Confessions of a Summer Intern: Bittersweet End to a Fantastic Summer

Hello again!

What a bittersweet ending to a fantastic summer! I never imagined I would leave with such an array of good experiences and memories. I’ve met so many amazing and very accomplished individuals and even lifelong friends. I’ve volunteered many hours for a good cause, learned how to professionally present 15-minute to hour long presentations, and even met the CEO in the elevator.

Those are just the smallest of events that occurred over my internship experience at Rockwell Automation. As I mentioned in my first post, I had eight main projects to work on over the course of my internship, and I decided to discuss three of them.

Staffing, to refresh your memory, is the process of finding qualified applicants, phone screening them, bringing them in for an interview, and finally filling the open position if they answer the interview questions well and they have the appropriate experience/skills. I got to be a part of this process four times this summer and interviewed ten different individuals. I couldn’t believe how many different types of people are looking for employment. I think Rockwell does an excellent job of hosting all-day interviews and review sessions, and they do the best they can to hire the individual who is best qualified for the job and will most greatly benefit the company.

The second project I had was the ‘Retention Database.’ This project was definitely different than all of the others because it required much patience and understanding. In the end, we had to create a ‘dashboard’ of all of the most interesting graphs and findings on how to retain the most sales interns/employees. We used variables such as key college, GPA, caliper test (like a personality test), their interview scores, and many more. There were so many things to compare; the managers couldn’t decide which data they wanted to share! Eventually, I will present this information with another woman who worked with the majority of the data to our Director of HR and the three other managers who started the project. Luckily, I will have some time to prepare, as I have two weeks left.

My Onboarding project is even more unique. Remember, Onboarding is the process when new employees are going to work for their first time. They need to know how the company functions, what to expect, and how to adapt to the new company within the first six months. I am now in the final stages of completing this project. I had to contact 14 sales offices in North America (including Canada) and ask them for their ‘Onboarding Checklist,’ or the list referred to when each of these sales offices is welcoming a new sales engineer. The reason I contacted so many different offices is because I am trying to regulate and universalize one checklist, so that every location can use the same one, and every new employee can gain the same experience as their co-worker working in Dallas or Kansas, or whichever location they get assigned to. Trust me, it is a task. All I have to do after that is conduct a conference call with all of these 14 locations and roll out my new checklist, ask for any issues or concerns, and fix them right away. I believe this checklist will greatly help universalize the Onboarding process and create a more unified staff at all Rockwell locations.

As for networking, I’ve expanded my Rockwell network and met with just about 50 people. I couldn’t stop myself! There are so many different types of people at this company, and they’re so interesting!

In my previous post, I mentioned I had to present an hour long presentation about ‘Managing Generations.’ I prepared well, had concise and interesting information, but there were a variety of unexpected events I had to adapt to quickly. About a week before my presentation, the whole subject of my presentation changed. Initially, it was ‘Managing Four Different Generations in the Workplace,’ but then it was changed to ‘Communicating with Four Different Generations in the Workplace.’ While you might not think there is a huge difference, there is. However, I had some help from my manager and created a precise script so that I wouldn’t feel unorganized or unprepared. Throughout it all, I feel I was pretty successful and assisted interns understand why it is so important to be aware of the different generations that surround them in the workforce. Each of them communicates differently, thinks differently, and brings so much more to the workplace (experience-wise) than we could never imagine.

Though my internship was demanding, I still had a chance to get to know many new interns. Rockwell donates a variety of their time and money to the United Way, so the interns of Milwaukee got to participate in a ‘Day of Caring’ around the city. This was refreshing because we were allowed to leave the office for an afternoon. The group I was assigned to assisted a small charter school called La Causa, just three blocks away from our Rockwell building. Some interns gardened, picked up trash, scrubbed desks and swept the floor, babysat, played with older kids on the playground, while I got to paint.

