How Technology Advances Improved My Internship Experience

by | Sep 17, 2020 | ZAG Culture

We asked our summer interns to share a little about their experience at ZAG. This year we were blessed to have two exceptional students join us, both from the University of Oregon. We heard previously from Garrett Halseth, and today Katelyn Gatzke shares how the intern experience the past few years changed because of technology advances. Katelyn worked across departments, with finance, business applications, and marketing.

I started out interning for a position I was not qualified for. With no prior experience and little relevant coursework completed, Tim Bussey, the CFO at ZAG Technical Services, took a chance on me two years ago. This 10-week immersive summer internship shaped my college coursework and aspirations for my overall career path.

The modern-day internship experience fosters a mutually beneficial relationship between the employer and intern. The shift from interns fetching coffee to bringing valuable insights to a team is arguably from the increasing technology advances. With readily accessible tools, technology-aided learning allows for a quick conversion time for the interns to become assets to the organization. Although interns do take an initial investment of time and mentorship, the return on investment is surprisingly quick in terms of the immediate contribution the intern will provide.

Coming back to ZAG after completion of applicable coursework and a business internship abroad, I have directly seen the improvements technology has made on the internship experience for both the intern and the host company.

Data visualization with power BI

The ability to learn independently and complete tasks with minimal guidance is assisted by online communication platforms and resources (e.g. blog posts, YouTube tutorials, workshops). Reshaping data into a three-dimensional viewpoint can help companies become more competitive by highlighting the data points needed for decision making. This summer one of my main assignments was to make data more digestible for the company using Power BI, a data visualization tool. The Power BI platform was brand new to me, I had never even opened it. When I was first presented with multiple large datasets and asked to create a dashboard using Power BI, it felt like an overwhelming and daunting task. The learning curve was steep, however, because I soon learned the integration and connectivity with the other Microsoft platforms I was already using. With the right guidance regarding who to reach out to and where to start, the project eventually became a great learning experience.

The Small Business Administration released a dataset of the basic company information for the businesses who received PPP loans (e.g. loan range, number of jobs retained, business type, loan lender, etc). The excel file of 67.2 MB and over 650K rows of data crashed multiple people’s computers simply trying to open the file. To make the data useful for ZAG, it required cross-referencing of additional datasets looking up companies by industry and other useful information (e.g. company revenue, job function, etc.). From here, ZAG could identify any business opportunities that they have yet to tap into.

As an intern, I was able to create a high-level data visualization of the massive PPP dataset into a user-friendly, dynamic interface shareable to a large audience. With the help of Teams video calls with fellow employees, a couple of YouTube videos, and a lot of trial and error, I turned a time-consuming, multi-level task into a valuable resource for multiple teams within the organization. My employer now can utilize Power BI with the large dataset to identify potential clients and competitors and I, as an intern, learned a new skill in the process that I can continue to use in the future.

Power BI Dashboard showing PPP Funding

Remote work connectivity

Participating in a completely remote internship experience can be challenging due to the lack of organic communication and interaction between employees. During my time at ZAG this summer, I have been able to feel a strong sense of community through the interactions on Microsoft Teams.

From keeping up with my daily tasks to attending the companywide “Town Hall Meetings”, Microsoft Teams has been the basis of communication between all employees. The one seamless platform to keep files, communication channels, and scheduling organized allows me to maximize my productivity throughout the workday.

Additionally, taking a few minutes to banter in the beginning of video conferences has increased the overall feeling of connectivity throughout the workday. This creates a transparent and comforting environment for all employees, allowing for questions, help to be asked for, and real-time updates on projects.

Application to college education

Having the opportunity to explore multiple sectors of a business in a real-world setting has helped me identity career paths that I could be interested in. My personal internship experience caused me to shift my college education path from Human Physiology to double majoring in Finance and Economics. I have gained invaluable insights into my passions and strengths as a businesswoman while having various industries and job roles in mind.

Additionally, the internship experiences I participated in have done a great job of working in conjunction with my current course work. Having a supervisor that is willing to become a mentor and teacher throughout the experience is crucial to developing into a strong employee. As technology is improving, it is important to explore and have exposure to various platforms that are driving forces to the business world. Once it is time to apply for full-time positions, having completed internships will provide me the additional experience to my studies and great talking point in interviews, something with more value than pouring coffee.

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