IT internships and co-ops lead grads to first jobs
Corporations consider student internships and co-ops an investment in their future workforce
Interns work on active projects alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry
By Angela M. Hutchinson
Senior Contributing Editor
Workplace experience before graduation gives aspiring IT professionals an edge over job applicants who didn’t participate in internships or co-ops.
Interns can work alongside some of the brightest minds at a company, gaining knowledge and enhancing existing skills before entering the fulltime workforce.
Co-ops allow students to explore various career paths over several months and eventually select a track that best suits their skills and interests. IT co-ops generally last from three to nine months and are paid positions. Many involve rotations through various departments or roles.
Internships are available year-round but most occur during the summer. They may be paid or unpaid, for credit or not, depending on the educational institution and company requirements.
Companies focus on internships and co-ops to increase diversity
Corporations consider their co-op and intern programs an investment in the organization’s future workforce. Former student employees understand the company’s corporate structure, culture and work environment, and if they return to a department where they’ve already worked, they know their co-workers as well. When openings exist, there’s generally a strong effort to “convert” interns and co-ops to permanent employees after they graduate.
“Since most of our interns are hired off college campuses, our firm’s campus recruiting team, in conjunction with KPMG’s partners and audit, tax and advisory professionals, plays a significant role in our efforts to increase diversity,” says Blane Ruschak, executive director of university relations and recruiting for KPMG.
KPMG is an international audit, tax and financial advisory firm headquartered in Amstelveen, Netherlands; Ruschak works in its Montvale, NJ corporate office. “Recruiting a diverse selection of candidates for our internship programs supports our culture of inclusion and helps ensure we are engaging a broad talent pool.”
Like KPMG, many companies focus specifically on diversity hiring, and work closely with their diversity employee groups as well as national student organizations to recruit interns.
At investment firm Edward Jones (St. Louis, MO), hiring managers tap multicultural organizations like the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, the National Urban League, the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, and other organizations, according to Emily Pitts, principal for inclusion and diversity. “These groups give us an opportunity to build our brand and educate professionals, recent graduates and MBAs about the career opportunities available.
“Our university recruiting team members also spend a significant amount of time nurturing relationships with students and faculty at historically black colleges and universities and universities with diverse student populations,” says Pitts. “That helps graduates feel a sense of trust and that we have their best interests in mind. We want them to know that we value their commitment to education and their expertise in technology and that we will continue to develop them within the firm.”
Preeti Bangali gains insight on consulting as a KPMG intern
After earning her masters, Preeti Bangali began working as a KPMG associate at the company’s IT attestation group in Chicago, IL. As part of the risk consulting division of IT advisory, the IT attestation practice helps organizations satisfy third-party risk and compliance assurance requirements and demonstrate the integrity of their control environment.
“I help with a variety of our projects where KPMG provides reports on controls that are likely to be relevant to user organizations’ internal control over financial reporting for financial statement audits; SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports on security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy using Trust Service Principles; internal IT audit engagements; and special advisory projects related to social media and process enhancement for clients,” she says.
Bangali started as an intern with the risk consulting group in KPMG’s IT advisory practice. “I had a chance to experience and learn more about our practice, the type of work that is done, and the KPMG culture,” says Bangali. “I met professionals with whom I could connect and ask for advice, whether it was about KPMG, my studies or my career, and how I could grow as a professional to meet my long-term goals.”
Bangali connected with KPMG at Indiana University. KPMG impressed her early on in the recruitment process. “The campus recruiting team and other professionals who came on campus during career fairs and events were extremely friendly and very professional. They were patient while answering my questions and were easy to get along with,” she says. “Once I cleared the first round of interviews on campus, they brought me to the Chicago office where I met more people who gave me insight into the KPMG high-performing culture.”
The internship introduced Bangali to the world of consulting. “I saw what consultants deal with on a daily basis, whether it’s traveling, working with clients, or dealing with the pressure when deadlines are around the corner,” she says. “I learned how to work with professionals, work in a team environment, and meet client and team expectations that come with the job.”
The most important aspect of Bangali’s experience, she says, was the relationship with her mentors. “They were open to sharing their experiences of when they first started their careers and what lessons they learned early on,” she says. “Through their guidance, I was able to figure out how I wanted to start my career and what options I had if I decided to join KPMG.”
Today, her responsibilities include planning and executing the day-to-day activities of IT attestation engagements for clients. She evaluates the design and effectiveness of technology controls for the IT environment and specific business processes. She also communicates with senior management and clients regarding the status of engagements and findings. In addition, she helps identify performance improvement opportunities for clients.
