Like all faculty members who oversee students completing internships, Jim Fisher likes to check up on his students from time to time. He also keeps in touch with many of the IT industry professionals who supervise Coby interns.
He often hears things like, “I always want a Cobleskill intern,” or “so-and-so really helped us.” Those things are rewarding, if nothing else.
As the COVID-19 pandemic brought global commerce, travel, and most everything else a standstill this spring, Fisher wasn’t sure what the message would be from his interns and their supervisors. He had five interns under his guidance, and it was his job to help them transition from the intern world to the professional world in this peculiar climate.
One by one, he heard things like, “oh no, I’ve already been offered a position,” and “they want to hire me, but I’ve found something closer to home.”
“You always start out by asking (student-interns) their status,” says Fisher. “This year it quickly went from asking that question to learning pretty much everyone had already been offered a job. It happened right in the middle of the worst shutdown I can remember, all while working remotely for the most part.”
There are two things to consider.
One, Fisher points out, is that SUNY Cobleskill IT graduates do get jobs. It isn’t all that unusual for those jobs to spring forth from internships.
Two, the demand for qualified IT professionals is vast.
“There is such a need not just for IT professionals, but for people who are trained in what we are teaching,” says Fisher. “Our graduates are able to jump into the workforce [right now] and help businesses maintain the continuity of their business.”
His interns this spring were Kevin Dignus, Robert Trivolis, Michael Nieves, Kalifa Konneh, and Melanie Mendoza.
Dignus is wrapping up his internship and his second SUNY Cobleskill bachelor’s degree. Trivolis interned with a local school district and has been hired by another. Nieves, from New York and based in New Jersey, interned for SS&C Technologies while he was also employed by sports and entertainment holding company MSG. He is still at SS&C as the help desk lead. Konneh accepted a position with Zones nfrastructure, outside Albany, as a Microsoft Office technical support specialist.
Mendoza also interned in Albany. Fisher describes her job as “making artificial intelligence more intelligent.” When Mendoza explained it to Fisher, even he wasn’t quite sure what she was doing. He eventually gathered she was tagging satellite images to enhance business intelligence.
SUNY Cobleskill’s Information Technology Program delivers knowledge about the pillars of the field. They include programming, data communications and networking, operating systems, and cybersecurity. There are other fundamentals, but it starts with a foundation.
“Foundational knowledge does more than set you up to understand how to have conversations and perform functions,” says Fisher. “It gives you the ability to adapt. It is what you need to overcome friction. We want our graduates in the workforce to be able to say, ‘I’ve seen something similar at Cobleskill.’”
That last bit is important. We are more connected than ever before. Information and technology are moving through society at a rate we have never seen or known. Information is the foundation of our lives – from the help desk to the most closed-mouth dealings of the business world.
The way to enter such a fluid landscape is to be as familiar as possible with its parts. That comes from experience.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always able to fix things around my house that were connected to technology — things like connecting to the WIFI, fixing an iPod, fixing a mouse… When I got to SUNY Cobleskill, I knew that pursuing a degree in IT was the right decision for me,” recalls Nieves.
“There is just something about working hard to come up with a solution to a technical issue that brightens me up. Not only am I making someone’s day, but I am proving to myself that I can get it done.”
Fisher takes it a step further.
“We are accustomed [at Cobleskill] to working out problems in labs rather than in books,” says Fisher. “Working with others – different backgrounds, different ideologies – that is what the working world is. We are giving a good baseline understanding of the world as much as we are delivering knowledge. We are creating a path of continuous learning… I feel genuinely proud of my students when they graduate because of the journey they make. Everything they are leaving with is something they’ve gained.”