Select IST students get hands-on experience with Penn State IT pros

January 30, 2020

Collin Kleest has a full year ahead with a pair of internships to keep him busy through the summer.

The sophomore information sciences and technology major got his first taste of what may lie ahead when he and about 20 other students shadowed Penn State information technology (IT) professionals earlier this month.

As thousands of their classmates got a break from classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Kleest and his counterparts went to work as the first group of students to take part in Penn State’s IT Career Exploration Program. The initiative, designed to give prospective IT professionals an hour-by-hour, on-the-job shadowing experience, was co-sponsored by Penn State IT and the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

“The event was great,” Kleest said. “I really enjoyed it. It really does give insight to students and can be eye-opening, especially if they haven’t had an internship before.”

Arriving at 9 a.m. sharp at Penn State’s off-campus Technology Support Building (TSB), the team of students were treated to coffee and donuts. Opening remarks from Penn State IT leaders inside the TSB café followed, and students were partnered with different professionals representing Penn State’s award-winning software engineering team, information security experts and IT project management group.

About 20 Penn State staff members acted as mentors, providing tours of their colorful, collaborative workspaces, giving overviews of Penn State IT’s organizational structure and showing off some of the tools and software used by IT professionals every day.

Junior Janvi Nagpal, and other students interested in information security, were also treated to a tour of Penn State’s highly secure data center.

Nagpal, who has lined up a summer internship with Bank of America’s security team, left the event feeling more confident about transitioning into her preferred career field.

“Going through this entire event helped,” Nagpal said. “I realized that the policy part of security is not my thing. I want to be more on the technical and consulting side. So it did give me a better view of what I want in life, hearing what these people do on a daily basis was really quite enlightening.”

Lunch was provided before the afternoon shadowing sessions where students got interact with projects currently in progress, such as UI code development, analysis of security threat data and programming.

The process started long before students set foot in Penn State IT’s workspace.

The 20 students were culled from a group of about 60 who attended a panel discussion with Penn State IT professionals in late October. The two-hour event allowed students to talk to prospective mentors and get an idea for what areas they were interested in shadowing.

Freshman Nadya Sudarma entered her second semester unsure where she wanted her career to be in a few years, but she has a better idea after taking part in the IT Career Exploration event.

Sudarma spent her morning with the software engineering team before making rounds with a few project managers in the afternoon.

“This is a bridge in between, like an internship, and just being able to get some experience and see what professionals do on the job,” Sudarma said. “I was in between a couple of different major options so I think this helped me see what that would actually look like in the real world, as far as the day-to-day of what an IT project manager does.”

Penn State IT and the College of IST are currently exploring options for expanding the Career Exploration Program.

As part of the initial event, the participating students were required to write a debrief, explaining what they learned, what they took away from the event and what they’d like to see in future programs.

“Overall, it was a really good experience and it seemed like they were really looking for our feedback as to how they could improve the experience overall,” Kleest said. “It was really neat to be able to have that connection with people who are working there.”

Last Updated January 31, 2020