In the summer, a new wave of VK internships took place: students and graduates spent two months immersed in work on products for VKontakte and other services used by millions of people. We spoke with one of the interns who completed the internship and eventually joined the staff.
A little about the hero
My name is Sasha Konovalov, I am 19 years old. I come from a small village in Mari El, now I live in St. Petersburg. I entered my third year of university majoring in information security, but am more interested in development.
Back in the ninth grade, Sasha firmly decided that he would try to move to St. Petersburg and get into IT
I learned about programming in high school, but then my idea of the profession was vague. It seemed like the developers were dealing with a bunch of unrelated symbols and weaving them together with magic. And to write code, you need to be a level 80 magician – my mind will never be enough for this.
Even then, I noticed an interesting feature of programming: it is a constructor for which no parts are needed. To implement ideas, all you need is a head and a computer. And there is nothing cooler than expressing your thoughts so straightforwardly in program code.
How I found my calling
At that time, I was 14, and thoughts about a profession were not a priority – until one day I accidentally came across a motivating message in my VKontakte feed. article from the platform developer. I usually don’t read things like this, but something caught my eye – and now I was sitting there, overwhelmed with emotions.
It turned out that the developers of such a large social network as VKontakte are not some abstract, but quite concrete people. And I can become the same! It was this thought that became decisive and motivated action.
Awareness appeared, I began to understand what I want in life. I mentally sketched out a plan: I will study math intensively and prepare for exams in order to enter St. Petersburg. At the same time, I started learning web development myself.
I also managed to meet the author of that very article: it turned out that he was gathering a community around himself. The guys from there were also interested in IT and helped me improve a lot – by the way, some of them now work with me on VKontakte. To move forward, it is important to be surrounded by interested people.
How I got an internship at VK Dating
At the beginning of my second year, I seriously set my sights on getting an internship and working with VKontakte. I liked watching how the company grew, what mission it had, for example, supporting open source projects. I remember watching it before VK Tech Talks and thought: “What great developers work here!” I also liked the video series “My profile”I advise you to look.
VK Tech Talks are educational meetings for those who are interested in IT: already working as an experienced specialist or just taking their first steps. Here experts discuss technology developments, share experiences and life hacks
Acceptance of applications for internships began in January: I saw the announcement and began to wait. I had high hopes for positions for developers who write in Go, but when the coveted date arrived, it turned out that they were not currently available in St. Petersburg. I was very upset and thought that everything was lost.
Then I didn’t yet know that the second wave of internship was ahead (in 2023, the VK internship took place in two waves – in spring and summer) – and there the coveted Go-position in VK Dating was found. I was delighted, gathered my will into a fist, and for the entire May holidays I plunged into the test task: I was given a week for it.
My solution resulted in a repository on GitHub. When I submitted it for testing, I began to see shortcomings, so the wait for feedback was extremely tedious. It seemed that there would definitely be someone who could complete the task better and avoid my mistakes.
In my test task, I described in detail the structure of the project and the technologies that I decided to use
And then the end of May arrived. I had already lost hope, and then suddenly I received a message from my future mentor: he invited me for an interview! Everything went well, the atmosphere was conducive to open communication. Of course, I didn’t answer all the questions perfectly, but I solved the problems in livecoding, so I was terribly pleased with myself. And as a result, I got an internship.
How was the internship
The main task was to write a chatbot that would help moderators manage shifts. The guys sort out suspicious profiles so that there is no scam in VK Dating and users feel safe. In addition, I worked a little with the main code of our application and fixed a couple of bugs. It was fun to immerse yourself in all the processes!
An example of how a chatbot works for VK Dating moderators. All numbers are fictitious
I had a combined work schedule: I could go to the office and work from home. Another pleasant thing was team building, during which the other trainees and their mentors and I prepared pasta while the chef gave a master class.
The internship was paid: it helped me feel that my work was valued. But money was not in the first place, because my main task now is to grow as a professional.
The moderators appreciated Sasha’s work and noted that their work had become better with the bot
How did you get into the state?
Even during the internship, I told the manager that I would like to remain on the VK Dating team – but then it was unclear whether such an opportunity existed. I mentally prepared myself for any outcome and prepared myself for the fact that I would gain a lot of useful experience, even if I did not remain on the team.
And so, the manager broke the news: I was invited to join the staff! I was very happy, but at the same time I became scared – after all, you need to combine work with study, it’s hard. I immediately decided that it was worth a try, and I didn’t regret it.
Now I am a junior backend developer at VK Dating. Now I continue to work on the chatbot: adding new functions to it and removing bugs. More product tasks related to the VK Dating application appeared, I began to better understand the structure of the project and communicate more with the front-end team.
Despite the combined schedule, I spend 99% of my time in the St. Petersburg office on Bolshaya Morskaya. It’s cool here: a big terrace, a lot of food and smart people around
What I learned after the internship
The internship helped me realize a lot. I began to notice how harmoniously work and study complement each other. Yes, the university is a clumsy system that has difficulty keeping up with labor market trends. To graduate as a specialist, it is not enough to just study; you need to learn a lot on your own.
But at the same time, an internship will never replace higher education: for example, in technical areas, the university provides a strong foundation in mathematics, which every engineer and developer should know. Students also learn to be responsible and independent, to find people of similar interests—without this, work is nowhere.
The university provides hard skills, which, by the way, are then tested during interviews. And an internship mainly helps to develop soft skills: immersing yourself in processes, planning, managing tasks, communicating with colleagues. It took me a while to fit in and understand what issues we were solving at meetings – when I figured it out, I felt much more confident.
In addition to internships, VK also has educational centers in the country’s leading universities – their programs are practice-oriented and include work on solving applied problems, and the teachers are VK experts. The best graduates of such programs get the opportunity to work for the company.
I also realized that it is important for me to be surrounded by purposeful people from whose experience I can learn. It’s like in the parable: it’s more valuable to get not a lot of fish, but a fishing rod that will teach you how to catch this fish.
The team warmly received Sasha: the guys quickly found a common language
Advice for future interns
Here’s what else I learned after the internship – I’m sharing my main recommendations.
1. If you feel like an impostor or an impostor, know that in reality this is not the case: you definitely deserve the place you got, because you have gone through interviews and test assignments, and have already proven yourself. No one expects phenomenal results from interns; it’s normal not to know something.
2. Try to get the most out of your internship. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative into your own hands, understand unclear issues, and consult with senior colleagues. Remember how you solved problems, upgrade and become the best.
3. At the same time, you should not chase others. Everyone has their own pace of development – focus only on yourself.
4. If you find yourself in a dead end, there is nothing wrong with it, it happens to everyone. At such a moment, it is better to have a quality rest and get a good night’s sleep: the next day everything will become dramatically easier – that’s a fact!
5. You need to learn to manage stress, this helps you grow both personally and professionally. Planning also helps, it makes it easier to untangle the tangle of incomprehensible thoughts, and the picture in your head becomes clearer.
6. If you did something wrong, it’s okay. The main thing is to draw conclusions: making mistakes is cool, but repeating them is not.
7. Writing beautiful, clean code (or designing a cool picture, you can put anything here) is not an end in itself. Much more interesting is how solving a small problem affects business development.
I am very glad to join the VKontakte team, and now I want to gather a community around me to help others find themselves in IT. If I support at least two people, and each of them supports two more, and so on, then we will take over the world! Be careful and take note of the plan 🙂