Our group at La Causa.
Rockwell Intern Day 2011, Group

Here I am with two of my other friends painting in the art room.
Rockwell Intern Day 2011, Art Room

There are only a few things left that I must pull together within these last two weeks. With that being said, I am proud of my accomplishments and I can’t wait to go back to school and test what I’ve learned from my internship in my classes. While college really is the best time in our lives, it really wouldn’t be that bad working for Rockwell everyday. I look forward to graduation and the opportunities that may arise before then.

That’s all I have for you! Thanks for reading!

Hope you all had a wonderful summer!

Read Gabby’s Internship Journey

  1. Meet Gabby Fenzel
  2. Time Flies When You’re Learning So Much

Other Summer Intern Confessions

Erin Quist

Sarah Suter

Alysondra Milano

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Time Flies When You’re Learning So Much

Welcome back! How quickly time flies when you’re learning so many new concepts and terms! As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a variety of projects that I continue to work on simultaneously. A few of them are near completion, but luckily I still have a little time before their due dates.

The doors to my office!
Gabby's Office

This month, I really focused on networking. Due to the fact that Rockwell is such a large company, I really considered the pros and cons of networking. I found very quickly that there are no cons. My version of networking is a little different than others. I chose to hold a one-on-one meetings that consisted of a half-hour conversation, asking select individuals about their education, career experience outside and at Rockwell, challenges and achievements, and where they see themselves in five years. Hearing first-hand from my personally selected group of HR and Marketing/PR/Communications employees helps me understand what each department does in relation to Rockwell’s “big picture.”

There are two reasons behind my one-on-one meetings. The first is to help me learn which career path I would like to take (Marketing and HR are both very different aspects of business), and the second is to make sure I can sustain corporate friendships and check in with them upon graduation. Hopefully, one of these individuals will remember and advise me to apply for any available positions come May. Right now, I have met with over 40 people and hope to keep in contact with all of them. Ultimately, I hope my efforts lead me in the direction that best fits my work style and career goals, as I would love to pursue a career here.

There are a variety of qualities that I am impressed with about Rockwell. I can definitely say that I will have high expectations for any other corporate company. There were countless orientations that provided information all about the company. Rockwell has an event called, ‘Lunch and Learn,’ where speakers come and talk in a huge conference room during our lunch so that we can use our time wisely and still be able to listen and learn while we’re eating. It’s a pretty neat experience. Usually, the topics are pretty interesting, like Short Term International Rotation (STIRs) or Rockwell’s very new Leadership and Development program. People such as the Senior VPs and VPs of the company come and speak to us! I always look forward to these presentations.

Bridge Market (Like Prairie Street and Drumlin Market)
Bridge Market at Rockwell Automation

The Cafeteria
Cafeteria at Rockwell

Another thing I am impressed with is Rockwell’s mentor program. Of the 123 interns in Milwaukee and Mequon, all of us have a formal mentor assigned to us. These mentors may meet with us weekly or bi-weekly to check in with us on our progress, give us advice on our projects, answer any questions we might have, help us find our strengths and skills in our field, or supply career advice.

My mentor is also an HR rep but for a different business unit called Operations and Engineer Services (OES).  It’s great to learn from her because of her experience with the company. She has worked with me on a few projects and has provided information and insight that I never would have thought about. I am so happy I was assigned to her and will definitely keep in contact with her throughout my career.

The Fitness Center
Rockwell Fitness Center

As for progress on my projects, I am doing well. I have had a variety of smaller projects along the way to keep me fresh. One of these smaller projects includes an hour long presentation about managing four different generations in the workplace. Currently, there are Traditionalists (1922-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), and Generation Y (1981-2000). All have different values and viewpoints about their work and the way things are done. I am creating the presentation about how to manage these differences and to identify what the differences are.

Ultimately, I mention how all generations can attempt to merge their different styles into a cooperative and successful work atmosphere, so that companies can retain their new talent and continue the spread of knowledge throughout the company. I will present it to a full room of my intern peers as well as my manager and a few other HR reps and managers. I am eager to be finished, but it will take so much to talk for an hour without notes! I would like to say I am not nervous about presenting, but I fear that presenting in front of students at school is a lot different than potential employers.

