August 9, 2019
Categorized: IBMer Stories | Meet IBMers | Students
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(4 min read) By Andrew Sears
As a student, choosing where to intern is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. If you’re an MBA student like I am, it’s probably the number one thing that’s been on your mind since school began. The internship search process can be as exhausting as it is exciting, but finding the right opportunity makes it all worth it. Here are five reasons why I’m thrilled to have spent my summer as an Offering Manager Intern at IBM.
1. IBM treats its interns as full members of the team
There’s something surreal and uncomfortable about being a mid-career professional in your late twenties and introducing yourself as an intern. Such is the life of an MBA student. Fortunately, my full-time colleagues at IBM didn’t seem to notice the “intern” part of my title; from day one, they treated me with the same trust and respect that they showed to one another.
My summer project reflected this: during my 12 weeks at IBM, I was given complete ownership over five brand-new product features, and was trusted to drive everything from user interviews to design ideation sessions to the definition of user stories and business objectives. As if that wasn’t enough, I was also asked to moderate a panel of IBM all-stars for an audience of 600 at IBM’s Future Blue Connect conference at Disney World. Honestly, it’s still shocking to me that IBM would trust an intern to drive a 90-minute conversation on camera in front of a live audience. But that’s just indicative of the level of trust and respect that IBM shows to its interns.
Me with my squad of awesome Developer Interns
2. IBM is committed to building technology that’s good for the world
As someone who speaks and writes about the intersection of tech, ethics, and society, this one is near to my heart. We’ve all seen examples of tech companies unleashing products on the world that do more harm than good, opting to move fast and break things rather than think critically about the consequences of their innovations. IBM stands far apart from the pack in its commitment to building technology that’s good for the world.
Throughout my summer, I saw this commitment play out in a multitude of ways. Obed Louissaint, IBM’s VP of Talent, made this a core part of his message when he took the stage at the Future Blue Connect conference. Four out of the five finalists in this summer’s national intern hackathon built products that directly addressed a social challenge, from food insecurity to global conflict. And IBM puts its money where its mouth is, investing heavily in social-good offerings like IBM Food Trust and Watson Health and developing its own internal guidelines for ethical AI.
3. IBMers are generous with their time
As an intern, one of my top priorities for the summer was to learn as much as possible from the insights of my more experienced colleagues. I made a habit of reaching out to 2 or 3 complete strangers each week in areas of the business that I was curious about. Without exception, I found my fellow IBMers happy to take time out of their days to grab lunch or coffee and chat about their work.
Many of the people I met with outranked me by too many levels to count. Many worked in disciplines or areas of the company that were completely unrelated to mine. Yet each and every one treated me as a peer, eager not only to share their own insights but to ask me for mine as well. The approachability and humility of even the most senior employees was one of the most striking parts of IBM’s unique culture.
Moderating a panel of IBM all-stars at Future Blue Connect
4. IBM doesn’t shy away from diversity of thought
The tech industry has been criticized in recent years for its ideological homogeny and lack of intellectual diversity. IBM bucks this trend by promoting diversity of thought and open, inclusive dialogue as a critical ingredient for disruptive innovation. This commitment goes all the way to the top: CEO Ginni Rometty and VP of Talent Obed Louissaint have spoken about it numerous times.
During my summer, IBM’s commitment to intellectual diversity manifested itself in numerous conversations with my colleagues on topics as diverse as business ethics, international trade, and product strategy. These conversations were always civil, productive, and edifying, even in the midst of genuine disagreement. Those types of conversations can be hard to come by these days, and I valued the ability to learn from my fellow IBMers whose ideas differed from my own.
5. IBM gave me the chance to make a genuine impact in just 12 weeks
I’ll end with the thing that surprised me most about my summer with IBM: the scale of the impact that I was able to make in such a short amount of time. I can head back to school in August knowing that five brand-new product features are in the hands of paying customers, making their working lives more delightful. This isn’t an observation about my own abilities, it’s a testament to IBM’s commitment to providing its interns with an unparalleled summer experience — a commitment that’s evident in everything from the company-wide intern programming to the particular projects that my team selected for me to tackle. Being an intern at IBM means having the chance to make a difference, at a company that’s not afraid to be different in all the right ways.
About the Author
Andrew is a design-minded product strategist who has driven innovation at companies like IBM, IDEO, and Genesis Mining with a focus on AI, cloud, and blockchain products. He serves as an Advisor at All Tech is Human and will complete his MBA at Duke University in 2020. You can keep up with his work at andrew-sears.com.