“As an associate, I spend seventy percent of my time at a client site and am the point of contact for a majority of the work we do in the field for both the client and senior management,” she says.
Originally from Mumbai, India, Bangali earned her bachelors in computer engineering at the University of Mumbai in 2010. Two years later, she completed her masters in information systems at Indiana University in Bloomington.
“Having a strong IT background has definitely helped me interface with my clients effectively,” she says. “My technical background comes in handy when we are helping our clients with their IT environments. And my graduate degree has helped me understand the connections among the business processes that use IT, thus helping me to connect the dots and understand my client’s systems and control environment.”
Mary Creason: co-op leads to IS rotational program at Edward Jones
Creason started her rotational program in the information systems department. “I changed teams and responsibilities every three months,” she says. “After a year, I was permanently placed on a team.”
She graduated from Missouri State University (Springfield) in 2009. As an undergrad, Creason participated in a six-month co-op at Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, MO. She landed the co-op through the job tracks program at her school.
As a co-op, she had to complete pre-set programming assignments and training. “I had also been chosen as the leader of a group of about twenty co-ops who put together new material to promote information technology in middle and high schools with a focus on women in IT,” she says. Creason and her co-op team gave presentations to about a dozen high schools and middle schools.
The co-op provided the hands-on experience that helped land her job at Edward Jones. “I learned from an experienced developer how to structure your code to help an application run efficiently as well as how to document those pieces. I also gained leadership experience that I might not have gotten anywhere else,” she says. “The co-op helped confirm my career goals, and increased my passion for programming. It was a great overall experience.”
Working in a predominantly male workforce has been a learning experience for Creason. “Most days it makes me work that much harder in my job.” She makes it a point to be her own advocate and to make sure her voice is heard. “I pay attention to the way I dress,” she says. “When I have a professional and put-together look, others tend to show respect without even knowing why.”
Bringing varied perspectives together in a team often leads to innovative problem solving, says Creason. “Especially in the technology field, these new perspectives can increase efficiency and expand and grow business in new ways. A different perspective can make a difference in design, usability and more.”
Nirmal M. Chhugani: analyst programmer at Mayo Clinic IT
Nirmal M. Chhugani is an analyst programmer in the research application solutions unit at Mayo Clinic IT (Rochester, MN). He has held the position for almost three years. Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group. Chhugani says Mayo is a true equal-opportunity employer that hires people based on their educational merit, skills and prior experience.
“I am proud to be part of a growing Fortune 500 company that nourishes a healthy outlook on cultural diversity,” he says. He also appreciates Mayo’s motto: “The patient’s needs always come first.”
As an undergrad, Chhugani interned with BNR Design LLC (Rochester, MN). He was involved in the development of an online scientific journal where the global scientific community could engage in communicating and sharing research in ways that speed up the development of possible cures and remedies for human diseases.
The internship exposed Chhugani to a real-world application and the latest technologies. “The fact that I was familiar with a relevant research-based project went a long way when I was being considered for my current position,” he says. “The internship provided an opportunity to work closely with my clients, their stakeholders and a team of professional developers.”
The teamwork skills he learned in his internship have helped Chhugani work effectively in his team-based tech environment at Mayo. He is responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of web-based applications and relational database management systems on a variety of projects that support research and quality initiatives for the department of psychiatry and psychology, molecular pharmacology and employee community health.
One of the projects he worked on is Big One Stop Shop (BOSS), Mayo’s consolidated solution for data standardization across institutional initiatives in research and clinical practice. “In its effort to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice,” he says, “BOSS provides data integration from various institutional resources.”
He also worked on the continuing medical education attendance tracker. It’s a data management system used to track user participation in Mayo provided clinical, surgical and research courses across all three Mayo locations.
Chhugani is an Asian Indian who was born and raised in the suburbs of Mumbai, the business capital of India. “My grandparents were originally from Sindh, Pakistan and migrated to India during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947,” he says.
After finishing high school, he completed a 1984 diploma in civil engineering at Government Polytechnic (Mumbai, India). “For a major part of my career I was a construction engineer back home,” he says. “I married a woman whose background is in IT and after 9/11 the ripple effect was felt in Mumbai, because many Indian IT firms relied on U.S. projects.”
His wife came to the U.S. to pursue her BSCS at Winona State University (Winona, MN). She interned at Mayo and was offered a job. “I followed her with our son, who was five at the time, and pursued studies in computer science as most of the U.S. companies do not sponsor work visas in the civil engineering field.”
