Interning at OGP: Barnett’s Experience as a Software Engineering Intern

Could you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Hi! I’m Barnett. I’m a software engineer intern at Open Government Products. I currently work on AskGov, a new product for citizens to get answers to their government questions. I was previously on CheckFirst, an open source eligibility checker. Later this year after my internship, I’ll be heading over to the States to study computer engineering.

What made you join OGP?

I joined Open Government Products primarily for the ‘O’ in OGP which is, Open. I find the concept of building tech for public good, particularly in a public and open setting, extremely fascinating, and how it allows us to showcase, line-by-line in our code, how we are innovating in the government sector. It is also interesting because as an individual, even after I leave Open Government Products, I am still able to reference and showcase the work that I have done. The other part is that interns at Open Government Products are treated like full-timers, and this means that there are no arbitrary limits to what we can do. We work on actual projects that have real world impact, and that is extremely exciting.

How has your experience in OGP been so far?

At OGP, there is also an incredible pool of talent — be it product managers, engineers, designers, product operations specialists, data scientists, or the corporate team, everyone is incredibly talented in their own way. Combined with how open the organisation is, I can approach anyone and get answers to any questions I have, and that kind of interaction really allows me to learn as much as possible while I’m here.

What does a day in your life as an OGP intern look like?

My time as an engineering intern at OGP is primarily spent coding, reviewing software, and making fixes. The more interesting part is that I actually have the freedom to potentially work on things that I think are of higher impact. For example, with AskGov, I wanted to understand how citizens could ask questions better. I communicated this to my Product Manager and had the permission and freedom to go about talking to users, because I believe that is the best way to move the product forward and create a greater impact. The days at OGP are relatively flexible and it allows me to really do the work that I enjoy most and create the best work that I want.

What are your key takeaways through the course of your internship?

One interesting observation I made during my time at OGP has been how a company can be very deliberate in creating a good culture. At OGP, there are initiatives that help foster this. For example, we have Donuts, which is a bi-weekly initiative where two random colleagues will be paired together to have a conversation to just get to know each other better. We also have team syncs where we have the entire organisation meet together to better understand what each individual team is doing, so that everyone has a clearer idea about the organisation as a whole, beyond their own product teams. These very deliberate initiatives have shown me how we can actually build a workplace that is more functional and supportive for people to do their best work. Being able to see that in action is really quite interesting.

Could you share with us your fondest memory in OGP?

The fondest memory I’ve had at OGP is the time when I was able to see first-hand how my implementation of the analytics tool to CheckFirst was used by hundreds of users to calculate when their Stay-Home-Notices end. That was really exciting because I could visualise how we were contributing and how we were impacting the lives of others, and make the hours that we spent building the product worthwhile.

We are Open Government Products, an experimental division of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore. We build technology for the public good.