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Personal Growth and Career Development – Getting the Best of Both Worlds from PTECH and IBM

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We recently had the chance to sit down with our two P-TECH interns, Daniel De Menezes and Julia Turek. Daniel and Julia are heading into their senior year at the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) in Connecticut while working on their Associate in Applied Science degrees in Web Development and Software Engineering respectively.  


P-TECH, a new model of high school that IBM created in 2011, spans grades 9-14, enabling students to earn both their high school diploma and an industry-recognized two-year degree within six years. Students participate in a range of workplace experiences, including mentoring and paid internships. There are currently more than 110 P-TECH schools in eight US states, Australia, Morocco, and Taiwan, with further replication underway. More than 500 businesses are involved, with IBM leading 11 schools and providing thought leadership across the entire network.

Both Julia and Daniel will graduate from P-TECH at the end of four years. Yes, you read that correctly – as P-TECH students, these two will graduate in May 2019 with their high school diploma and a college degree. The model enables students to progress through the coursework at their own pace, and both students were able to accelerate through the six-year model in only four short years. As part of the P-TECH experience, Daniel and Julia interned with IBM Learning this summer and we’ve caught up with them to discuss their experience.

If you are wondering what it feels like to be an intern at IBM, or how you can develop yourself both personally and professionally, you need to check this out!


Meet Daniel and Julia…

[Julia] Hi all, my name is Julia, and I’m a seventeen year old student currently attending Norwalk Early College Academy! I believe that curiosity and dedication to deep, life-long learning is the key solving our world’s problems. My dream is to be a Johns Hopkins University Interdisciplinary Studies student with a minor in Integrated Marketing Communications and to be admitted (after a successful freshman year) into the 5-year Masters program for Engineering Management. I too want to be an IBMer one day! I’m the Class President and have spent many years leading clubs, like the Robotics Club and Student Panel and volunteering my time for students and in assisted care facilities. I will graduate with my Associate’s degree in Software Engineering along with my high school diploma in the Spring of 2019.

[Daniel] Hey everyone, my name is Daniel, but feel free to call me Danny, and I’m a seventeen year old scholar currently enrolled in the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA), the first 9-14 P-TECH model school in the state of Connecticut. I’m incredibly thankful to NECA for giving me an abundance of opportunities such as meeting IBM’s Chairman and CEO, Ginni Rometty, meeting the Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, and most importantly having the chance to intern with the IBM Learning team under Maura Wasson, Global Learning Strategic Initiatives Leader.

After finishing NECA, I plan to attend a four-year college to double major in philosophy and psychology with the hope to understand the human person from a scientific and metaphysical point of view. My vision is to integrate my passion for tech and web development with the concepts of psychology to maximize human experiences. My dream is also to be an IBMer and through P-TECH I will have an opportunity to fulfil both! At the moment, I’m on track to graduate with an AAS degree in Web Development and Design along with my high school diploma in the Spring of 2019.


Can you give us a brief overview of your experience during your internship?

[Julia] Danny and I are in a unique position in which I can say with confidence, not many other 17-year olds find themselves. We were given an amazing opportunity to spend our summer working as Interns for the IBM Global Learning and Enablement team. I cannot emphasize how lucky we are to have had the opportunity to work with this amazing group of IBMers.

[Daniel] Some of the projects that we worked on relate to Social Media Management. I was the lead on creating and implementing strategies to build more traffic and engagement on the IBM Learning Twitter and LinkedIn group accounts. Julia was the lead on our project working to convert an internal newsletter and landing page to a more intuitive platform. We both also worked on a few side projects including research on Influencers, a large-scale survey, and learned the basics of data analytics.

[Julia] Our first day on the job, Brorhie and Maura sat down with Danny and me, and asked us a question: What do we want to get out of this internship?

We pondered on that question, and we can’t help but feel that both Brorhie and Maura managed to go above and beyond what we expected. We received the freedom to work on whatever projects interested us and taught us the skills they wished they had learned during their own internships.

[Daniel] Definitely, there’s no more worries about whether or not we’ll be able to schedule a meeting properly!


