March 27, 2017
How I got the job: A glance at students and recent graduates who snagged great jobs and internships — and put their passions to work
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Spring is here, which means it’s job season at Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU News spoke with students and recent graduates about their jobs and internships — and their career aspirations.
Junior, School of Engineering
Internships: Neutrogena (2015, 2017), Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (2016-17)
Rachel Judge secured a seven-month internship with Neutrogena while attending the 2015 National Society of Black Engineers’ annual conference. There was just one problem: The internship was in supply chain management and Judge didn’t know what that meant.
“On the application it said ‘supply chain/operations,’ and because I was in engineering I figured I would be in an operations role — like manufacturing,” Judge said, laughing. “But then I received my offer letter to come work in Los Angeles in supply chain management.”
Judge decided to accept the offer anyway.
“I had two suitcases, a duffel bag and my backpack,” she said. “It was a scary experience. I was 3,000 miles away from home — and I still didn’t know what supply chain was.”
Judge learned quickly. She found she enjoyed working in consumer products and shepherding goods from supplier to shopper. She also decided she wanted more field experience. By the time the chemical engineering major returned to VCU in January 2016, she was securing an internship at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where she has worked for nearly a year in currency technology. Judge is on the team that makes sure the machines used to process currency are functioning properly.
“We manage the machines across the United States,” she said. “We do all the troubleshooting.”
Judge will finish her Fed internship in June and return to Neutrogena in July, this time for an opportunity in packaging engineering. Later this month, she will be honored with the National Society of Black Engineers Impact Scholarship at the NSBE annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Her advice to students: Don’t be afraid.
“Take the opportunities as they come,” Judge said. “I think [internships] give you a new perspective: what it’s like to be a young professional.”
Class of 2016, College of Humanities and Sciences
Graduate student, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Internship: Southwest Airlines (spring 2017)
Southwest received 9,934 applications for spring 2017 internships. Only 132 people were selected. Kristina Hipolito, an alumna of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, and Timothy Thomas, a first-year graduate student studying homeland security and emergency preparedness, met at orientation.
Get the job
“It was kind of surprising to see another person from VCU, I wasn’t expecting it,” Thomas said. “It was nice to know I had a common connection with someone out here.”
Thomas learned about the program while searching for internships on LinkedIn. Hipolito, a former career ambassador in VCU’s Career Services office, worked with Kim Hanneman, assistant director of career and industry advising, on her application.
“She’s the best,” Hipolito said of Hanneman. “I talked to her about the things I wanted to do post-graduation and she really helped me figure things out. We talked through my resume and online portfolio.”
The legwork paid off. Hipolito works with Southwest’s national charity partners and assists with outreach programs, including Heart of the Community, which builds central public spaces in towns and cities. Thomas is a business continuity intern and identifies risk, threats and vulnerabilities that could affect Southwest’s operations.
The company is known for its social culture. Interns receive free flight benefits — Hipolito has visited San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., while Thomas recently traveled to see the Grand Canyon. Southwest also has a “day in the field” program in which employees and interns are encouraged to shadow people in other departments.
“They really encourage that openness in the company,” Hipolito said. “Southwest really integrates fun into work.”
Chad Austin, Hunter Byrnes, Baylee Mabe, Kelton Rasmussen, Zoe Winker
Graduate students, School of Allied Health Professions
Internship: Iggbo (2016-17)
Students in the health administration program complete residencies during their third year of study. In the fall of 2015, Iggbo, a Henrico County startup health care technology company, came to VCU looking to increase staffing.
It was a perfect fit, Hunter Byrnes said.
“I don’t think they expected five people from our class to join but they were happy to take us all on,” he said.
Iggbo connects physicians, patients and labs in need of blood work with independent phlebotomists and other specialists who set up appointments, draw the blood and share results.
“It’s certainly a left turn from the traditional route most people in our program take,” Byrnes said. “A lot of people work in a hospital or health system in managerial roles. I felt working at Iggbo could be a great experience at a place trying to influence the industry from the outside in.”
Iggbo closes “that last mile of the health care loop,” Byrnes said, by taking stress off physicians so they can focus on helping the patient instead of chasing down whether they had their lab work done.
It also adds convenience for patients, said Baylee Mabe, who began working at Iggbo two years ago and has moved around the company, testing Iggbo’s mobile app and technology and helping create and expand provider networks.
“If a physician orders a draw through Iggbo, the patient doesn’t have to sit at the draw site,” she said. “If they are at work and they don’t want to take a half-day off to get bloodwork done, Iggbo will come to them. They’ll come to the patient's home — wherever is convenient.”
Working at Iggbo has been a great experience, Mabe said.
“You get a lot more opportunities to be in decision-making roles at a startup,” she said. “We’re young and managing big projects for this company. It’s awesome.”
