The value of internships and networking

Internships and networking are of great value for computing students who are preparing for the eventual transition into the workforce. Both internships and networking can help lead to future jobs.

According to a recent Forbes article (opens in a new window) , about 50 percent of college graduates now complete internships, which is significantly higher than the 3 percent figure from the 1980s. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 56 percent of internships converted into full-time jobs (opens in a new window) . 49 percent of students who complete an internship are less likely of underemployment at graduation.

At a recent AWS Career Exploration Day (opens in a new window) event held May 23 and sponsored by the nonprofit, Computing for All (opens in a new window) , industry experts spoke with a focus on internships, AWS, and networking.

Employer panel

The first panel focusing on internships featured Ali Saad from T-Mobile and Kai Wang from JP Morgan. One of Saad’s advisements is to always ask ‘why?’ in order to provide a deeper sense of meaning and look at things through a bigger picture lens. Additionally, from an employee perspective, one should consider what is the ‘why?’ for the customer or client. One of Wang’s advisements is to look at internships as a 10-week interview because that is how employers look at internships. Students or recent graduates performing well in an internship have a higher likelihood of a successful hire upon completion of an internship.

The experts also discussed a number of other points:

    • Developing a variety of mentors—having a single mentor is a good start but having a multitude of perspectives is much better.
    • Knowing the difference between a willingness to learn and a desire to learn because IT employers want to see a clear desire to learn. Learning is important for professional development, but wanting to learn and grow is imperative in the constantly evolving technology sector.
    • While one should use good judgment in knowing when to ask, always ask questions and do not be afraid to ask for guidance. In a constantly evolving career field, most employers welcome employees who are looking to learn about different sectors and seek help in attaining long-term goals.
    • One of the most valuable aspects of an internship is figuring out what parts work and what parts do not work. Maybe an intern will find they like the company for which they are intern but not necessarily the position.

Employee panel

At the AWS employee panel, employees explained the basics of what a solutions architect does each day—works directly with customers providing technology solutions across a wide spectrum of fields from retail to healthcare. All of the panelists agree finding work-life balance is essential. For some that may include searching for your ‘why’ or finding time for things that bring you joy or just having time in the day to oneself outside of work. AWS Enterprise Engineer Mitch Nolan made the astute analogy that a critical skill in technology is the ability to document your work, just as a chef documents their work through recipes. One needs to document the raw materials or ingredients, the difficulty level and any additional notes, and a step-by-step guide through the process of the work.

Other recommendations from the panel included:

    • Take a business class, as one’s ultimate goal is to help the organization or business and most of today’s business classes incorporate project management skills, something valuable within the tech industry, as well as many other fields.
    • Practice explaining one concept to five people with different roles and different personalities, as this will help in explaining concepts to different audiences.
    • Ability to network and develop a personal elevator pitch with specific work skills and job experiences.
    • Pursue a Solutions Architect Associate certification (opens in a new window) , as it will provide a base level of technology competencies.

Networking panel

At the Networking panel, AWS Recruiter Federico Jimenez discussed tips for networking. At AWS, one slogan is your network is your net worth. There are opportunities for recent college graduates through AWS, including internships and entry-level roles and training. If a student is invited for an interview, preparation is key, as they should be detail-oriented and demonstrate skills with research and data. Other key takeaways include:

    • Research before an interview—know the company values, what the job role is about, what success in such roles looks like and what good questions sound like.
    • With broad-based questions, rehearse your elevator pitch before addressing the five Ws: who, what, when, where and why, plus how. Be sure to address the job requirements. As an example, a common question asks interviewees about communication style. Answer the question broadly to begin with, before addressing specifics to the job role and do not be afraid to address ‘learning moments.’ Learning from mistakes is not necessarily seen as a weakness but can be a strength if the interviewee shows growth.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers regular free classes through their Skills Centers (opens in a new window) virtually and even some in-person (in company headquarters Seattle, Arlington, Va. and Cape Town, South Africa). Computing students looking for more information on Washington computing programs, tips on resumes, interviews and job searches and much more, visit the Centers of Excellence Resources page.

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