iSchoolers have been back on campus for about a month now, and the fall semester is in full swing. Between classes in the computer labs, studying in the ICE Box and getting involved in student orgs at the involvement fair, it’s hard to focus on anything other than the present moment, much less what you’ll be doing once the semester is over.
But with fall semester comes a variety of career fairs and employer visits to the iSchool that students can take advantage of. For those who want to get a head start on their internship search, iSchool alumnus Zach Schleien has written a book to help you do just that called Hacking the Internship Process. On his recent HINDSights visit, Schleien met with students to share his knowledge on how to land a great internship.
Schleien graduated in 2012 from the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in History and a minor in Marketing from the Whitman School of Business. He came to the iSchool to get his Masters in Information Management with a concentration in Data Science in 2015. In addition to writing a book while he was still a student at the iSchool, he was also a founder of several startups, his most recent being LIFT Protein Muffins, a Paleo meal-replacement muffin company that he runs with his mom.
He currently works at Johnson & Johnson in their Information Technology Leadership Development Program (ITLDP) where he is on his second year of the two-year rotational program.
Schleien has been a founder of several startups, both while he was still a student and as a graduate of the iSchool. He started his first company, a platform for college students to find projects and work opportunities to develop their skills, while he was a senior in college. Since then, he started several different websites and blogs as well as his current LIFT Protein Muffin business.
When asked what prompted him to want to create these different companies, especially while he was still an undergrad, Schleien said that for him, “it was all about solving problems.” For example, his current business compliments the fact that he himself eats Paleo and he “needed a protein dense food to hold him over until lunch.”
For students who want to become entrepreneurs themselves, he stressed the importance of having discipline and motivation to get the work done. In order to have the motivation to work on something for a long period of time Schleien recommends making sure that it is something, “that you are passionate about because that will keep you interested and motivated in the long run.”
When asked how his past experience with entrepreneurship has influenced his current role at Johnson & Johnson Schleien cited that “most companies look for people that aren’t just heads down” and value the innovation and drive that go into starting your own company. He also said that he gained many of the soft skills needed to succeed in the professional world from his past experiences.
While he was a grad student in the iSchool, Schleien wrote a book Hacking the Internship Process based on his own personal trial and error when it came to finding internships. He explained that the idea for the book stemmed from the differences in how he approached the internship search when he was an undergrad to when he was a grad student. When he was an undergrad, he applied to “as many internships as possible” thinking it was a numbers game. However, as a grad student, he began to realize the importance of building actual connections with employers. He “did a lot of research and talked to people who had roles that I thought I wanted in five years to see if I really did want them.”
From there, he used all of the hacks that ended up being in his book such as reverse engineering emails to get in contact with the people he wanted to talk to. As part of the relationship building aspect of networking, Schleien recommends keeping in touch with contacts over a longer period of time. He says that this really “builds up the relationship so that when you are looking for opportunities people want to help you since they know you already.” This hack ultimately helped Schleien land an internship as a Customer Success Data Analyst intern at Bitly, the link shortening company.
Schleien also cited that just reaching out for information (and not immediately asking for internships) helps students stand out in the eyes of professionals who have talked to hundreds of students in the past.
Several iSchool students have had success using the internship search hacks explained in the book such as Tobin Fleming, a junior in the Information Management & Technology program with a minor in Information Technology, Design and Startups. Tobin explained,
“When I found an internship application that interested me, I applied for it on their website, then went to LinkedIn and looked for the person I could contact. I then did the reverse engineering hack from the book to find the email for that person. From there, I used one of the email templates Zach recommended and sent the employer an email. By the next day I got a response from the employer and I kept in contact with them for the next week and ended up landing the internship for the summer. The book helped me tremendously and I highly would recommend it to other students.”
Life at the iSchool and Beyond
While he was a student here, Schleien was involved in iSGO, the grad student organization at the iSchool where he helped plan events and drive engagement within the grad student community.
When asked what aspect of the iSchool has been most valuable to his career he stated “the wide range of classes in the IT field and the ability to learn different technical skills” has helped him succeed as well as “having a strong understanding and passion for IT and being able to communicate with non-IT professionals.”
As a graduate student and post grad, Schleien recommends that everyone takes advantage of meetups for whatever they are interested in as a way to make connections to those in your field. At the meetups he suggests meeting the organizer if possible since they are “the ones who are the most connected and will be able to introduce you to others” who can help answer your questions.
Zach’s book, with some of the tips mentioned here and more, is great for all undergrad or grad student looking for the most effective ways to find internships. It can be purchased in Kindle or paperback version on Amazon.