How I got Internship at CERN?

Hello 👋, I’m Parth and I did my 6-month internship at CERN from January to June 2020. I often receive messages on different social media platforms asking how I got selected, about the project I worked on during my internship, and if I have any suggestions for aspiring students to work as an Intern at CERN. I'll start by sharing my own story and hopefully, you can take some inspiration from it.

Below I will discuss:

  • A little about myself
  • Motivation about the blog
  • How I meet my supervisor at Euro Python 2019
  • Application process
  • About Intern project and accomplished tasks
  • Acknowledgments

Throughout this blog, you will find the answers to some of the common questions I've received, such as "how did you land your internship at CERN?”, "what was the technical interview like?", "what technologies did you know starting out?" and “how open source helped me in getting selected?”

About me

Before doing an internship at CERN, I started contributing to open source from the second semester of my bachelors. I have participated in Google Summer of Code as a Student where I worked on a Badge management system for an event, did internships at Purple and Premiere Digital Services. All the internships involved Python and Javascript as primary programming languages.

I have a passion for participating in technical conferences and meeting amazing minds. I was a Speaker in Euro Python 2019 held in Basel, Switzerland, and is the largest European Python conference with around 1200+ participants every year, the second-largest Python conference world-wide and a meeting reference for all European programmers, students, and companies interested in the Python programming language.

Motivation

The main motivation for writing this blog is to encourage aspiring students to participate in technical conferences and interact with amazing people present there. I will be writing a different blog about my proposal at Euro python and why it was accepted. My interest in participating in technical conferences allowed me to network with experienced engineers and I found the opportunity at CERN.

Speaking at conferences is not specifically important but keeping an open mind and interacting with people discussing your technical knowledge is essential to find these opportunities. This also means that you should have good open-source projects and/or contributions on Github showing your developer skills with some actual development excluding typo fixes 😅 before applying to the internship.

How I meet my supervisor at Euro Python

I am very thankful to Euro python organizers that they accepted my proposal and invited me to present at the conference. There was a partial aid for compensating travel and accommodation expenses for the speakers but that was not enough for a student like me to come from India to an expensive country like Switzerland. I almost dropped the plan to come and present at the conference, but luckily I had saved some money from previous internships and I got support from a couple of my close friends and they gave me the final push to go to the conference.

I presented at the conference and attended a talk about the Indico project which I came across my Google Summer of Code since it allows us to manage complex scientific conferences, workshops, meetings, and badge management is part of any event. The talk was titled “how to use a React frontend for your Flask app” and it was about how Indico project is using React with a Flask backend. At the end of the talk, the speaker (who later became my supervisor) later announced that the Indico project is looking for Interns. Afterwards, I saw this same opportunity on the conference job board so I took a photo to remember the details for later.

Application Process

After returning to university, I contacted the speaker (who later became my supervisor) through Twitter and I told him I spoke at the 2019 Euro Python conference and attended his talk. I highlighted I may be a good candidate for the position. I mentioned my previous experiences and specifically my google summer of code project. He replied to my messages and helped me with the position link on CERN’s careers site and gave me some tips for my application. He told me to include my resume and my previous experience in the form of a cover letter in the application for the internship. It took a while to hear back, however, I was just hoping for the best.

I then got an email for an interview after I successfully completed the resume screening process and I was excited and nervous at the same time. Before the interview, I did some research about the project and since the project is open-sourced, It was very easy to go through the project and documentation was very helpful to give an overview of the project.

In the interview, I was asked about my technical experience with Python and JavaScript, followed by some general questions about my previous projects. I showed my GitHub profile and took the interviewer through the work that I have done in my google summer of code project. It was a challenging task to go through a random pull request and explain the work I had done. I think my GitHub profile played an important role in my selection which was validated later by my supervisor. A few weeks after the interview, I got an email from CERN which said I was selected for an internship for 6 months. I was so excited, it made my day!

Internship Period

I have mentioned Indico multiple times already and it was my project during my Internship. You can see my pull requests here. I will not go in the detail of the code in pull requests but Python and JavaScript knowledge were used to make these pull requests, feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions.

In the first month, I worked on setting up my new machine, installing the project and I was able to get friendly with the development workflow. My teammates and my Supervisor were helpful for getting me started and I didn’t have any hesitation asking questions and even when I asked silly 😅 questions, I got unexpected and very logical responses which helped me to understand the project better. In the following five months, I worked on different issues of varying difficulty levels and everything went well. There used to be weekly stand up meetings in which I had to give my status updates on work done last week, plan for upcoming weeks, and inform about any blockers.

My team was very diverse, my colleagues were from Germany, Greece, Poland & Portugal. I enjoyed working with people from all over the world and learning new things from each of them. This helped me make a lot of good friends throughout my internship.

I am thankful to Adrian(my supervisor) and Pedro(project manager of Indico) to give me the chance of working with them.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my close friends who gave me the final push and my supervisor for believing in me.

I hope I am able to answer your questions and share them in the form of a story.

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