Coursework, mentors, and career development emphasis fuel internship success

By Hannah Farley, Computer Science, ‘23

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as a Technical Program Manager Intern at SiriusXM and Pandora. I spent the beginning of my 10-week program learning about the agile software development process, stakeholders in the software development lifecycle, and using Jira, a project management software.

When I shifted into the TPM role I assumed full responsibility for a particular set of app features. As a TPM, I coordinated with engineering leads, software engineers, product managers, and UX designers to schedule meetings and lead syncs. Additionally, I ran cross functional meetings, utilized the beta app to identify bugs and verify behavior, tracked project completion via Jira, presented to senior leadership, and participated in hallmarks of the agile process, such as scrum, feature grooming, triage, and sprint planning. My responsibilities as a TPM also led me to learn a new programming language, JQL (Jira Query Language.)

Separately, I coordinated with another intern to develop a standard, optimized system for tracking progress and presenting it to senior leadership. Our mentors and managers, who recognized us as fresh eyes, explained the issue, its downstream implications, what they had tried before, and what an ideal solution would achieve. Through research, interviews, collaboration, gap analysis, and trial and error we developed a solution that met the requirements. The following weeks were spent presenting our solution to senior management and holding informational sessions to help existing teams implement it.

More than a few Vanderbilt experiences prepared me for this internship. The most notable is the overarching premise of my engineering education: problem solving. Vanderbilt School of Engineering’s emphasis on the development of problem- solving skills equipped me to meet every challenge with poise and enthusiasm. This attitude allowed me to take on additional responsibilities and contribute in ways with lasting and meaningful impact.

From a technical perspective, my computer science classes focused on coding primed me to learn a new programming language swiftly and comfortably. My engineering management courses, specifically Applied Behavioral Science, helped me expand soft skills necessary to succeed in an engineering management role.

My experience at Vanderbilt also has been marked by the support I’ve received from people as well as organizations. As a Clark Scholar, I entered Vanderbilt with an automatic network of over 40 people who were invested in my success. In fact, before my internship interview, a fellow Clark Scholar spent hours helping me prepare and assuring me I would do great. Not only did I find mentorship from older Clark Scholars, I also found a great mentor in our faculty adviser, who consistently provided valuable feedback, advice, and guidance.

Still, I would have never even been at SiriusXM and Pandora if not for Vanderbilt’s emphasis on career development and internships. Soft skills and programming know-how are well and good, but they must be put to use! Education is cumulative, and my time at Vanderbilt allowed me to seize this opportunity, learn a great deal from it, and excel in my position.