Internships can be the perfect stepping stone into the working world, provided you have a good experience.
The term ‘internship’ can almost be a dirty word depending on who you speak to. Internships have been put under the microscope in recent years as surveys have shown them to be no more than a crash course in making photocopies and coffee.
However, when executed properly, they can provide serious value to both the company and the intern it employs.
Rahaf Khalaf is currently an engineering student in University College Dublin. She is also an intern with telecoms giant Three Ireland. Here, she shares her experience with Siliconrepublic.com.
What are you studying in college?
I’m about to begin my third year of chemical and bioprocess engineering, with a minor in biochemistry at University College Dublin.
What drew you to Three when you were seeking an internship?
Earlier this year, I was looking at internship opportunities for the summer and my guidance counsellor said something that really resonated with me. She said that engineers can be anything they wish to be and can go into any field, because of the mindset that they develop at college.
After that, I began to look beyond chemical engineering roles. I’m drawn to the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of telecoms, which steered me in the direction of Three Ireland.
What expectations did you have before you began your internship?
I really didn’t know what to expect from a corporate internship at such a large company. I was initially worried that I would be given very basic activities, like making coffees and photocopying.
So, I was very pleased to find that I would be heavily involved with projects and doing work that would make a real impact on the business and on Three’s customers.
What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?
As part of the core network team, I have been working on three projects. These projects focus on enhancing the user experience on Three’s network as well as developing a dashboard to track the performance of the network.
When I first started, my manager assigned me a ‘buddy’, a knowledge expert within the department, as the first point of contact. As I got started on each project, I could get advice from them and they helped me to develop my overall understanding of the network and how it works.
I also had to the opportunity to learn about other areas of the business and spend time with Three’s senior leadership team and CEO.
Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?
In a few short weeks, I have gained so much knowledge of the network and now feel really confident in the work I’m doing – I had no idea, when beginning this internship, just how complicated a mobile network is!
My manager has already given me a vast amount of responsibility over many aspects of our projects and allows me to present at our quarterly departmental meetings, in front of a room of network professionals.
It’s great to have that level of trust and support from my manager. As the projects that I’m working on develop further, I’ve been able to branch out of my department and meet a wider range of individuals. It’s been a great learning experience and gave me the opportunity to connect with employees from all over the company.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a large project in a completely different area, and was part of a team of interns that coordinated a CSR project, raising awareness for Three’s charity partner, An Cosán Virtual Community College, for which Three employees raised €10,000 this summer.
This project involved organising an employee event, creating a promotional short film and much more. It was a really valuable experience.
Can you describe a typical day?
No two days are the same; one day I may be working on Excel spreadsheets, the next I’m working with the team to expand my understanding of the network, or I could be preparing a presentation for a major project.
I’m always learning about our upcoming developments and it’s exciting to see projects come to life, and stay in the loop of what’s happening in telecoms.
Besides touching base with my manager in our weekly one-to-one sessions, there’s an open channel of communication between us. If I come across difficulties or a challenge that I can’t overcome, he’ll provide me with the tools and insight to overcome the problem on my own.
What key things have you learned during this internship?
I’ve really developed my communications skills. My writing and presentation skills are much stronger and I feel more confident in my abilities. I’ve gotten to develop new skills that I never imagined I’d develop during my time in Three, like organising company events. You never know how much work goes into these kinds of events until you’ve organised one yourself!
The main thing I’ve learned is the value of meeting new people and expanding your network. You can gain so much information just by asking someone what they do and, because of that, I’ve gained an insight into other areas of business.
A smile and friendly hello goes a long way. Regardless of the level of seniority, Three employees have been so welcoming and are always happy to set aside a bit of their time.
Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?
It has. Like many students, when I first started in engineering, I didn’t know if it was the right choice. I had made some last-minute changes to my CAO form and had some doubt beginning my course.
But so many people within my department have graduated with a wide range of engineering degrees and all have such interesting and varied careers, which validates the decision to pursue my degree.
Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?
Definitely. I’ve had the chance to work on projects that have had a very real impact on the business, and develop skills that will be transferable to any path that my career takes me on.
This internship has allowed me to refine my people skills by giving me the opportunity to work alongside such insightful and fascinating colleagues.
I’ve loved creating new work relationships and building my professional network – there’s an amazing atmosphere here. It’s a happy and productive workplace and a great place to build a career.
Why should someone take up an internship at Three?
This internship has given me a taste of what it’s like to work in telecoms. I’ve picked up new skills and new ways of thinking and working. Interns in Three are valued just as much as people with years of experience under their belt.
I was given key roles in projects and got to make impactful decisions, with a brilliant support system in place to help me achieve my goals and build confidence in my abilities.
You don’t have to be a big techy to work at Three – I wasn’t, but now I work as part of a highly technical team. I wouldn’t change it for the world!