Emma Neil ’22

Williams Students Online, Williamstown, MA

Picture of Emma NeilThis summer, I interned at Williams Students Online (WSO) as a frontend engineer. WSO is an entirely student-run organization that has maintained a website filled with Williams student services since 1995. Current services offered on the site include a course scheduler, professor and dorm evaluation systems, and a student Facebook. The website is dynamic—as the college and student body changes, new features are added and updated. More experienced computer science students help their less experienced peers become acclimated to the code base, but ultimately a lot of work is self-motivated. This makes working with WSO very accessible, with students empowered to take initiative to update, change, or improve code that has been flagged. This embodies the spirit of coding and tech in general, where innovation is sparked by curious and motivated people and teams.

My summer internship was intended to prepare me for practical coding in the work world. I spent the first several 
weeks working on personal projects, with the purpose of building my portfolio and getting comfortable using basic web design tools and coding languages including HTML, CSS, React, Redux, Gatsby, and UX design libraries. I designed a simple cooking blog written in pure HTML and CSS. Then, I rewrote the blog in React, a framework of JavaScript, which allowed me to include logic (for example, only rendering the home page photo under certain conditions). I hosted this website on GitHub so I could make it available to future employers. In the third iteration of the project, I transferred it to a new host called Gatsby, which comes with a blog template and allows for remote content management. Working with Gatsby gave me a glimpse of what a professional blog structure with JavaScript built-in might look like. Then, I completed a tutorial that introduced me to Redux, a JavaScript library that allows for easier state management. Lastly, I worked on applying the website redesign to Dormtrak, a service that allows students to read and write reviews of their dorms.

This summer, I made a lot of progress on my coding skills, knowledge, and comfort. The remote and largely self-driven nature of the work gave me the opportunity to experiment with work styles and schedules, coding environments, discipline and prioritization techniques. I learned how to start projects and how and where to search for solutions when I encountered obstacles. In that sense, my experience was very empowering—I am really looking forward to applying all that I learned personally and technically to future projects and work. I am taking a leave of absence in the fall semester and hope to use the skills I developed over the summer to help me in the internship or self-structured project that I pursue. I also hope to continue to explore different programming languages and applications, specifically data analysis and backend work with APIs.

I would like to thank the Wong Family for their generosity which has allowed me to focus on practical coding this summer and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for all of their comprehensive, quick, and careful work in coordinating and expanding funding options during this complicated period and contracted job market.