Practicing for my presentation.
Gabby Practicing Her Presentation

Wish me luck! I will share the results of my projects with you in my last post. I can’t believe it’s already July.

Until next time – Gabby Fenzel

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Getting a Virtual Internship

Bored at Work

In her second post, Alysondra Milano shares her tips for finding and securing a virtual internship. Alysondra is currently “virtually” interning with Time at the Table, a nonprofit organization working to promote the reconnection of families around the dinner table. If you missed “meeting” Alysondra, read her introduction post.

In my last post, I went through what virtual internships are and what they can offer you. Let’s go through how to actually get the internship.

Start by searching on websites like you would for any other internship. Some of my favorite places to look include Hawk Jobs and Companies post their internships on these sites and will indicate if they are virtual. Send in your resume but make sure that it is error free since you are applying for a position that will require you to be able to communicate well through writing.

It always helps to connect with something that you like to do. If you are doing work for a cause or brand that you really believe in, it will make it a lot easier to schedule in time to complete your work for them. This is also another great way to find an internship. If you work with a nonprofit or know of a small local company that is having a hard time doing something that you could do from home, offer your services to them.

For example, my [current] internship is in social media. I approached a nonprofit recently about allowing me to do their social media for them. I told them about my experience with Time at the Table (the virtual internship that I have now) and explained how my work there could be applied to their cause. Just ask if you can do the work for free in exchange for college credit and a way to build your resume. The process to get credit is not very hard and takes just a few forms, the consent of an instructor and the consent of the person who will oversee you as an intern.

Also, write, write, write! Since you will not necessarily have a formal interview, most companies ask you to provide them with a writing sample. A great way to have some writing samples on hand is to start blogging. This will keep your writing skills sharp, and blogging may be one thing that the company will expect that you will already be able to do.

Please do your homework as well! When you send your resume, tailor it to the company that you are sending it to. These things may matter even more when they are basing who they will hire off of what they see from your online correspondence. This also shows your attention (or lack thereof) to detail. The company may set up an interview with you (and other candidates) online via Skype. If you know many different platforms, come with ideas tailored to their brand, and know their key messages and values, you will stand out among the competition.

Remember that since you are applying for a position where a brick and mortar presence is not required, that opens the field up to applicants from all over the world – applicants that will be our competition. You would not believe how many people do not follow through on the research portion. I was told after I secured my virtual internship that I was one of only two candidates who applied that took it upon themselves to research the organization and what they stood for. That can make a huge difference and secure you a position over someone who may have more experience, but doesn’t have the follow through that you were able to show!

As long as you show your desire, what services you can provide, and go above and beyond the other candidates, securing that internship will be just the beginning!

Photo Source

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Meet Sarah Suter

Sarah Suter

Sarah Suter will graduate from UW-Whitewater in August 2011 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She starts graduate school at UW-W in the fall, working towards a master’s degree in Professional Development with an emphasis in Educational Leadership. Sarah is interning with the US Department of Education in the Office of the Secretary. Her main internship advisor is Jo Anderson, Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of Education.

I have been a strong advocate for and minor leader in education since at least high school. My dream and goal for the past two years was to be an intern for the US Department of Education. I didn’t care in what office or what specific projects I’d be working on, just the initial experience would be enough.

Through conferences attended and conversations had, putting my passion for this internship out there for leaders in education to know about, I was able to get connected with my current supervisor at the Department of Education, Jo Anderson. I had no idea when I emailed him for the first time how big of a deal he was. After many email correspondences, a couple of conference calls, and a breakfast in Milwaukee, here I am today in Washington, DC! The vital part of getting the internship that you really want is to make the necessary connections and do what it takes. Don’t settle for less if you’re truly keen on attaining it.

My experience has been more that amazing thus far. My first week was a little hectic in the office with the Department of Education having more interns this summer than ever before along with many big meetings and projects going on. Staff was, however, extremely welcoming and enthusiastic for us to begin. Like any other intern, I was extremely anxious, but SO excited to begin my work.