Want to be an IBM intern like Daniel and Julia? Look at our opportunities at the IBM Career Site.


What are some skills you gained during your internship?

[Julia] Daniel and I had the opportunity to gain a plethora of skills vital to succeed in any workplace, some of which include data analytics, team work, time management, and adaptability. As a result, we have become much more skilled and are able to contribute to a variety of projects despite any doubts we initially may have had in regard to lack of experience.

[Daniel] We discovered that the key to success is, as stated in IBM’s own Design Thinking, constant reiteration. By learning to fail fast and fail often we have discovered what our initial areas of growth were and have been able to improve and develop as stronger IBMers as a result.


What are your thoughts on the environment within IBM?

[Daniel] We both agree that the work environment that IBM has created is something every company should put into action in their workplace. First off, everyone is so friendly. We were both a little nervous initially going into this internship, but we spent our first day on location being introduced to everyone at the office, and every person made sure to emphasize that we were always welcome to come in if we had any questions or needed any help.

[Julia] Having the ability to work on the IBM Learning team has also provided us with insight into how to implement Agile and Design Thinking into our daily lives and projects, which we both feel we never had before. It’s been a lot of fun applying these concepts and seeing the results. We also love how open and clean the workplace is, both mentally and physically.

[Daniel] To sum our feelings up, we believe IBM provides an environment that is very conducive to productivity and overall employee satisfaction.


Tell us about your challenges during your internship and how you dealt with them?

[Julia] I think we can both agree on the fact that getting used to a corporate environment was challenging overall. The independence we had during the internship was very different. In school, you always have a teacher looking over your shoulder and holding your hand every step of the way. At IBM – or any job, for that matter – autonomy is a key factor. We had to self-direct and stay focused on the days we worked from the IBM North Castle office. We also had to make sure we completed the assignments we needed for our weekly check in with our manager.

[Daniel] Julia and I set high expectations for ourselves, which despite not being a bad idea, could be a little limiting at times. We had stand-up meetings every morning in which we would outline what we needed to get done that day. On days we didn’t meet our productivity goals, we would feel unproductive and unmotivated. We really had to learn to not think of ourselves as robots.

[Julia] Danny has a point, realizing our strengths and weaknesses was a huge learning experience during this internship.


Stay connected through the IBM Talent Network and find out how you can be an IBM intern like Daniel and Julia.


What is something that inspires you?

[Daniel] Knowing that I work for a Fortune 500 company, which has always been one step ahead of the game, in terms of both diversity and inclusion, leaves me inspired. I’m only a small cog within the machine that is IBM.

[Julia] I think the knowledge that the contributions Danny and I make to our team will help IBM on a larger scale; knowing that I can help people around the world helps me to be conscious and recognize the fact that what I’m doing is actually having an impact.

[Daniel] Not only that, but the supports system that exists in our P-TECH school certainly motivates and inspires me. People like Ms. Amaker, Ms. Wiltshire-Toth, Ms. Semchuk, and Ms. Gleeson- among many others- genuinely want to see me succeed; They work tirelessly in order to help me find my passions and excel at it. 


What is one piece of advice you like to give future Interns interested in IBM?

[Daniel] IBM is such a huge and diverse company.  My advice to anyone interested is to be curious!

No matter what your interest is, there will be a project that you can feel passionate about. If you’re interested in social media, like myself, go for it! Ask to see if you could help out with Twitter or LinkedIn.

[Julia] I agree, we had this fixed idea of what IBM Learning initially was, and we were both pleasantly surprised that there really is a place for everyone, and there wasn’t a day that went by where we were bored.

[Daniel] After leaving the team, you will definitely wish you could’ve stayed longer to continue to fully immerse yourself in the experience. I know without a doubt that’s how Julia and I felt after leaving our internship.

In all honesty, we’re so so grateful we had this opportunity to work with the IBM Global Learning and Enablement team, you all are some of the most interesting and fun people to work with.


Find out more about IBM-PTECH partnership and feel free to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Instagram to keep up to date with our career opportunities and other IBM facts.

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