ByteDance internship preparing Zijian for the world of work

Hands-on experience at one of China’s biggest tech companies is helping Zijian Ju build the skills he will need for a career in coding.

The Master of Engineering (Software) student is interning five days a week at the Shanghai offices of ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok and its Chinese equivalent Douyin). It’s a credited internship, meaning it counts towards Zijian’s final degree; 25 per cent of his third year, to be precise.

Since returning to China from Melbourne last year when COVID-19 hit, Zijian has been studying online. But, like a number of other international students in Faculty of Engineering and IT (FEIT) at the University of Melbourne, he has been able to complete a credited internship in his home country thanks to the Faculty’s international internship process. The process was established last year for overseas students impacted by travel restrictions.

Securing an internship at one of China’s best-known tech firms wasn’t easy; Zijian had to complete a competitive application process to get one of the coveted spots.

The recruitment process for big IT companies in China is quite similar to Facebook or Google, except there is more focus on technical questions and less on behavioural questions, he says.

For this internship, there was a three-part assessment, with each section covering different computing skills. My masters studies really helped prepare me to do well.

He will go through a similar process later this year when he applies for a graduate position, with most Chinese companies releasing available roles in July or August. Thanks to his internship, he will be in a strong position, having developed ‘soft skills’ on-the-job to complement the technical skills he is learning through his studies.

Soft skills are the focus of the internship subject, to help prepare students to succeed in the workplace when they graduate.

Once you start working it becomes obvious how important communication is, Zijian says.

Working in a busy environment, I’ve learned to communicate efficiently. I’m clearer about what I’m asking, what I need to know and what the pain points are. It’s much more effective than asking general questions.

As part of the team working on the back-end development of TikTok’s e-commerce offering, Zijian is coding in GoLang, a language developed by Google that he first learned during his masters.

I’m working on tools that help streamers track the success of their shop, pulling information from over 100 indicators like the ‘refund ratio’ and the ‘buy ratio’ he says.

Previously they had to manage this information themselves. The platform I’m working on makes it much more efficient for them.

It’s exciting work, and Zijian has already learned some important lessons that he will be taking with him as he begins his coding career.

In particular I’ve learned the importance of identifying the kinds of data provided by the upstream and the downstream service providers early on, he says.

Zijian says his studies at Melbourne helped prepare him for these kinds of real-world challenges, and he has some advice for new students.

The tutorials were particularly useful – I’d say if you attend every tutorial then you will do very well, he says.

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