It’s week two of our fall internship interview series! This week’s interviewee is Calvin Bench, a second year iSchooler who is enrolled in the B.S. Computer Science / M.S. Information Studies five year integrated program where he is studying user experience (UX) research & design.
Where is your internship and what do you do?
I’ve done two. Last summer I was a Software Design intern with IBM’s Maelstrom program. This program had 15 interns, subdivided into 3 groups of 5, working together as UX researchers, designers and front-end developers. It was a great experience because there was a range of backgrounds in this group and we worked on really cool projects. Mine was applying Internet of Things technology to auto insurance. The day-to-day saw us interviewing, making mockups, testing prototypes and regularly presenting to stakeholders.
This past summer I was an Interaction Design intern at National Instruments. This was a great experience because I was the only intern and therefore had a lot of responsibility. I was the means to the end so I conducted interviews, did competitive analysis, made mockups and specced out a prototype built by a developer then conducted usability testing on this working prototype.
What drew you to this internship?
I was drawn to the IBM internship because it was in the design studio and IBM does interesting work with emerging technology. I did a lot of research on what past interns said about the Maelstrom program and that sold me further.
I was drawn to the National Instruments internship because I knew that I’d be doing full-stack UX research & design on my own and that the work I did could be put in my portfolio. I’d also talked to plenty of people who worked at NI and they loved it, so I wanted to give it a shot.
What have you enjoyed most about your internship?
The thing I enjoyed most about the Maelstrom internship was how much I learned. It felt like a semester at IBM. We regularly had experts coming and talking to us, giving insight on their work and how it could be applied generally.
I enjoyed National Instruments because of the independence and autonomy. I really felt empowered by having the sole responsibility for the deliverables of my project.
What have you learned from your internship?
From the IBM internship I learned that teamwork makes the dream work. It’s incredibly important to thrive while collaborating. I also learned a ton about the design methodology, Design Thinking, and how to successfully apply it to challenges in product development.
From the National Instruments internship I learned how to motivate and pace myself and how to design an internship around the fact that my work would be a portfolio piece. During the whole internship I kept in mind how I would organize my work into a portfolio piece.
What skills, knowledge or experience did you develop in a class that you have used at this internship?
- Making presentations
- Design Thinking
- Media production
- Understanding of technology
How did you find this internship position? What resources did you use?
I went to loads of career fairs and other career oriented events. The Department of Computer Science regularly hosts meet-and-greets with tech companies, so I leveraged these and sent emails like crazy. I also focused on making my LinkedIn profile as compelling as possible. Getting these internships felt like a job itself.
When did you begin searching for an internship and how long did it take to find this position?
The IBM internship had me searching in the fall and I didn’t get this internship offer until the spring. It was a long road of constantly applying and interviewing. The more interviews I did, the better I got at them.
Getting the internship at National Instruments was much easier. I got that offer in October for the following summer. And because of my experience, I got an offer from, I think, every company I interviewed with that season.
Is there a class that you’d recommend to students interested in developing the skills needed to work in a similar internship/position?
Any class with Eric Nordquist is good. Working on projects is a great resume/portfolio builder and something to talk about during interviews. Ideally portfolio projects are something big that you actually execute on. It’s especially impressive when the work you do is external from class or you keep building on a project after a class is complete. Getting involved with student organizations is important as well. Companies want to know who they’re hiring because they’re essentially bringing you into the family. The better they understand you as a person and your interests, the more likely they’ll be comfortable hiring you.
What advice would you give other students searching for an internship or work opportunity?
Hit the bricks hard. It takes a lot of hustle to get the right internship. And don’t be discouraged. I thought I was a shoo-in for an American Airlines internship because they flew me out for an interview that went really well. I didn’t even get a rejection. Not a peep from them after that. Roll with the punches.
Come back each week in November for a new interview with one of your fellow iSchoolers.