As workforce demand increases for graduates with information technology skills, UC Santa Barbara Information Technology kicked off the first year of their newly implemented internship program in June 2020. With the end of year one approaching,  interns reflect upon the practical skills gained throughout this program, shaping them into desirable candidates for post-grad career opportunities. 

Among various departments throughout campus, Information Technology (IT) selected a cohort of six undergraduates from a pool of 275 applicants, with one intern assigned to each participating department. The program does not require any previous technical background, just a willingness to learn; in fact, most students from this year’s cohort had zero experience with the platform project to which they were assigned. Projects involve exposure to a variety of relevant software, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Salesforce, JupyterHub, Power BI and more. Last month, students presented their projects to IT leadership, showcasing how their knowledge and skills have progressed through the duration of their individual project assignments.

“When interviewing for summer 2021 internships, many interviewers were surprised with how much I know about AWS as an undergraduate, so there’s a lot of value in getting experience with a high-demand software before entering a full-time career,” said Cindy Zhao, Cloud Solutions AWS intern. Cindy, who is now fully AWS certified, accepted an internship at popular software company Splunk for the upcoming summer. 

Interns gain experience collaborating across departments with a wide range of goals and are regularly brought together to engage in training and networking opportunities. Through this synergistic environment, students build skills that will stick with them through future endeavors, like public speaking, leadership, relationship building and more. A key idea emphasized by program supervisors is the ability to explain a technical concept to someone without a technical background, a skill that is highly sought after in many fields — especially in today’s remote work environment.

“One of the most powerful skills to have in my desired career path is being able to communicate raw data and utilizing trends and maps so that people can understand the true impact of the data. Through my Power BI project, I was able to create reports for COVID-19 in our community, and it was really special to be a part of something that is impacting our campus so deeply,” said Isiah Fimbrez, data systems analyst intern. Isiah’s work with Power BI allowed him to practice communicating important technical information to a wide audience, adding more capabilities to his toolkit while sharpening the skills he had already developed over the course of his UCSB education.

Interning with UCSB IT provides more than just another way to make money or strengthen your resume. Students work on initiatives that directly impact campus technology services and prepare them for a full-time career in a field that is constantly expanding as our world becomes increasingly virtual. 

Considering UCSB’s reputation as a research university, there can be lots of competition for the limited spots on research teams across campus. But participating in research is not the only way that students can get involved in resume-building campus organizations. Working as an intern in a department such as UCSB IT can provide students with an opportunity to learn valuable professional skills while they are still in college, without needing the previous experience that research positions or outside internships often require. Additionally, unlike most off-campus internships, on-campus employers respect that your obligations as a student should come before all other commitments. 

Applications for the IT department’s 2021-22 program are open via Handshake until April 21.

Lindsey Terra, a student communications assistant for the IT department, thinks that interning on campus is the most convenient and rewarding way to gain professional experience!