Polly

Intern – Summer 2019
Modular Instruments Documentation

Education

Georgia Tech – B.S. in Literature, Media, and Communication (minor in Computer Science)


The Internship

How did you find out about this internship?

I was in my junior year of undergrad and I decided that I wanted more technical experience in tech writing. I had done some science writing before that but I didn’t have specific technical writing experience. I applied for a whole bunch of internships at companies that interested me, and then I was contacted by NI.

What was the first week of the internship like?

Well I started the week after the other interns so I didn’t see the NI Week chaos. I had a short orientation in the morning, about two or three hours, then I met the team that I would be working on and my mentor. My mentor, Caleb, gave me a rundown of everything that I would be working on. That week I was already meeting with people that I needed to talk to, with engineers who were telling me about the project. He threw me into the deep end pretty quickly, which I liked.

There were a lot of welcome intern events. I spent a lot of time with the intern committee and Dana also, meeting people who I would eventually remember all the names of.

What NI-wide intern activities happened during that week?

NI GRAD has been kind enough to include us in all of their events. I think my favorite one of those events was floating the San Marcos river. That was really cool ’cause it was well attended by both interns and full-time people who were recent grads. We got to really bond with them.

The Team

What projects did you work on during your internship?

I have worked with the Modular Instruments product documentation team on the FlexRIO product line. One of the products in the FlexRIO product line is called the ‘Module Development Kit’, which engineers use create their own FlexRIO module if none of the existing FlexRIO products work for them. My job was to document the process of what it would be like to create your own FlexRIO module and get it up-and-running with LabVIEW and other NI products.

I was writing for people who were too advanced for even the regular FlexRIO products, which was a really big challenge because I somehow had to get to their level (at least a little bit). There was a pretty rough draft of the manual that was written by engineers before I got here. I went through that draft and basically tore the whole thing apart so I could reassemble it into a viable user manual. It’s been really cool to have ownership of that project, and not only the writing part of the project but some of the technical decisions as well.

What skills have you practiced or improved through your project work?

I had a software documentation technical writing internship previous to this that I had just come out of. So I purposefully asked to be put on a hardware team. That was good because I didn’t know anything about hardware, like absolutely nothing. I’ve gotten to learn a lot, first of all about what NI does, second of all what NI’s hardware products do, and also how all of these different components work together. I feel like I have a lot more hardware knowledge now, or at least context that I can move forward with. Also I have a lot more practical experience with tech writing. People have been kind enough to spend time reviewing what I’ve written in order to help me learn better techniques with minimalism and all these things that are important in tech writing.

Can you describe how you have interacted with your team/supervisor throughout your internship?

There’s been a couple different teams that I’ve been involved with. One being the technical writing team and the other being the engineering team I’ve worked with.

For the tech writing stuff, Caleb has been incredibly helpful. He’s been very gracious about answering all of my questions. Everyone else on the tech writing team has been really helpful by giving me a better idea of what it is to be a tech writer and what it’s like to be a writer on other teams at NI.

I’ve interacted frequently with the engineering teams for the product that I’m working on, which is nice because I feel very embedded in the progress of that product. I feel like my voice has been heard in those meetings as well, which is really cool for me. It’s important for me to feel like I’m making a difference and not just doing something silly for the summer to keep me busy. It’s been cool to have a deep knowledge of this project and have these engineers come to me to ask questions about the document. They have also been really really good about tolerating my question asking and emails. Everyone is really nice and friendly.

What have you enjoyed most about the team (or project) you worked on?

I kinda touched on this before, but I was given a project that was really big and challenging. At the beginning I thought ‘oh crap, I can’t necessarily do this… I don’t have the knowledge or expertise to do it.’

The vote of confidence from the tech writing team was really good for me. Getting to take ownership of that project and take off running with it was great.

The Company, Campus, and City

Is there anything about NI’s campus that you would want to tell future interns?

I’d recommend exploring it! There’s lots of opportunities to do that on the field day and stuff like that. You should go visit your friends in other buildings and see what it looks like over there. Take a walk on one of the trails after lunch (when it’s not too hot).

What about the company in general?

To not be too worried. There are a lot of resources and people to ease you through a pleasant internship experience. Whether it’s Tim (the internship coordinator) or your mentor or your manager or the intern committee. Literally every week there’s been some kind of really positive experience for one of those people.

Be ok with asking a lot of questions! People are nice and you’re not gonna die if you ask a lot of questions.

Is there anything about Austin that you would want to tell future interns?

I’d encourage people to explore. I’ve gotten to do a lot of stuff on weekends. That’s what I think I like most about working, probably. You don’t have homework after you leave, so you can literally whatever you want. I’ve taken advantage of that and a lot of the other interns have as well. Even the interns that already live in Austin have gotten the opportunity to explore, show the rest of us around, and see Austin through some new eyes. I feel like if you live in Austin and feel like you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. The good thing about having such a limited time here is that I’m motivated to get all the fun things in while I still have the time.