IST students ‘surge’ ahead with internship at local startup

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —  On a typical day, you can find Michael Khorosh and Emir Myrzabekov consulting with clients, leading meetings, and strategizing marketing outreach campaigns. It's a regular day for seasoned professionals, but when they clock out, they return to their lives as undergraduate students in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST).

At their internship at SURGE Business Development located just off the University Park campus, they’re taking on a variety of independent projects to support client goals while gaining valuable real-world experience.

“We’re helping small businesses grow,” explained Khorosh, a senior majoring in IST. “And it’s helping us grow as professionals.”

SURGE, a business incubator in State College, founded and operated by entrepreneur Kerry Small, helps organizations reach new heights through anything from marketing campaigns to redesigned websites.

“Our interns tackle everything — social media strategies, marketing campaigns, tech testing, you name it," said Small.

Interns work for SURGE part-time over two semesters or full-time over one summer. With a variety of clients to assist, including the United States Air Force, students work with organizations on real-world projects in a variety of industries.

Since SURGE's inception Small has recruited and mentored hundreds of Penn State students, with the vast majority enrolled in the College of IST. Students are drawn to the experience both for its immersive experience as independent consultants but also to preview the daily environment that many IST students will see in their careers.

“If students want a structured working environment with cubicles, SURGE is not the place for them,” said Zoe Meyer, the director of IST Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement.

The opportunity to work with professional clients complements the college’s curriculum that stresses teamwork and communication skills to enhance real-world problem solving. Through her role, Meyer knows the students in the college are uniquely prepared to tackle these internships.

“The students are used to working in team projects with their IST classmates so they are already in their comfort zone,” she said. “SURGE allows them to showcase their strengths.”

Small agreed. “We need people comfortable with technology, but who can also understand the business side. IST is the perfect fit.”

This semester, Myrzabekov, a junior majoring in security and risk analysis, is leading a team of interns to grow Athletes for Global Goals, a non-profit that helps youth soccer leagues execute innovative fundraisers for charities around the world.  

“I’m helping make their voice heard,” Myrzabekov said. “And I am actually contributing my skills to the project instead of just supporting from the sidelines.”

It’s a tricky job, working with corporate sponsors like Barnes and Noble Education and coordinating large-scale fundraising events, he said. Athletes for Global Goal’s biggest campaign is “11v100,” where one hundred youth soccer players play against a single college varsity team. In previous years, the Penn State men’s soccer team participated by facing off against a hundred members from a State College youth soccer league.

“[Myrzabekov] is helping to organize this for other markets,” Small explained. “He’s going to take this local event to raise money and awareness and try to scale it across the country.”

Khorosh is working on a marketing campaign for Schooner Executive Search, a local startup business. The organization is hoping to effectively find and recruit executive-level employees in the commercial construction industry.

“I’m coming up with their LinkedIn, updating their website, and [establishing their] search engine optimization strategy,” he explained.

With the breadth of their experience, Khorosh and Myrzabekov feel poised for success.

“This internship is bringing me closer to my professional goals because I’m using and honing practical skills, like working on a team in a technical environment,” Myrzabekov said.

Khorosh agreed, adding “It’s really helping me find out what I like in the field and where I can do well in the future.”

Last Updated November 28, 2017