Some of my favorite experiences as an undergraduate have been my summer internship experiences. While my classes are a great way to learn important academic material, my internships have taught me about what I like and don’t like, how to work collaboratively in a professional setting, and have given me practical, hands-on experiences in the industry. They’ve also lead me to have productive, fulfilling summers while still feeling like I’m getting a break from schoolwork.
If you’re interested in hearing about the internship I had after my freshmen summer at a data science consulting start-up, you can find my blog post here! I worked as a data analytics intern and absolutely loved the culture and the work I did. It exposed me to the world of data science and led me to want to pursue a data science minor at Penn.
This past summer, I worked as a software engineer intern at the Chemours Company, a chemical company in my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. I found out about the opportunity from a family friend in January of 2019. (That’s another piece of advice I have - be sure to reach out to any connections you might have if you’re looking for an internship!) Your professors, mentors, and family friends are all great resources and can help connect you to a recruiter at a company you may want to work at. It’s nothing to be ashamed of to reach out to a connection; you will still likely go through the usual application and interview process, but your connection may help you learn more about the company and ensures that your resume won’t get lost among other applications.
After applying and interviewing, I received and accepted the job offer in March. I interviewed with my future manager, so I learned about the team I would be working on, but my manager told me that he did not know exactly what project I would be working on just yet. However, I was excited and open to tackling whatever challenges I was given.
I started work at the beginning of June. There were about thirty interns at my location for the summer, which turned out to be a great benefit for me. I loved working alongside college students my age who came from all different universities and were similar stages of life in discovering what they wanted to do in their careers. It was also neat to share academic interests with my peers outside of the classroom and draw from their experiences and learn from them. I was able to make friends through the intern program, both through working closely with the three other interns on my team and through the many social outings and professional development workshops and opportunities that Chemours offered us throughout the summer. At least once or twice a week, the interns were invited to events like mock interviews, resume, and financial planning workshops, plant tours, a Phillies game, and a mentorship program. I really appreciated how much attention the company gave to its interns and how they really wanted to promote our professional growth.
My work itself was really interesting. I contributed to a variety of projects, but I really got to take ownership of two main projects throughout the summer. The projects I worked on weren’t just “intern projects” - they were real, impactful tools that my department actually uses now. I created a dashboard to help the team use their data in business decisions more effectively, and I transformed a program built-in Excel to a robust application with a secure database backend. I got experience using a few tools that I had never used before such as Tableau, Microsoft PowerApps, and SQL Management Server, which was a really great learning experience. My Penn classes definitely prepared me to learn quickly and have given me the ability to pick up new skills, which was helpful as I learned to use these new tools throughout the summer. Besides learning hard skills, I also developed my soft skills, such as communication, leading a project, and presenting. At the end of the summer, each of the interns gave a presentation on the work that we did that was open to the entire company, and the CEO even came to a few of the presentations! I really loved that Chemours really valued and invested in the interns, and I definitely recommend interning for a company where you feel that your work will be valued and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.
Summer internships are the perfect time to try out an experience for three months, whether it’s a new industry or type of role, a new location, or a new type of company. I’ve worked for a small startup with fifteen people and a large, established company and both a tech and non-tech company. These experiences have each contributed to helping me know what direction I want to take my career in and what type of work environment I thrive in. Penn has plenty of resources to help Penn students find internships, such as the career fair, interview and resume workshops, and the career services center, and I have definitely taken advantage of these resources as I head into my junior year summer soon. Although internships are full of unknown questions and exploring new areas, Penn has taught me how to think and problem-solve, and I know I am well-equipped to tackle interesting, challenging work. I don’t know where I’ll be next summer yet, but I know that it’ll be a valuable experience that will help me continue to grow.