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My Summer Internship with Tidepool

September 20th, 2018

At the end of the summer, Courtenay gave a presentation to the Tidepool team about her work as a Front End Engineering Intern, what she learned, and how she’s grown. It went so well, I asked her to summarize that presentation in a blog post, cementing her experience in digital cement. As we look to grow the Tidepool team in some new, and exciting directions, Courtenay’s story is especially noteworthy.

-Christopher Snider, Community Manager

At the beginning of the year, I had never heard of Tidepool. They came across my resume through the JDRF Internship Program, and one of their senior web-developers, Clint, contacted me wondering if I was interested in joining the team for the summer. Scouring their website, their GitHub repositories, and their Google Docs, there was nothing not to love about Tidepool’s mission. Going into the interviews barely felt like an interview because Clint, Chris and Howard were so welcoming and easy to talk to. The problem was, I had no prior experience as a web-developer, and only had a weak grasp on the specific technical skills they needed. My classes only focused on C and C++ which are not complementary to building the front end of a website. I will be forever grateful that they took a chance and accepted me as part of the team anyway. I gained so much over the four months I was with the team as an intern.

What I did and what I learned as an intern

For those of you who are curious, I added seven new features and updates during my internship! I didn’t realize I had done that much until recently when I listed all my tasks out right before I went back to school. You may have noticed a few changes back in May, such as the target blood glucose range numbers changing, or the option to support the American Association of Diabetes Educators with your data donation. Those were the first tasks I completed! Most of the features I added were small like that – they don’t exactly stand out to the untrained eye, but they are still important pieces of Tidepool Web, and it was exciting to see my code added to the Tidepool Project.

Some of the more complex tasks I worked on included giving clinician and caregiver accounts the ability to upload data for their patients and adding a PDF print option for the weekly view (coming soon!). The PDF was my favorite thing to do, it was the most challenging, and Clint even warned me that it would be difficult and not to worry if I didn’t finish it. If I had a few more days to work on this before going back to school, I would have completed this assignment, too. But I’m very proud of myself for getting as far as I did considering where I started.

By the end of the summer, my skill set had grown so much compared to when I started.

A list of technical skills developed and acquired during Courtenay's summer internship.

What did I learn?

I came to realize there are some things that school will never teach me. Universities don’t have the time or resources to give students experience working with lots of code. And I mean A LOT of code (check out the Tidepool GitHub to see for yourself). Seeing how much code was already in place, and understanding how everything was interconnected was definitely a bit of a shock when I first started. But, it was pretty exciting to learn how to work with it though, particularly when talking with Clint and seeing how he went about his work.

The hardest part of being an intern: confidence

Something I wasn’t expecting when I joined the Tidepool team at the beginning of the summer was everything I would gain that couldn’t be listed on my resume, things that would make a deeper, more personal impact on my life.

First, there’s the confidence I’ve gained. There’s this thing called imposter syndrome, where you feel like you are not as competent as others see you and your accomplishments are merely due to luck. I get that bad, especially around anything involving technology. Unsurprisingly, I dealt with this again throughout the summer. It was so bad that during my first task, I couldn’t start because I told myself “They don’t really trust me to do this! Why would they?” It took a while to get over those feelings, they came back every time I started to learn one of those new skills I picked up. “Why would they trust me to do this? I don’t know what I’m doing!” But, when I got over the fears in my head and recognized the work that I was doing, those doubts faded away.

Courtenay, posing with her motorcycle and Tidepool t-shirt.

Yes, this is my ride.

Connecting with the diabetes community

The other thing I gained was reconnecting with the diabetes community. I was diagnosed when I was 13, and my clinic had a bunch of groups for teens with diabetes that I would go to. I’d also go to a few JDRF events and was a speaker for my high school when we were fundraising for diabetes research – the school was named after Dr. Charles Best, one of the scientists who discovered insulin! In short, I was involved.

When I got to university, I lost that. I developed another autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and all my attention shifted to trying to learn to live with chronic pain. I didn’t pay much attention to my blood sugars since I was barely able to get my fingers to cooperate to test my blood sugar at times. Coincidentally, my chronic pain started to go away not long before I first heard from Clint. Then, just a few weeks before I was set to start working, my pain went away completely.

Having more physical and mental capacity to return my attention to caring for my blood sugars and working with a team who is so mindful of blood sugars, and many who are using the most cutting edge technology to help them, it really helped me to get my health back to where I needed it, and I got there faster than I could’ve if I did it on my own.

Being part of the Tidepool team helped me to take better care of my diabetes, and I will always be thankful for that.

Back to school

There’s a part of me that’s disappointed to go back to school. I love studying computer science and psychology, but I also loved the summer I spent with the Tidepool team, developing my skills and contributing to the larger project. Looking back on the summer, I’m quite impressed at what I was able to accomplish in such a short amount of time and how much my abilities improved. I’m excited to take what I learned over the summer and use that knowledge throughout the rest of my studies – and eventually, to take me through my career.

-Courtenay Huffman

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