Jennifer Clarke (BCmpH’09, Software Development) had always wanted to be a software developer. But after a 16-month QUIP internship with IBM, she realized she missed dealing with people.
“I didn’t consider how much I would miss [working with customers] when I was doing development,” Jennifer said.
At the internship, Jennifer ran installation tests on IBM’s software products. Upon realizing that she wanted a more client-oriented position, she sought out positions that combined her computing skills with customer service. She found an internship at CH2M Hill the following summer that filled those requirements: she would be automating a water plant while working with clients. She worked as a flex employee with part-time hours for CH2M Hill for the next two years until she found a full-time position at the company after her graduation in 2009.
"You’re doing the work of a real employee. It’s a really good time to check out what you’ll be doing,” she said.
She now works as a Design Consultant at C2HM’s SCADA Water Systems. In her current position, Jennifer deals with customers on a regular basis, including the water plant operations staff and the client region. She said the testing experience she gained at IBM proved valuable at CH2M Hill was instrumental not only for gaining new skills but also for meeting people working in the field.
Since QUIP internships are full-time positions, this allows students to “test drive” their career, as Jennifer puts it, and figure out what types of work they are best suited for. “You’re doing the work of a real employee. It’s a really good time to check out what you’ll be doing,” she said. Jennifer entered the internship expecting to gain new experience, but left with something even better: a new understanding of herself. Upon experiencing daily life in software development, she identified what she wanted in a career, and changed course to satisfy those needs. Above all, Jennifer said, students should view an internship as a learning experience. “I think it’s important to use the time wisely and learn what you can out of it,” she said, “whether it’s the working aspect or making the best of meeting all these people you could potentially get a job through when it’s done.”
Originally published in What’s Next? magazine 2014-15 (a Career Services publication) under the title "Success Story: Experiential Learning"