Getting the Most Out of Summer!

steve Viterbi Summer 2 Comments

The past two summers were the most important experiences of my life, so I guess the moral of the story is “don’t waste your summers!” It’s hard to describe how large an impact the internship I just finished in Information Systems at Amgen had on my life goals, academic path, and career plan, and last summer I had an amazing time and learned a ton from studying abroad with the Viterbi Summer Overseas program (read my blog about it here, or read the dozens of other blogs about it from other VSAs on this very site).

I applied for my internship, which really requires just a general engineering degree and not specifically BME, because I really wanted to get my foot in the door at a large Biotech company, and that is what Amgen was recruiting for at USC (and it’s always way easier to get internships with companies that come to campus and recruit – though you can definitely apply outside and many of my friends have had success with that). I also appreciated the chance to explore a career path that my Biomedical Engineering degree qualified me for that wasn’t traditionally a BME job (BME degrees qualify you for a TON of different jobs – as I’ve said before).

Information Systems performs a wide variety of functions, but basically it’s easiest to think of us as the providers of technology behind the entire business. We weren’t tech support, we would take business needs and figure out the best way to apply various technologies to meet them.

My experience with Amgen was AWESOME. I made a ton of new friends and got fantastic insight into the biotech industry. I also got to work on projects impacting the business in many ways, and I even developed a tool in Excel (which I had never written code in before!) that they will continue to use for a long time! Here’s a breakdown of my main projects for the summer:

1. Prototyped different ways to map out a series of interconnected systems using, analyzing, and contributing clinical data for our research trials (learned Enterprise Architect and graphviz)

A typical Enterprise Architect diagram

2. Developed a tool for monitoring the backup status of company data. Backups are SUPER important because we can’t afford to lose anything! (learned how to write Macros in VBA for Microsoft Office products, and work in a regulated environment)

3. Mapped out and made a presentation for the formalization of a key business process (learned to use Business Process Model and Notation and IBM Blueworks)

A typical Blueworks process map

4. Analyzed complicated datasets to find database keys we could use to create a more structured database (learned to make Entity Relationship Diagrams)

A complicated ERD

Obviously, you can tell that I learned a lot this summer. However, learning technical skills is just one of the many experiences you can and should get out of an internship. As long as I’m making numbered lists, here is my personal list of ways to get the most out of any summer internship you pursue (in no particular order). I’m sure I’m the Nth person on the internet to write a list like this, so feel free to google for second opinions 😀

1. You won’t be an intern forever, make sure you make time to talk to full time employees about their experiences and see if you can imagine working there full time!

2. You don’t have to work in the same position you interned for. In addition to your own department, talk to full time employees in other departments across the company, and be sure to ask them about other stops along their career path.

3. Go above and beyond on your projects! As an intern, you have a very short period of time to make a good impression, and there’s no better way to do this than to go the extra mile!

4. Your relationships with your managers and co-workers are vital. Get lunch or coffee with them and sit down and talk. Definitely stay in touch afterwards!

5. Have fun! It’s still summer! I took a bunch of road trips and filled every weekend to the brim with fun activities. Read about some highlights of my summer here and here!

6. Learn new skills! Just because it’s not the only thing you can do, doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most important!

7. Connect with alumni! I met tons of Trojans at Amgen! The Trojan Family is particularly supportive, so USC alumni from all over the company were willing to do whatever they could to help me out, whether it was getting me in touch with people I wanted to meet in other departments, or sitting down and giving me advice for my career.

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I know most of you reading this blog are still trying to choose a school before you worry about internships, but hopefully this list gives you insight into what you can expect next. Choosing a company feels a lot like choosing a school did for me.

Since this post didn’t really lend itself to pictures, I’ll throw in a gallery from all the summer Intern activities we did!

Comments 2

  1. You learned VBA script this summer, that is so awesome! We used that a bunch over at Abbott as well, guess it is pretty popular in the workplace. Can’t wait to be back and catch up!

  2. That’s a good list Steve! If I could add one thing from my experience it would be: Keep a record of what you’ve done. I’ve written down a couple of sentences everyday describing how I spent my time and it really helped me demonstrate how I contributed over the summer and what I’d learned

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