Students Gain STEM Internship Experience in Tech SMEs and Start-ups
Unlike big tech corporations, tech SMEs or start-ups usually do not have dedicated resources to hire interns who are enthusiastic about innovation and technology. Yet, internships at big tech firms are highly competitive. To help bridge this gap, HKUST has joined the Hong Kong government’s STEM Internship Scheme, through which more than 300 HKUST students have secured internships – the highest among all universities taking part.
The Scheme, offered by the Innovation and Technology Commission to students from UGC-funded universities, aims to foster students’ interest in pursuing a career in IT after graduation to enlarge the local IT talent pool in the long run.
Monesh Govind LALWANI, a Year 3 computer engineering major, took on a two-month summer internship with homegrown mobile education platform FutureNow Data Technology Limited, and was tasked with developing the firm’s website, from its design, architecture, to marketing. He was happy that he was not only be able to hone his IT skills, but also required to learn how the company operated holistically, including its business.
FutureNow hired three interns – all from HKUST – through the Scheme. Jaspreet Dhaliwal SINGH, also a Year 3 major in computer engineering, was another. He was appointed team leader for quality assurance and server migration, helping to optimize customer experience on the backend.
“One of my main tasks was to work with the team to try to find bugs in the app and websites, so after every build, we would go through the features and think of every possible way to spot and fix logical errors,” Jaspreet recalls.
The internship was a way for him to build on the knowledge gained from the University’s courses and find inspiration for a career in technology, specifically in the areas of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, among others, he says. “The tech industry is competitive, and if we want to hit the ground running, we need to go a step further with internships like this,” he adds.
For Ken YEUNG, a Year 3 student in risk management and business intelligence, who worked at a beauty and clothing e-commerce company YesStyle as project management intern, the experience was a way to learn about current industry practices that may not be covered in class.
“I have learned a lot about IT project management which couldn’t be learned in the classroom, from industrial standard to practical usage of productivity software. My supervisor taught me a lot about current practices in the IT industry that I believe are rarely known to outsiders,” Ken comments.
In addition to obtaining industry knowledge, this internship also changed his career aspiration. “Before this internship I only wanted to work at banks or other financial institutions. But now I found that IT is actually an interesting industry. I will be excited to work in the Fintech industry, if I have the chance,” Ken says.
Another YesStyle intern, Herman WONG, a Year 3 major in computer science and business management, worked mainly as a programmer for the start-up, but also supported other projects, including migrating a blog of more than 2,000 entries to a cloud server.
“We heard about cloud computing a lot in class and in the news, and this internship let me use and experiment with one of the major providers,” Herman says. “I’m excited because this helps provide better performance, security, and reliability to the company.”
FutureNow’s founder and chief executive Raymond YEUNG was extremely impressed with the performance of HKUST interns. “They showed confidence, grit, and creative thinking when they faced challenges. They also sent a strong signal that they wanted to learn and do well,” he comments. He has since brought some of them on board to work on a part-time basis.
Cathy TSANG, who leads YesStyle’s talent acquisition, says the two HKUST interns showed they were quick learners with good attitude. “Internships are more than just work – learning is also important. The internship program is what makes it a win-win situation for employers and students. We’re delighted to see them being eager to learn as much as they can. Their line managers say they are very good-natured and not afraid to ask questions,” she says.
(This news was originally published by the HKUST Public Affairs Office here.)