But finally, I found Code Poets, “a team of experts in bioinformatics, cheminformatics and blockchain.” At the time, they didn’t have an open offer for an internship, but I decided it was too perfect of a match and asked if they were interested in making a spot for me.

That happened about two years ago, and, as the title suggests, it went pretty well for everyone involved. But everything that happened in between is surely deserving of an article. So here’s the story about how I went from a fresh graduate to a full-time developer in an advanced, large-scale bioinformatics project.

“Hey, we normally don’t take interns, but let’s talk about it.”

After I sent my application, it was the first response I received. Whether it was my academic experience or my optimistic can-do attitude with trying to apply for a position that doesn’t exist, I had the Code Poets management’s interest. Then, we met for an interview, and shortly after, I was invited for a 1-2 month internship.

For me, the first few goals were achieved. I wanted to learn more about programming in a real work environment and have a chance to work with experienced professionals. Also, many bonus points for getting my foot in a company that actually works with bioinformatics.

Plan minimum was completed, but of course, I quietly had my eyes on a prize this whole time, thinking about getting a position as a developer in a company. To get it done, of course, I had to nail all of my first tasks.

Are we the right fit for each other?

As I said in the beginning, I didn’t have real programming experience before. But, of course, no one expected an intern to complete actual commercial tasks. Code Poets’ first goals were to ensure I had the right approach to whatever’s thrown at me, see how I communicate, and if I’m ready to take on more complex challenges. On top of that, there was an important issue of culture fit, which plays a significant role in the company’s hiring strategy.

When it comes to communication and culture fit, I felt good vibes right from the first interview. The conversation was honest, friendly, down-to-earth and perfectly transparent from both sides. The experience over the next two years only confirmed that first feeling.

In those other aspects, there’s much more story to tell. I was first assigned to some internal tasks, mainly for the company's website and some web app development. It was a perfect learning experience for someone at my level, especially since I had to learn JavaScript and Django from the ground up. However, slowly but surely, we were getting to the actual test.

THE TEST: Build an app for detecting structural alerts

The final task was supposed to test my programming skills and my knowledge of bioinformatics. The app wasn’t required for any particular project. It was designed by Karol Bubała, one of the team leaders in life-science projects, as a perfect last test before deciding if I’m ready to join Code Poets in a full-time position. The task was supposed to test my:

  1. Ability to learn new technologies and libraries (cheminformatics RDkit in particular)
  2. Proficiency in building web apps
  3. Ability to solve complex issues on my own
  4. Work within relatively tight deadlines

As a person who enjoys taking on challenges and working independently, I was excited. It was exactly what I was looking for in an internship. I was able to prove myself, make sure that programming in bioinformatics is what I want to do, and perhaps get an actual job offer afterward.

For the most part, I’ve worked on the task alone. On the one hand, I wanted to prove that I could deliver such tasks independently, and on the other, I felt pretty comfortable doing it alone skill-wise at this point. So, within a month, before the deadline, my app was ready for testing.

Good job, you’re hired!

A while after completing the final test, I received a decision and an offer from Karol, which made me both happy and proud. Here’s a short excerpt from it:

“As a growing company, we’re constantly in need of good developers, and it’s a bigger challenge than we’ve expected. Finding a good developer, especially one with domain expertise for bioinformatics and cheminformatics projects, is extremely difficult. Therefore, finding talented juniors and providing them with an excellent learning environment is the best strategy.

For the last two months, Marcin worked on both internal tasks and successfully completed a special cheminformatics test project. He was highly efficient and independent in every given task. Moreover, as a bioinformatics graduate, he’s perfectly suited to join our most important projects after further training."

The decision to join on my side wasn’t too difficult. It was clear that Code Poets is a perfect place for me to learn and have an opportunity to work on meaningful projects closely related to my studies. What’s more, I enjoyed the entire experience so far and the atmosphere at work. It was great working with like-minded people in a company that prioritizes teamwork and open communication.

There are still some things to learn

Like Karol said, I was ready to become a full-time developer in Code Poets, but I wasn’t quite on the level that would allow me to work for our life-science clients, such as Synthia or L7 Informatics. So, after I was hired, I had to earn my stripes in some smaller and internal projects to improve my skills and learn more about working in a real development team. Code Poets had to be 100% certain that I was up for the task before I joined one of those projects.

Fair enough. So after I was hired, I worked for several months on some other non-domain projects. Finally, about a year after I started an internship, Karol invited me to join his team in L7 Informatics.

When I joined Code Poets as an intern, I wasn’t even sure that programming was the one thing I wanted to pursue professionally. But, throughout the process, I’ve realized it’s right for me, and I’m glad it all turned out as it did. And even if I didn’t get offered a job, I still would’ve considered it a very valuable experience.

So, if you’re in a similar position, I highly encourage you to give yourself a chance and apply, even if you’re not entirely sure this is the right career path for you.

You can check all the open positions here, and if you don’t see the one that’s right for you, you can try and ask us to create one for you, just like I did. :)