Class of 2016, School of Social Work
Internship: Circles Ashland (summer 2016)
Job: Circles Ashland (January 2017)
Candace Martin was wrapping up her internship at Circles, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce poverty in Ashland and Hanover County in Virginia, when she was asked an important question by her executive director, David Cooper.
“[He] asked what my thoughts were about my next steps,” Martin said. “And I said I would like to spend more time [at Circles]. I was doing policy formation, I was at board meetings and had the ability to help shape programs. I wasn’t done and had a lot more I wanted to do.”
Cooper offered Martin a part-time job to stay at Circles. Four months later, he hired Martin full-time as the organization’s program director. Martin, who graduated in August with a concentration in social work administration, has been in her full-time role since January.
“For me this is a wonderful opportunity to get leadership experience at a small nonprofit, as opposed to being at a larger nonprofit where getting that leadership experience can be more challenging,” she said.
Securing that opportunity at a familiar place is beneficial, Martin said.
“It helps you build on the skills you’ve already started working on, and it allows you to continue doing that in a familiar environment,” she said. “If you have a great internship, the ability to potentially continue as an employee is really valuable.”
Pharm.D. student, School of Pharmacy
Job: Abbvie (summer 2017)
Kassim Rahawi was looking to land a postgraduate fellowship when he attended a midyear clinical meeting in December 2016 in Las Vegas. He found the right fit after interviewing with Abbvie, a biopharmaceutical company.
“They have a two-year program that is really focused on developing new pharmacists and transitioning them into the industry,” Rahawi said. “And after the program ends, you transition into a full-time position with the company.”
The fellowship, he explained, is broken into four six-month rotations in a different area of the company: medical, regulatory, drug safety and an elective topic. Abbvie invited Rahawi to interview at the company’s Chicago headquarters in January and offered him the position the day of his final interview.
Rahawi turned down offers from two other companies and accepted the fellowship.
“I really liked this program because of the rotational experiences and the guaranteed transition into a job,” Rahawi said. “I’m really excited to sample everything. For the elective rotation I am looking at doing something in clinical development, which is working on clinical trials for the development of drugs.”
He starts at Abbvie in July. It seems far off, but there is a lot to do between now and then.
“I have to find an apartment in Chicago,” Rahawi said, laughing. “I’ve never really been out of Virginia, so I’m really excited.”
Senior, School of the Arts
Internship: Universal Creative (fall 2016)
Abigail Heyd spent three months last fall working at Universal Creative, which is responsible for designing attractions at Universal theme parks. Her technical training in VCU’s sculpture program helped her secure the position.
“Universal was really impressed with the variety of my experience at school,” Heyd said. “That really speaks to VCU’s program, everything from welding to basic construction to sewing. Because I was comfortable in a workshop with chemicals and power tools, Universal was able to put me in these settings and I knew what was going on.”
Heyd worked in the props warehouse on props, sculptures and objects that will be featured in queue lines for different attractions, including the new Jimmy Fallon and Fast and Furious rides. She also had a chance to work with the designers who created Harry Potter World.
“I’m a big Harry Potter fan and these people really make Harry Potter World come to life,” Heyd said. “I was blown away by the level of detail. It becomes real because it’s built by people who care about it.”
The environment, she said, is conducive to creative problem-solving. Heyd said she would love to pursue a career in the industry.
“There is this freedom to experiment,” she said. “I think about creating worlds a lot in my personal art — trying to direct the audience’s experience — and that directly connects to theme parks because they are creating a world where they are directing the experience of the viewer. Being part of that at Universal was an incredible opportunity.”
Junior, School of Business
Internship: Dominion (2017-18)
Wilson Tolbert sees the value of a long-term internship. He began his Dominion supply chain internship in January and will work at the energy giant until he graduates in May 2018.
“The best thing about it is it’s not just a summer internship where you learn for two months and then only have a month to do the job,” said Tolbert, an economics and marketing double major. “Dominion found this was a more successful model. I’ll be able to learn more, feel like I’m actually contributing, that I’m more a part of the company.”
Tolbert, assistant director of the VCU pep band and a member of business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, previously completed internships with the Richmond financial startup WealthForge and Chesterfield-based Soccer Management Company, which organizes and runs soccer tournaments across the country.
His work experiences are diverse — in industry and job function — covering finance, entrepreneurship, management and supply chain. He wants to pursue a career in business strategy.
“This whole diverse learning experience has created a basic knowledge for going into strategy,” Tolbert said.
The internships complement his classes, he said.
“I find that I do better in school when I’m doing an internship outside of school,” Tolbert said. “I’m able to take what I learn in class and relate it and apply it to things I’m doing in my internship.”
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