You see me on here talking about initiative muscle a lot, and that’s because you need to take intentional action in order to create opportunities for yourself. Well, Veronica might just be the definition of initiative muscle! I was so impressed with her proactive approach, which landed her multiple computer science internships. If you have ever considered, or are currently pursuing, a degree in computer science, Veronica’s #myinternhustle journey is a must read.
Name: Veronica Peterson
Education: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bachelors in Computer Science: 2017
Did you have a dream job or specific career path in mind when you started college? If yes, what was it?
Not when I started college. I didn’t even know for sure that I wanted to stay in Computer Science when I first started. In hindsight, I’m so happy that I stuck it out and didn’t get intimidated that first semester of school by the big classes, lack of female classmates, and the feeling that everyone else already knew more than me about programming. Early on in college, I expected that I would move to California to work at one of the big tech firms after graduation because that’s what I thought all CS majors did. I was unaware of the other opportunities out there.
What internship(s) were a part of your Intern Hustle?
- January 2014: Pariveda Solutions, Software Developer Shadow
- Summer 2014: Allstate, Software Developer Intern
- January 2015: IMC, Software Developer Wintern
- Summer 2015: Qualcomm, Software Developer Intern
- Summer 2016: IMC, Software Developer Intern
How did you get your internship(s)?
My first “internship” was more of a job shadowing during my freshman year winter break. I sent out an email to some of my mom’s friends in the neighborhood to see if any of them knew someone who worked in tech that I could job shadow over break. This connected me with a neighbor who works at a mid-sized technology consulting firm in Chicago, Pariveda Solutions. I did a 2-week job shadow of a software developer and this was my introduction to the daily work of a software developer.
The job shadow was definitely my foot in the door to getting an internship the summer after my freshman year. It can be hard to get companies to take you seriously when you have so little experience and haven’t taken many courses towards your major yet, but when I went to the Engineering Spring Career Fair, the job shadowing on my resume impressed a lot of the recruiters. I got my first real internship at Allstate in Northbrook, IL. Once I had that on my resume, it was easier to talk to recruiters the following fall at the career fair.
I had a leg up with my summer internship because most sophomores don’t have any internship experience yet. I talked to both IMC and Qualcomm at this time. I interviewed with Qualcomm and accepted an offer to intern in San Diego for the summer after my sophomore year.
Later that fall, I accepted an offer to participate in IMC’s first ever “winternship,” a 2-week program over my winter break that would introduce me to trading in general and at IMC, as well as about the development they do there. I was excited to participate in that program because it would be a great way to spend my winter break and give me another opportunity to see a different industry and possible career path.
Following the winternship, I accepted an offer for the next summer (since I had already accepted to intern at Qualcomm for that coming summer). That led into my full-time job offer at IMC, where I work now!
Name the top three highlights from your Intern Hustle.
- The top highlight from all my internships was the friends that I made. As part of my internship at IMC, all of the interns lived together in an apartment building in the heart of Chicago. This helped us form bonds outside of work. I spent so much time with all the other interns, whether it was going out to dinners and to explore the city, spending weekends on the Chicago beaches, or just watching the newest episode of Silicon Valley together. I stayed in touch with them many of them throughout the year after the internship (even visiting one of the interns in Canada) and because many of us accepted full-time offers, it was exciting to be back together on our first day in August. It’s great to have this group of friends to spend time with both at the office and outside of it.
- Another highlight from my summer at IMC was when my group’s project went live ahead of schedule. I was on a team with two other interns and a full-time software developer mentor. Our project was to replace a current text parsing system with a much more flexible, efficient, and expandable system. After several weeks of development and testing, we came into work one morning to find that the old system had unexpectedly crashed so our replacement was being used. It was scary at first, but it was also rewarding to see our project successfully being used and helped us to flush out any bugs and feature requests faster.
- A third highlight from my summer at IMC was our big volunteering day at a Chicago Public Schools summer camp. I have always been involved in philanthropy, especially in college, so I was thrilled to get the chance to volunteer with the company. We spent the day playing sports with local elementary school kids. This day stood out in my mind from my internships because it was when I learned that I could continue to make philanthropy a big part of my life after college. It wasn’t until after I saw how IMC would both provide me with volunteering opportunities and support me in my own philanthropic activities, that I realized I wanted to work for a company that cares so much about giving back. Part of an internship is learning what you want in a company for a full-time job, and this opportunity helped me do that.
What is one of the biggest challenges you faced during an internship and what did you learn from it?
Learning that my problems wouldn’t have “right answers” like the ones at school. At college, you get used to knowing that all of the problems have answers and that if you study the material enough, then you can find that answer. In the working world, the problems you have to solve may not have solutions or may have many possible solutions. It becomes your job to come up with possible solutions, weigh the pros and cons of each, and decide what you believe is the best solution. Then you usually have to convince someone else, your manager or the client, that your solution is the best one. It was challenging for me to shift my mindset from what I was used to at school to this new approach to problems.
What is the most unexpected skill you gained from an internship?
The ability to give and accept feedback, both positive and critical. At first, it was hard to hear constructive criticism, but I realized that people were just trying to help me improve. Now, I seek out feedback as much as possible. Similarly, I felt uncomfortable providing feedback to my co-workers until I reminded myself that they want feedback on how to improve as much as I do.
What internship advice do you have for college students?
Be proactive. No one is going to just hand you an internship or a full-time job offer. Be proactive to find internship opportunities: take advantage of career fairs, tech talks, or other recruiting events that your university hosts. My other advice would be to be open-minded because there are so many opportunities out there and so many great companies that could be an unexpected great fit for you. I never would have imagined that I would work at a trading company, but after giving the internship at IMC a chance, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
Did your desired career path shift at all based on your internship experience(s)? If yes, in what way?
My desired career path definitely shifted based on all of my internship experiences. My internships exposed me to job opportunities and career paths that I was completely unaware of when I entered college. They helped me learn my preferences on company size, location, industry, and culture. I realized how important it is for me to work for a company where I feel challenged by the work and where I feel supported by my co-workers.
Were you offered a job as a result of your Intern Hustle? Tell us about it!
Yes! I was offered a job as a full-time software developer at IMC following my internship. I have been working here since August 2017 and have loved my full-time experience as much as I loved my internship.
And for the final question…What’s your party trick?
I’m not sure how much it’s known inside the workplace, but I have a big interest in horticulture and took several horticulture courses at college, including vegetable gardening. I have lots of fun facts about fruits and veggies!
(Good to know that Veronica can likely put to rest the question on everyone’s mind…is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? The people want to know.)
If you’re interested in learning more about IMC and the opportunities within their internship program, you can check out their website here.
Do you have a #myinternhustle story to share? Or do you know someone else who does? Email me and I’ll send you the details on how you can apply to be featured.