I am three weeks in and have about five co-supervisors in addition to my main supervisor. I am a part of many different teams within the department, such as Early Learning, Labor Management Collaboration, Investing in Innovation, State News, and more. Much of the work I do is confidential since it is yet to be publicized information. It’s a great feeling when you are a part of these teams and all members treat you as a key component of these teams as well. You are adding very important information to the meetings and the teams work to help move the project/initiation, and essentially the department, forward. After sometimes long days, it’s always rewarding to know that I’m doing my part and giving input to help better the education system for America’s youth.

The Lyndon B. Johnson US Department of Education Building
LBJ US Dept of Education Building

At work!
Sarah at Work

Outside of the working hours, which are generally Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm, I have been keeping very busy! Washington, DC is such a beautiful and energetic city with a wide range of things to do and see.

Sarah with Washington Monument

Sarah Site Seeing

Aside from the hours of site seeing and museum touring, interns in the Office of the Secretary like to get together after work on Thursday evenings for “Intern Bonding.” We pick a different “neighborhood” within DC and go to a random restaurant and relax from the workplace. I have also met many friends at the upperclassman dorm I am living in for summer, George Washington University’s City Hall.

Taking the metro everywhere has been an interesting experience, but I finally have it down! You can get near pretty much anywhere you need to get in DC, and the price isn’t too bad either.

The Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro that I take to work each morning.
Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro

Technology has played a huge factor in keeping in touch back home. Thanks to Skype for being able to talk to over 20 family members one night while they were all at my grandpa’s 77th birthday party!


Sarah proves that you can “stay close” – through technology, but still go far!


Last-Minute Internship Search: Create Your Own

Triple Letter Score (227/365)

Before introducing the most proactive of strategies in an internship search, let’s recap the approaches leading up to it:

A strategy that has been gaining in popularity over the last few years is that of creating your own internship. While I’m covering it in terms of a last-minute search, it is a strategy that can be employed at any point in the internship search. And in the case of some career fields, it could be seen as a must-do.

So how do you go about this very direct approach? Here are some tips:

  • Determine your goals. If you are considering creating your own internship, you need to have a firm idea of what kind of work opportunity you want. What field are you trying to gain experience in? What do you hope to gain/learn from an internship? What kinds of daily duties would you like to be involved with? Think through these questions before going any farther in the process.
  • Research. Here is another element of any internship that keeps popping up. Researching your desired career field and potential employer is critical as you try to develop your own position. Know as much as you can about the field you are hoping to work in: nature of the work, training/educational requirements, typical work duties. As you move forward to identify organization that could offer you this work, learn as much as possible about them. What does the organization do? What is the organization’s reputation? What are the current needs of the organization?
  • Develop your internship proposal.Be prepared before you approach an organization you’ve found and researched. As you develop a proposal to put forward, focus on what you can offer the employer. Clearly, you will gain from an internship. But if an employer is going to take a risk and make an investment, at random, in you, focus on the benefits of this potential arrangement to them. Include the following in your written proposal:
    • A clear, concise description of what it is you are offering to do and why you think it will benefit the company.
    • The specific project you want to work on or the position you wish to fill.
    • Highlights of how you are the right person to do this work for the organization.
    • Your dates of availability and whether you are looking for a full-time or part-time position.
    • A copy of your resume that illustrates your strengths and the skills you possess that the organization needs.
  • Make contact and deliver your proposal. The key at this stage is to contact the person who has the power to say yes to your proposal and bring you on for the proposed project or position. While human resources might be a good place to start asking questions, they often don’t have the power to hire you. Get referrals to managers/supervisors in the area you want to work in or consult information online to identify the “right” person. Send your proposal to the best contact person via email or snail mail, then follow up by phone about a week after. Schedule a time to discuss your proposal in person or on the phone.

If creating your own internship is something you wish to pursue, do so with careful planning, resourcefulness, and a measure of assertion. For students who have been successful in the internship proposal process, they have gone on to have incredibly valuable experiences.

Photo by derrickcollins