“To a certain degree, I’m losing a lot of sleep,” admits Seidenberg student Kevin Cheng ’15. For the past year and a half, this Information Technology major has been balancing an 18-credit course load, a more-than-full-time internship at McGraw Hill Financial’s Standard & Poor’s (S&P), and a Dean’s List GPA on top of it all. Sleep deprivation is nothing new to this super intern.
As a junior systems engineer, Cheng works around the clock resolving IT help tickets submitted by any of S&P’s thousands of employees. He describes himself as a jack of all trades, solving hundreds of tech troubles like crashed hard drives, faulty servers, and explaining new software to employees. But that’s all in a day’s—and night’s—work for Cheng.
“I have to pay attention to my e-mail a lot, because sometimes problems don’t happen between 9 to 5. Problems can happen any time,” he says. Cheng recalls leaving the S&P offices after midnight on a few occasions during the summer and working through the weekends to take care of some persistent problems. “It’s a pretty crazy internship,” he says excitedly.
While his busy schedule may force him to eat dinner in class sometimes, Cheng says it’s all worth it. “I’m passionate about IT. Honestly, that’s the easiest way I can put it. I enjoy what I do. I’m being pushed to my limits every day, learning new things, and having new experiences. Every day is different.”
Cheng landed his dream internship in 2012, but his career started as soon as he arrived on campus. As a freshman, Cheng remembers sitting in one of his first business classes when the professor asked the students if they wanted to be successful. “The class was unanimous, we said ‘yeah, of course.’” The professor then encouraged the students to take advantage of Pace’s Career Services. “He said ‘I’m telling you this, but I can’t make you go. It’s ultimately up to you.’”
Cheng wasted no time. He and a friend headed to Career Services, only to discover that first-semester freshmen aren’t eligible for internships. So instead, Cheng did the next best thing and attended Career Services’ workshops until he could begin applying for internships in the spring. It wasn’t long before he found himself in the hot seat at his first interview. But Cheng was ready for it.
“I got a packet from Career Services that had sample questions. They were really great with helping me,” he says. Before the interview, he met with his career counselor for advice, enlisted the help of his friends to practice interviewing, and did some research on his own about interviewing techniques. “I even read an article about the best colors to wear to an interview, that’s how far I went,” he says.
All the preparation paid off and Cheng was offered the internship at Endeavor Global, a nonprofit that helps start-ups become more successful. He says going through the process—from start to finish—of his first internship was what helped him land his current internship. “That internship gave me the experience that led me to McGraw-Hill. I was more confident after that internship,” he says.
And confidence was crucial when Cheng interviewed at S&P. He says they asked challenging questions designed to demonstrate his thought process. “It was a rigorous interview, but I prepared for it just like I did for Endeavor,” he says. “I didn’t even know if I answered them correctly, but it turned out, a week later, they called me back and said that they would love to have me.”
Since then, Cheng has been rounding out his education with real-world experience and seeing the principles he’s learning in class first-hand. For example, understanding what’s expected in corporate cultures not only prepares him every day for his internship, but Cheng says it also gave him a leg up in his interview when it came to answering those tricky questions.
He encourages his classmates to go after the internships they really want and to use Pace’s resources, like the eRecruiting website, to find them. “It might be a little discouraging for some people, but just be persistent. You’ve got nothing to lose by applying. So keep at it and certainly go to the Career Center because they’re more than helpful.”