The Internship Search

Earlier this semester, I would accidentally identify as a sophomore at times. I’m a junior and it’s the beginning of the end of college for me. Bigger questions about life are knocking on my door as I prepare to step out of the Cornell bubble and into the real world. One of the most time consuming of those questions is that of my career. Where I intern after my junior year is likely to impact the job I might have after graduation. So this semester, I’ve been on the internship hunt (and so have all my classmates and friends).

There are over a thousand internship postings on our on-campus recruiting platform. A majority are in the finance/consulting and tech industries. As a Computer Science major, that is well in my favor. But competition is also tough for these jobs because the economics and computer science majors are both huge at Cornell. Being an international student, who will eventually need visa sponsorship, does not seem to greatly affect my candidacy for jobs in the tech industry. There are a few tech companies that require work authorization, but none of the large companies have such a restriction. This is the context of my internship search.

Most of the tech internships are in software engineering positions. Although I do enjoy programming, I don’t see myself working as a software engineer for a long time. I’d prefer work that will help me develop and use skills other than technical problem solving. My own work experience, as in my resume, is mainly my Research Assistant position this summer at Cornell and my Teaching Assistant position for CS 3110. Other than that, I have experience in writing (journalism, expository writing, blogging) and also some in acting and facilitation.

I started out by applying to several software engineering positions at large and small companies. Some companies started interviewing in mid-late September. I interviewed with Citadel and Arista Networks in September. I didn’t make it through the Citadel interviews, but received an offer from Arista Networks for a software engineering internship. It was great to have a good offer quite early in the semester.

Early in October, I had interviews scheduled with Google and Microsoft. With Google, I was interviewing for Software Engineering, but at Microsoft, I could choose to interview for the Program Manager internship. Their Program Manager role is quite alike the Product Manager roles in other tech companies. The position is an interface between the business, design and engineering teams. It requires technical skills but the day to day job encompasses several other skills. I chose to interview for that position.

Because of my impending deadline with Arista Networks’ offer, both Google and Microsoft were able to expedite my interview process. I take it for granted that companies that can afford such flexibility will be courteous enough to do so. But I’ve heard that finance companies tend to refuse to extend deadlines or accommodate other deadlines. It seems like the tech industry is especially nice in the recruiting process. My technical interviews with Google didn’t go as well as I would have liked. In about two weeks, my Google recruiter called me to inform me that I wouldn’t receive an internship offer. But my on campus interview with Microsoft went well and I was invited to an onsite interview loop at Seattle last week.

The interview loop consisted of 4 interviews – some were technical and some were on product design (I had no previous experience with this so I worked through a book on  product management interviews on short notice). I also had a lunch interview with a member of the group I was interviewing with. The interviews evaluated both my skills and if I was a fit for Microsoft. It was a long and exhausting day, but all my interviews had gone well. Later in the week, I received a call from my recruiter. I was told that I am receiving an offer for the program manager internship.

Since the program manager role aligns with what I’m looking for in my internship and short-term career, I’m likely to accept this offer. It also really helps that Microsoft is an awesome company, the compensation and perks are among the best in the industry, and that I can be in Seattle next summer. But I still have a interviews pending with other companies for software engineering internships and I plan to go through them at least to accumulate more interviewing experience.

I’m relieved that my internship search is nearly at its end. It was so time consuming that it felt like another 4 credit class I must take. Now I can focus on making up for all the classes I’ve missed and sub-par assignments I’ve submitted on account of interviews. If you were expecting me to say that I can now sit back and relax … well, that doesn’t happen at Cornell.

Suit Up: It’s the Career Fair

In the last two days, the shorts and tshirt wearing student population suddenly transformed into business executives in formals. At any given time today in central campus, you could spot at least ten students in suits, with a folder full of resume copies. Welcome to Career Fair Fall 2013.

With the abundance formally dressed students, signs pointing towards the career fair and conversations starters such as –

“Why are you so dressed up?”

“Are you going to the career fair?”

“Oh, when is the career fair?

This event is hard to miss. So this morning, I wore formal pants and a black sweater over a collared,crisp shirt and decided to attend the fair. As most of the experience I listed on my resume seemed silly to me, I did not bother to print copies of my resume. Anyway, it would be ridiculous to expect to bag an internship opportunity the first time I set foot in a career fair in my freshman year.

As I entered Barton Hall, where the fair was held, perhaps I looked overwhelmed. There were numerous stalls and a swarm of students dressed in black and white. An employee of Cornell’s Career Services sensed my hesitation and called me over. He advised me to “get a name tag, walk around, take a look at the companies and if any of them interest you, go talk to them. It’s not an issue that you’re a freshman.”

That little encouragement along the way seemed to be just what I needed. I felt under-dressed and purposeless amid the students in suits with resumes in hand and job offers on their minds. But I managed to navigate through the maze in Barton Hall and  inquire about internships at some of the tech companies present there.

I also happened to run into some classmates. For most of us freshmen, the career fair was just a new experience. We didn’t expect anything out of it, but the free goodies didn’t hurt. If not an internship, a free water bottle is enough consolation right now. Never mind the company name and logo on it.

At Amazon’s stall, the representative said to a group of freshmen, “Most of our interns are rising seniors. You can submit your resume, but if you don’t make it, don’t worry. You can always come next time.” That sentence was  the highlight of my experience at the career fair. By the next major career fair, I hope to have some marketable skills on my resume and a few more formal outfits in my closet.