (think Bennifer). Some Tilde examples include KrysRock and GodHuda. We're honestly torn between Dylbret (think Dilbert), Brylan, or Brylant (think brilliant!). So much to ponder!


The Mission

During our internship we'll be implementing new designs for the Skylight backend admin panel, so that Tilde team members can look at user and billing info, make changes to plans, and other miscellaneous administrative tasks, in a shiny new UI.

The admin panel will use Ember on the front-end and a Rails API as the backend. The existing Rails app can already accomplish most of the necessary tasks, but we're using Ember to improve the UI, performance, and functionality (and so Leah doesn't go crazy trying to use it—it's not exactly user-friendly right now).

Shield your eyes; this is what the existing Rails app looks like:

...and here's what it looks like after our first few commits:

Looks better already, right?

As team members at a scrappy startup, everyone did fine with the rough "an engineer threw this together with no designer" backend, and it's grown and grown over the years. As Skylight has increased in complexity, the need for a real UI has gotten more and more urgent. It's an area where we can make a real impact just in the short duration of our internship.

Getting Started

Tilde set up a phenomenal internship program for us that's been great about providing attention and mentorship.

On our first day, we spent the morning going over the existing codebase with the development team, and at the end of each day since we've had a short meeting to discuss what we've worked on. It's been great to be able to ask questions with the whole team present. We're already benefiting from the opportunity to learn from more experienced programmers and to see what coding is like "in the real world."

One of the initial challenges we faced was getting our new "greenfield" Ember app running alongside the existing Skylight Ember application, as the current setup only allowed for one. It took us a little while to puzzle through the issues, but once we sorted out how to make authenticated requests, it was pretty smooth sailing.

Getting Real

One great thing about this opportunity has been the chance to intimately learn about the real day-to-day problems developers face. During our first Lunch and Learn with the team we watched a talk about strategies for creating successful internal documentation, and researched different tools and techniques for helping establish good long term habits and practices.

The talk and subsequent research led into a detailed discussion about how all of the Tilde engineers could make improvements on this front. As a starting step, we all agreed to double down on taking advantage of code documentation generators, and spearheaded the effort with a commitment that all features we built moving forward included YUI style inline-documentation.

We're both super happy to be here at Tilde and learning from the best. We'll be back soon with more details about building Skylight and building our professional coding chops. Stay tuned!