Chhugani earned his BSCS at Winona State in 2010. “My background in civil engineering helped me tremendously in prepping for an IT career,” he says, “since both the fields require sound analytical and mathematics knowledge.”
He joined Mayo after earning his degree. He finds the atmosphere healthy because of its pool of talented individuals from diverse cultures working together as a team. “America is a great land of opportunity where generations of immigrants have fulfilled their dreams by hard work in an open environment where diversity flourishes,” he says.
Carolyn Tran is a mobile design team lead at Geico
For the past year, Carolyn Tran has been a Geico mobile and digital design team lead. She’s responsible for managing the workloads of the designers on her team and introducing new user experience processes to the entire company. “The team works on Geico’s customer-facing digital properties, like mobile apps, Internet applications and emails,” she says. Geico (Chevy Chase, MD) is an auto insurance provider.
Tran’s job has a mentoring component. She coaches newer employees and helps them improve their skills and find opportunities for continued career development.
She enjoys the collaborative work environment. “We try to bring remote members of the team into discussions that we have about a design,” she says. “We interact and collaborate with other project teams and management as well. We all provide feedback on new concepts and mockups.”
Tran earned her 2008 associates in science, arts and liberal studies at Elgin Community College (Elgin, IL). She went on to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her 2010 dual BS in information systems and finance. With such intense coursework, she spent most of her summers taking classes instead of participating in internships. “I did have a part-time job as a teller/customer representative at a bank,” she says.
While Tran was in school, Geico only offered paid IT internships for students in the DC metropolitan area. The internships are now available to any student, she notes. After graduating, Tran started her career at Geico in its Emerging Leaders management development program, which prepares participants for IT and call center management.
New grads who did not have an opportunity to do an internship or co-op should consider working for corporations with similar programs, Tran says. Geico’s Emerging Leaders participants receive mentoring from senior management, attend leadership conferences and interact with associates at all levels.
“I enjoyed the rotation aspect and the level of mentoring,” says Tran. “The program welcomes students from all diverse backgrounds. It provides support and structure for us to excel and establish a long-lasting career at Geico.”
Tran’s parents came to the U.S. from Vietnam as teenagers and raised their family in a northwest Chicago suburb. Their experience has given her a better understanding and greater appreciation for the opportunities she’s been given and she tries not to take such things for granted.
“Much of my inspiration and drive comes from my parents’ story,” she says. “Their experience pushes me to perform at the best of my abilities.”
Tran finds her colleagues supportive of diverse backgrounds. “Geico celebrates and promotes awareness through a variety of cultural events like Asian/
Pacific Islander month and African American heritage month,” she says. “Exhibits are set up in the workplace to display items from other cultures.
“Varied experiences foster more ideas and solutions,” adds Tran. “We learn from each other’s mistakes and build upon each other’s successes. Diversity in the workplace keeps things interesting and encourages innovation.”
Corporate recruiters speak out on the benefits of a diverse workforce
A diverse workforce is a top priority for technology- based companies. “In order to provide the best service and advice to our clients, we must use tools that give us a comprehensive view of our client portfolios,” says Emily Pitts of Edward Jones. “A workforce that can help us think about various ways to use technological tools and services provides diversity of thought, which breeds innovation and enables us to better serve our diverse clientele.”
KPMG has six regional diversity recruiters “who help drive execution of our diversity strategy across all of our areas and local markets,” says Blane Ruschak. “They work closely with the local office recruiters to ensure that we are effective in attracting and hiring diverse candidates.
“We know that our ability to sustain a high-performance culture requires that our people be as diverse as the clients we serve, and the communities in which we live and work,” he adds.
KPMG’s recruiting strategy also includes affiliation with sponsorship of various student and professional diversity organizations. “We have strong relationships with the National Association of Black Accountants, the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting, Out in Undergraduate Business, and Ascend,” he says.
KPMG also has several in-house programs geared toward providing leadership training, scholarships and internships to top diverse students. “KPMG values diversity and champions it through our highest ranks of leadership,” notes Ruschak. “Diversity makes us more responsive as an organization, helping us better understand and serve clients.”
Frederick A. Wills, administrator in the office of diversity and inclusion at Mayo, says, “There is a definite advantage to cultivating a diverse workforce when we reflect and relate to the people and communities we serve.” Mayo strives to have diversity in its staff to yield the best outcomes for its patients. “When recruiting, we must seek a variety of methods and ways in which to reach and engage diverse professionals at different levels and different skills sets.”
Back to Top