The hands-on experience students get from internships and co-ops (which are usually long-term, and are often paid positions) can cement the decision to pursue a career, or open their eyes to a new vocation.
Arielle Stewart: Internship at Coach, New York City
You could describe Arielle Stewart’s internship as herding cows. Stewart (above), who is majoring in marketing, spent the summer in New York City as an assistant in the product development and commercialization departments at luxury leather-goods maker Coach, “a brand that I love,” she says. It was Stewart’s job to catalog the nearly daily shipments of product samples Coach receives from suppliers around the world—then make comments on their color and quality and prepare them for the design team’s meetings. “I had the opportunity to sit in on several design review meetings and understand how the product development team partners with design, engineering, and merchandising to review products and ensure deadlines are met,” she says.
Stewart, who hopes to land a full-time position in the fashion industry after graduation, found her enviable summer job by applying some good old-fashioned shoe leather—or its Internet equivalent. An unsolicited letter to Coach’s human resources department earned her a spot at an “invitation only” interview day in New York in March. Stewart credits UAB marketing assistant professor Lauren Skinner Beitelspacher, Ph.D., and Jamika Kirk at UAB Career Services with successfully preparing her for the rigorous interview process, which involved talking with numerous Coach departments. “It was a rush I will never forget,” she says.
Hannah Hughes: Internship, Apple Computer
Senior theatre major Hannah Hughes got a behind-the-scenes look at Apple HQ during a series of summer internships with the computer maker’s video production unit in Cupertino, California. Hughes helped produce guided tours for the company’s iPhone 3G, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano devices. Thanks to that exposure, “I am now a film minor and very excited about taking my new experiences into my studies” at UAB, Hughes says.
Yvonne Lane: Co-Op, Riverbend Instruments
Recent graduate Yvonne Lane came to UAB intending to pursue a career in biomedical engineering. Then she felt the call of the circuits. Energized by a class in electrical engineering, she switched majors and went looking for an opportunity to explore the field. She found her chance with a paid co-op position at Birmingham-based Riverbend Instruments, which supplies eye-tracking hardware and other instrumentation to neuroscience researchers. Over the course of more than two years, Lane learned how to assemble Riverbend’s eye-trackers and other products, troubleshoot the final versions before shipping them to customers, and repair units sent back from the field. “I gained a great deal of experience, especially with electronics and electronics components,” Lane says. “When I took the electronics class here at UAB, I was able to say, ‘Sure, I know how to use an oscilloscope and multimeter.’”
Lane hopes to use her experience to pursue a career as a power systems engineer at an international company. “I would recommend that all students get a co-op before they graduate,” she says. “When you apply for jobs they will focus on your experience in the field. That’s what really counts.”
Mark Hardin: Co-Op, U.S. Steel
Computer science major Mark Hardin worked in U.S. Steel’s Birmingham office for a year, learning to mine data rather than iron ore with a co-op position in the industrial giant’s IT division. Hardin, who graduated in May, says the job taught him “the ins and outs of system administration on a corporate scale—I worked within state-of-the-art networking, system hosting, enterprise, and deskside departments and was exposed to a wide variety of technologies.” The experience allowed him to learn from “some of the sharpest people in the business,” Hardin says, and it had other benefits as well: “It has opened countless doors and job offers.”