Lavinia Florean, our junior software development engineer

18 May 2020 5 min read

Since the beginning of XWiki, a lot of our colleagues were recruited through internship programs, such as GSOC. This is a great opportunity to bring in new faces to join the team. For some of them, the internship is a one-time experience, but, for others, it's just the beginning of their time at XWiki. This article is the first part of a series where we get to know a bit more those who went from interns to full-time employees and their XWiki journey, so far. 

From intern to junior software development engineer

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Lavinia Florean, I am 23 years old and I've been at XWiki for almost two years now (June 2020). I work as a junior software development engineer, as part of the Paid Apps team, but I am also currently studying in my first year of a Master's Degree in computer optimization. As for hobbies, I enjoy reading in my free time or playing tennis whenever I get the chance to.

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The internship experience

How did you find out about XWiki and what made you choose it for an internship?

I found out about the internship while in my second year of university, through a Romanian internship program. I had just started studying Web Development, Java and JavaScript and because it seemed focused on that, XWiki caught my attention. That, plus the technologies used, fit my area of interest and made it seem like a good place for me to learn more, so I went ahead and applied. 

What was your internship experience like?

If I could sum the internship in one word, it would probably be "new". It was the first time I worked in a company and I had no previous experience in this area, so I didn't really know what to expect. However, my motivation was that I wanted to not only learn more about development and web but also gain some insight into how companies function. I started out small by mostly working on bug fixing small tasks for the Paid Apps. While this might seem like a mundane task to some, it was a great opportunity for me to discover XWiki and find out more about how it works because I always encountered new use cases along the way. As I made progress, I moved to work also on the XWiki platform, which was another whole experience.

And when it came to resources, I knew I could always ask my mentor whenever I encountered difficulties, but that there was also the community which could lend a helping hand. This was a time for me to learn to better communicate with not only those in the company or just my team but also outside of it.

 What did you find to be the most interesting and challenging tasks?

Here I probably have an answer that fits both descriptions and it's the XWiki platform. It was my biggest challenge during the internship, but also the most interesting task I had to work on. There is just so much code making up the platform that I had to constantly look through. This also meant I usually spent quite a lot of time finding solutions to the problems I encountered. However, I found an incentive in the fact that my work was public and users were able to not only see but also benefit from the improvements I made. I think this is what encouraged me and made me feel like my work would be appreciated. Even though it's not much, it still feels nice when I see the modals added during that time for the docextra section (the one which includes attachments and comments) but I am also thinking about the tests that were failing because of that. All in all, moments when I finally managed to fix a bug on the platform were when I probably felt the most fulfilled during my internship (laugh). 

And what about integration into the environment? How easy, or difficult was it for you?

As I mentioned above, this was my first internship, so everything was a bit scary in the beginning. While everyone at the office was friendly and welcoming, which probably helped me the most was the fact that I wasn't the only intern. I had another colleague for the internship period, who was the same age and had the same level of experience as me, which eased integration and made me feel less "alone" if I can put it like that. But like any other student eager to learn but with no work experience whatsoever, I kept on wondering if there were things I should already know that I didn't if I should and could do more or if I was spending too much time on tasks. I think these are the kind of thoughts we all have when we start something new that we don't know much about. As time went on and I learned more things, those worries started dwindling, but I still have such thoughts sometimes.

...so how did you learn to deal with intrusive thoughts about not being good enough or doing enough? 

I think it comes down to realizing that you continue to learn as you go. Sometimes, you may spend a few days working on a task and still have nothing specific to show at the end of the week. You'll probably feel like you've slacked off or spent too much time on a task that should have been done faster - I've felt that way. But those days of research matter because you'll learn things, gain experience and knowledge on that subject and next time you encounter a similar situation, you'll have an easier time finding a solution. However, what I do when I have weeks like this is to resolve other small tasks, so that I feel like I've done something at the end of the day.

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Lavinia, smiling warmly, during Christmas 2018 at our office in Iasi

Open Source impressions

Was Open Source something you had an interest in prior to XWiki?

I had heard and knew what the concept of "Open Source" meant prior to XWiki, having used such software a few times in my university projects (sometimes unknowingly), but apart from that, my contact with it was somewhat limited. XWiki was the first big introduction, so to say, to Open Source, what it really means and how it works. Now I do pay attention to it and I find it exciting when a software that I need is Open Source.

Even so, there probably is something you value about Open Source. What is it?

I think the one thing I appreciate most about Open Source is its openness. Joining XWiki was an incentive for me to both use more Open Source software and learn what it really means. I have actually used Open Source in my Bachelor thesis, for which I created an extension built on top of XWiki. It was a centralized space for professors within the university to create and assign tasks and for students to upload their work directly without having to send several emails.

With Open Source software, if you find bugs or you need a specific feature, you can work on it and do it yourself. That's one great about it.

What is also interesting about Open Source to me, is the fact that you can find help within the community or discuss with contributors. Some of them are experienced developers and can offer insightful opinions on a lot of matters. I think it's an opportunity to develop yourself when you encounter people with so much knowledge on so many different subjects that you can talk to. 

Becoming a full-time XWikier

In the end, what was it that made you decide to stay as a full-time employee?

What convinced me to remain part of XWiki is the fact that XWiki is a complex software and each and every time I work on a task I discover new things about it and I'll probably continue to do so. I also appreciated that I was given the possibility to work part-time while I finished my Bachelor studies, as those continued to be my priority at the time.

What you know is more important than a diploma, but what really matters is constantly trying to become a better version of yourself.

Did you feel like anything changed after this? Maybe in the way you viewed or did things?

Hmm... maybe a bit, but not drastically so. To me, the internship was an opportunity to learn the ropes and see how things were being done, while being a full-time employee felt more "official". It meant actually working on needed tasks and having more responsibilities. What I was doing mattered during the internship as well, but what I would do from that point mattered a bit more. After becoming a full-time XWikier, I was assigned a manager, became part of the Roadmap meeting where tasks were assigned and workload for the following period was discussed. This gave a much clearer view of what I was working on and made me feel both more involved within the team and like a "real" part of the company.

What is working as a junior software development engineer at XWiki like?

It's a continuous learning and development process. As I said, almost every task is a challenge in itself and brings something new to discover. I work a lot but at the same time, I learn new things every time. Overall, I'd say it's pretty challenging, but I do enjoy it because it's neither something mundane or a routine that I'm bound to get bored of.

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Lavinia during XWiki's 15th anniversary party in Paris

Lessons learned

What would you say is the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at XWiki, so far?

I learned a lot from working as part of XWiki for these past 2 years. Probably the most important thing was that I learned how to handle new tasks that I have no idea how to resolve. With no prior knowledge on a matter, you will feel, more often than not, lost. That's also how I learned to properly do research and extensively search for information that might help me out. It was also important that I realized how important is to ask questions or for advice openly. It's an accessible way to gain a new perspective and receive constructive criticism from those with a lot of experience behind them.

The XWiki experience in one word

Finally, if you had to describe your XWiki experience in one word, what would it be?

Diverse.

With so much development possible on top of XWiki, one can try different types of tasks. At XWiki, I could choose to work on anything that sparked my interest or even go multiple directions. 

Because it is complex, XWiki has helped me evolve by myself by discovering something new constantly.

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Lavinia and the Product Team during the XWiki Seminar in 2019

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