We, as programming students, are supposed to get an internship to complete our coursework. I have spent the last three years being told that there is a massive demand for mobile application developers and people who know HTML5. One reason our programming teacher is pushing us so hard to learn this stuff is because, according to him, we are leaving money on the table. The world needs more of us and he is trying to mint us as quickly as possible to keep up with the demand.

Imagine my surprise in trying to find an internship. I am currently in my final week of classes and I have been trying to find an internship for nearly three months.

I contacted a company in Chicago that does internship/apprenticeships. They got back to me for a while, but it was always at least a week after they said they would and only if I contacted them first reminding them they were supposed to send me information. I have not heard back from them in a month and I am officially deciding that this lead did not pan out.

I also contacted another company in Madison that does not currently do internships, but were considering the possibility. We had several meetings and I felt good about the outcome of this, but in the end they did not want to create an internship program. I completely understand their decision. This company’s primary focus is in attracting/upgrading master programmers. I am a student who has been doing this for less than a year. I am nowhere near a master programmer and what I am looking for is not in their scope as a business.

I found one other place that does do mobile application development that also does internships. Cool!

I had an interview with them a few days ago. I did all the stuff that you are supposed to do. I dressed nicely. I put on make-up. I brought my WWDC app to show off some of my work. I arrived on time.

When I got there the interviewed left me alone in a room for ten minutes. Okay, no big deal. When he got there he spent about five minutes telling me about the company and asked me about myself.

I went over my education, talked about my interests, showed him my app.

He then starts asking me if I do web development. Well, kind of. It isn’t my primary focus. I spent the last ten minutes telling him about how I gave up everything in my life to learn iOS development, spending 40-80 hours a week doing just that.

Excellent! They have a web site they have been contracted to make in HTML5 that is supposed to mimic an app they already created.

Do I use Photoshop? Yes, it is in my resume.

Excellent! This web site is a small project, only about 300 hours and they want an intern to work on it to get their feet wet in working at a real shop.

Cool, how much does this pay?

This is unpaid.

Thank you for coming in. We have a lot of other people who we are interviewing for this job. We will get back to you. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I can’t remember a time I have had a worse interview experience than this.

– They have a contract with a company to provide a service. They were either hired or they bid on this contract and they will receive a certain amount of money to complete this project. They do not get to dump that on an unpaid intern and act like it is a travesty that the intern ask to be paid, even a nominal amount.

– They did not listen to anything I said about what I do and what I hope to do. They had a certain need and they tried to shoehorn me into doing something that they didn’t want to do.

– They did not show me around their office. Nearly every interview I have had, they show you around a little before they talk to you because they want you to want to work there.

– They cut off the interview at the point where I talked about payment. Clearly they only want someone to work there for free. I have had three unpaid internships and none of them have lead to a paid job. Ever.

If you are majoring in something like Journalism and there are 50 people competing for an internship, that is one thing. It isn’t cool to not pay interns, but if you can find someone who will work for free because there are 49 other people who will, it is easier to get away with.

HTML5 and iOS development are hard. There are not a lot of people who do them and do them well. Just because the guy down the street in the State Capitol can get a hoard of political science majors to work for him for free does not mean that you can get a programmer to work for you for free.

If I am going to work all summer without being paid, I am working for myself. I have said that I want to learn Core Audio. I will spend my summer learning that and making a kick-ass app that I will own. I am not going to come and pay $15 a day for parking for the privilege of working for you for free, where at the end you will shake my hand and not hire me.

I have absolutely no indication that I will be treated well at this place. They do not feel that what I am doing is important enough to pay me even though they are being paid to perform this service (which, by the way, violates the law regarding internships).

I am sure if they look hard enough they will find some poor sucker to come in and do this job for free, but they will be getting what they pay for. No one that I know that sweated blood trying to learn this stuff is going to go and work somewhere for free when they can get an actual programming job somewhere that pays them a lot more.

I am sure if I tried finding a job that required Java or something else I could find one pretty easily, but I don’t want to do that. I have a very specific idea of what I want to do and I have been afforded the luxury of waiting things out and being picky. This is a tremendous opportunity and I am not throwing it away on people who have no respect for me or the work that I do.

I truly hope that I am not making a huge mistake in attempting to get into this field. I do have to consider the possibility that people will not pay me to be a programmer.

Chris Adamson wrote a great blog post on app pricing. Basically the amount that people are willing to pay for an app is not enough to make it worthwhile for a programmer to code an app. People want apps, but only ones for a buck. There is a tremendous demand for apps and a tremendous want on the part of developers to make apps, but the economic of app pricing have precluded this from happening.

I wanted to learn iOS because it is hard. I figured if I could master something difficult, then the next time I attempt something equally difficult it will be easier and so on.

I know that I probably won’t be programming iOS in 5-10 years, I will be programming something else. I believe there will be a need for programmers and that because we are in a recession that does not give you the right to demand my work for free. Scratch that, you have the right to ask whatever you want, but I also have the right to say no, my time and expertise are worth something.

I supposed time will tell if I am right or wrong.