MS-HCI Reflections on Summer Internships

With internship application season in full swing, here’s a look at what first year MS-HCI students did last summer.

Most students completed a summer internship related to HCI (76%), but others worked on campus as a research or teaching assistant (9%), completed a non-HCI tech internship (9%), took time off (4%), or took classes on campus (2%). A summer internship between the first and second year is encouraged because it can help build a strong resume and portfolio, but it isn’t required. The summer is for students to choose what is best for them.

I have been working for the GeorgiaCTSA through Emory for the last year and I’ve really enjoyed it. Most of our projects are in healthcare; whether it be at developing new tools for technical interventions to improve patients well-being or at increasing health education. What I enjoy most about working here is that the projects have a very “school-feel” to them. We do user research, compile it, create designs, and usability evaluations; all very UX. But where it differs (and what excites me the most about the work here), is that there is a big success metric in implementation. All the projects I’ve worked on have been turned into functional apps!

Location

Given that much of the tech industry worked remotely in Summer 2021, so did most of the MC-HCI students at their internships (78%).

I think the most valuable transferrable skills that I learned at the program were interpersonal communication skills, networking skills and problem-solving skills. Taking into account the remote nature of the internship, those skills became even more important. Also, the program prepared me really well to successfully deal with cross-functional teams by simulating the same format for our core classes in the first year.

Map of locations we worked across the US. 11 states are represented.

Although most interns were working remote, they had positions at companies headquartered across the United States. The map above shows students had positions in 11 different US states last summer.

I loved working remotely! I think I’m very positive of remote working because I had an option to go in to the office, if I really wanted to. The design, engineering teams are located all over the world, from Europe, Canada and the States. It was amazing to work with different time zones, and remote work actually gave me more flexibility of time.

Tools Used

Word cloud of tools used. The most-used tools were Figma and Jira

Looking to prepare for your next summer internship? Some of the most-used tools by HCI interns last summer were:

  • Figma
  • Jira
  • Powerpoint of Google Slides
  • Mural
  • HTML / CSS / JavaScript
  • Markdown
  • Github

I worked at Flexport as User Research Intern this summer. During the internship, I worked closely with a Senior Researcher and PM to create the research plan and discussion guide for the project I was leading. In addition, I facilitated internal subject matter expert (SME) interviews, took lead on synthesis of research and brainstorming of design concepts. I also worked in Figma to create early design concepts from our initial research. I then took these concepts and evaluated them during client interviews to gather feedback from end users on notifications/messaging within the platform as well as exception management. I thought the MS-HCI program did an excellent job of preparing me for my summer internship. I felt very confident about the methods the team employed.

Reflections

I worked as a contract UX Designer for Rhymes with Reason, a nonprofit startup that aims to teach literacy through hip-hop and rap lyrics. As the only designer on the team, I knew that my work on the website and product’s redesign would someday be implemented. This was a lot of responsibility, but I made sure to consult with the development team and the CEO throughout the process in order to ensure that I was hearing their feedback and design ideas. I am passionate about education and nonprofit work, and know that my working relationship with Rhymes with Reason will continue in some capacity.

Focusing on my own business over the summer showed me how to apply a lot of what I learned across different professional settings. Taking that leap of faith gave me a lot of space to explore UX Research and Design in ways that were really natural to me, and I started to ask new questions about the relationships between UX, Art, and Marketing.

My internship was a fantastic experience. My team was great about establishing rapport even remotely and we got along very well. I think the best part was that I got to take on my own project that was real and important, and it’s currently being developed! The job posting didn’t specifically mention MS-HCI students, and I think they were surprised by how prepared I was for the position. I’m very glad that my coursework was a good jumping-off point for the work I was asked to do.

I worked as User Researcher at Salesforce, and I couldn’t have felt more prepared for my internship, all thanks to the MS HCI program! My experience doing research in the program gave me the confidence to walk the walk and talk the talk as well as minimizing imposter syndrome.

Thanks to Aditi Bhatnagar for editing!

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