Sharing Inspiration: Meeting UCSB’s IT Interns

Here at the CATLab, one of our deep-rooted goals is to join and facilitate conversations on the intersection between technological innovation and higher education. That’s why we host the Enabling Impact Conference every year (keep an eye out for more conference details in the coming months)! Not only can we be inspired by others’ ideas and successes; sometimes we can, in turn, inspire others. Last week, we got to see the direct result of this inspiration as we met the students part of UCSB’s new set of IT internships—a new program modeled after our work at the CATLab.

It all started last summer when Lisa Klock, a process innovation program manager for UCSB’s Letters & Science IT department, came to the Enabling Impact Conference. After seeing what Westmont students had accomplished through the CATLab, she said, “My eyes just opened wide and started sparkling!” Immediately, she began putting together a similar student program, which launched in June of this year. Lisa has long been involved in a variety of student initiatives, including a group that supports women in technology across the UCs—so it’s no surprise she wanted to “look at this program from the eyes of a student,” asking what would make an IT internship desirable on their end. Just as the CATLab provides a bridge to full-time employment right out of school, the UCSB internships provide “practical skills that are in high demand across the IT professional areas.”

She also talked about what students can bring in return. “Students are the minds of the future,” she explained. “They catch onto this technology very quickly, they love what they do, and what is really cool to me is you can give them a project, and they think very differently in their generation than we think in ours. They follow through and their outcomes are very quick.” Additionally, since many of the solutions being worked on will be used by the students, “Who better to tell us how to build those systems but the students?” she asked. Ultimately, she said, “It’s not only a win for the student; it’s a win for the organization.”

In the last few months, Lisa has been working hard, collaborating with our director Zak and others, to create a viable and valuable program. “This is the result of that dream,” she said as she introduced us to her team. The UCSB IT internships employ six interns, each of whom is assigned a different project. “Practically every single student is under a different supervisor and they could also be under a different IT unit completely,” she explained.

Rebecca Carroll, a technical project manager and the woman who has been running these new internships, said that they’ve spent the first few weeks “laying the groundwork” and figuring out how to do all the necessary training online. Her next task, she said, was to focus on relationships and help her students become more of a “cohort.” When our teams met, she shared that she hoped to “listen to you guys, see what you’re doing, harness some of your energy, and take some of your ideas home with us.”

Adhitya Logan, one of the interns we met, is a fourth-year statistics major working with JupyterHub, a browser-based programming environment that assures students can complete programming assignments regardless of the hardware they have access to. Just as we work with our stakeholders (usually Westmont staff) to build what they need to do their jobs, Adhitya works with professors at UCSB to create customized environments for particular departments and projects.

One of Lisa Klock’s priorities for these internships is the students’ relationships with their supervisors, saying she wanted the supervisors “to work with the students and to really provide the students the opportunities that they need, how Westmont has done.” Adhitya said he really appreciated the support that he received from his supervisor, who always made a point of reaching out, checking in, and making sure Adhitya was connected to important communications and meetings. He noted that the remote aspect of the internship hadn’t compromised his experience in any way.

After our teams connected, Adhitya noted that when the UCSB team debriefed the meeting, “everyone thought it was a good idea to keep meeting.” Adhitya added that because we’re students in the same geographical area, we might have opportunities in the future to work together or at least share technologies and ideas. Our own teammates were also excited about the idea of continued collaboration. Talia, for instance, said that although she isn’t sure what combining forces would look like, “In building these connections, we have something to gain and there’s nothing to lose.” In particular, Talia is excited about expanding her network:

“I don’t know a ton of people involved in the tech industry, especially students my age—I pretty much just know other students in CATLab. So to hear from another student who’s my age [was] inspiring and eye-opening.”

Talia also mentioned being inspired by the fact that the UCSB interns, like our CATLab teammates, come from a variety of majors and interests. One such intern from a “non-technical” major is Ashley Yung, a rising junior working on the DevOps team for the UCSB library. Although she’s studying Language, Culture, and Society (Linguistics) and Communications, Ashley has also been interested in computer science and game design. This internship has allowed her to return to the field of technology and has provided her some corporate-esque experience. Because the DevOps team itself is relatively new, one of Ashley’s self-assigned projects is creating her own onboarding process for future interns. As for doing everything online, “the team itself was always remote-hybrid,” Ashley said, “so they are very used to working remotely.”

While Ashley feels very immersed in her department and has plenty of opportunities to learn the ins and outs of working in IT, one thing she would like to see going forward is more communication and collaboration in her cohort. “Because we’re all in different departments, we don’t really know each other or what we’re doing. We’re all on our own doing our own thing,” she said. When asked what she took away from her meeting with the CATLab, she replied, “The sense of teamwork was very nice to see.” As for collaboration between our teams, she’s less focused on the technical back-and-forth than she is on having a place to build interpersonal relationships.

Echoing the others, Frank said he valued the opportunity to hear and learn from other student developers:

“It’s really important and really good to talk to people who graduated, like former CATLab members, to see how what they did being in college is affecting them in real life. But I think it’s also important to talk to people who are doing [school] at the moment, because you learn from their successes, their challenges and mistakes.”

Although field professionals might have more expertise, current students and recent grads can feel more accessible and easier to relate to. He also shared how seeing the UCSB program start this summer “against all odds” inspired him: “They’re doing an incredible job.” He was excited to see other students working on “interesting and important programs for their school” and said that we can “be proud of ourselves as CATLab that we are inspiring people from UCSB.” The work of this enterprising new team is a powerful demonstration of how our impact is going beyond even the Westmont community.

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