From Internship to Senior Year

Transitioning back to school was easy for me, but I was extremely busy. I had to cut my internship a couple days short in order to be back for work at Ohio State helping the Early Arrival Program for incoming freshman. On my last day, Wednesday, August 16th, we had our final presentations in our intern project groups. We presented to over 60 people and then had lunch. Afterwards, we took pictures as a group and said our goodbyes.

Finance Interns in North Carolina
My Intern Project Group After Final Presentations

I drove back to the house I was staying in and finished packing and loading my things into my car with the help of my mom and her friend who flew in two nights before. We didn’t get back to Columbus until 11:30 PM that night, and I had to be at work at 8 AM the next morning. I worked the next few days and had one day of break before school started again. I was so busy during the past 3 weeks that I didn’t even have a chance to sit down and watch TV or Netflix. It wasn’t until this past weekend that I felt that I was able to catch up on school work, unpacking, and seeing friends. Thankfully I should not have that tight of a turn around again.

I had a great summer working for Cisco. About halfway through my internship I decided that if I were to receive a full-time offer, I would want it to be at the headquarter office in San Jose, California. I expressed this to my program manager in our weekly check-ins and told her the reasons why I felt this way. Last week I received a call with my offer to work with Cisco and I accepted! I am looking forward to starting my career in Silicon Valley and living in California, which is somewhere I never thought I would end up because it is so far away.

 

Looking back I had some great experiences this summer. I want to share a few funny stories, things I found cool at Cisco, and tips for your internship. I hope you have enjoyed reading!

-On my first day with my finance team I wore a cute new shirt I had bought. Upon getting out of my car, my roommate pointed out that the tag was still on the shirt. This tag was not any tag, it was a thick cardboard tag with a string attaching it to my shirt. We weren’t able to rip it off or get it off with my keys. I went into the break room in the office and couldn’t find any scissors. Then, I went to my desk where my manager introduced me to a guy on the team and I asked them if they knew where scissors were, to which they shook their heads. I explained my tag situation and the guy I just met said he had a pocket knife. So he sawed the tag of, to which I said “nice to meet you”.  Maybe it was embarrassing, but it was funny to us.

-Our office has automatic desks that go up and down to adjust to your height or if you want to stand and work. Our laptops are our computers and we take them home with us every day. We also don’t have assigned desks, though most people sit at the same desks every day. Free coffee and iced coffee became a great perk to have on the long work days when I needed a boost of energy.

-Having a roommate that has to go to work at the same time as you is great. One day my phone was constantly dying for no reason and it decided to die overnight leaving me without an alarm. My roommate knocked on my door five minutes before we were supposed to leave to check if I was up. Without her, who knows when I would have woken up that morning.

-During a Durham Bulls baseball game that all of Cisco finance was invited to, we got souvenir mason jars with our drinks. The game was so hot that we went to find shade, but I realized I forgot my mason jar. I went back to grab it and when I came up the stairs some first years in the rotational program asked what I was doing. I put my cup up to show them while saying I forgot my cup, but as I did that the last bits of my drink splashed out onto my face and shirt. We all laughed so hard, and it started an hour long conversation in which I got to know the first years better.  *If you are underage, never drink alcohol at a company event.

-Keep a running track of what you do and who you talk to during your internship, even down to the small things you think don’t mean anything. This will come in handy if you have an exit interview or an interview with another company. It also helps when you update your resume.

-Cisco has many creativity rooms that are filled with things from a golf putting room, to a TV room, to massage chairs. I definitely wish I took advantage of these more, but I was busy working!

Golf Room
Cabana Room
Lounge in the Cabana Room
Game Room

How I Spent My Weekends in North Carolina

Before I came to Raleigh, I imagined it very similar to Columbus and was surprised to find that it was contrarily pretty small. Although Raleigh has roughly half the population of Columbus, there are still plenty of activities to do in the area. It was also nice having a roommate in the new city, because I already had a friend to do things with on the weekends! Below are some of the activities I did this summer:

Farmer’s Market: I went to the Durham Farmer’s Market every Saturday I was in town. I enjoy browsing around and getting fresh eggs. At this farmers market they also had craftsmen and a potter whom I purchased from weekly. They also had a lot of different food trucks and coffee to choose from.

Dame’s Chicken & Waffles

Downtown: Going to downtown Raleigh and Durham was always something fun to do, whether it was going into the shops, or grabbing something to eat. There were always new areas and street art to find.

Downtown Raleigh

Wrightsville Beach: Living in North Carolina has its perks, and being close to the beach is one of them. One weekend my roommate and I drove a little over two hours to the beach. We got a hotel for one night and went to the beach both Saturday and Sunday. We also ate a nice seafood dinner. It was relaxing to have a weekend away from home.

Wrightsville Beach

College Campus: I took some time exploring the college campuses around me. Duke University is a mile from my home, so I visited there frequently. The other colleges I explored are North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Some of the other interns in my group go to UNC Chapel Hill, so I went to hang out with them on a few weekend nights and observed how their campus culture differed from OSU.

Duke University
Duke Gardens

Hiking: Forests are abundant in North Carolina. It is one of the main things I noticed when I got here and I enjoy driving through the scenery. I wanted to hike one weekend and searched for the best trails on the internet because this area can also be very flat. I thankfully found a long trail that had a mixture of terrains and steep hills. It was nice to be submerged in nature. There are also a lot of good hiking spots that are within a couple hours away that I would have driven to if I had more time.

Eno State Park

Kayaking: My roommates, a few other people, and I went kayaking in a lake one weekend day. It was surprisingly cheap, only costing five dollars a day for a kayak. After kayaking in a lake I can definitely say that I like kayaking in a river more, but it was nice to get outside and get a little workout at the same time.

Festivals: There is always some type of festival going on during the summer months. I went to the Fourth of July festival in downtown Raleigh and to a Food Truck Festival. There are also a lot of free concerts in the parks that you can go to and listen to local bands.

Traveling: I also took a trip back to Columbus one weekend because I had a few weekend activities to do with my family. The flight was really easy, though I ended up getting delayed three hours due to storms in Ohio. I also went to New York the weekend before my internship ended for a close friend’s wedding. Because her wedding was on a Friday evening, I was not sure if I would be able to work, but luckily my boss said I could work from my laptop on Friday. At Cisco, your laptop is your computer and you take it home with you every day, making this trip doable. Saturday I went to the city with my other friends at the wedding and we explored and ate a bunch of good food. Then, Sunday I visited a friend and also Fisher alum, Sophia Mullins, before flying back to North Carolina to finish out my last week in the internship.

A Relatively Normal Internship Day

Thankfully most of my days at Cisco have variation. With the multiple projects I work on, to the different events that happen, I am almost always busy. I will walk you through a relatively normal day of my internship.

6:30 am   I try to wake up early, though lately the snooze button has gotten the best of me. I get ready for the day and make breakfast which has consisted of eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice. It is great eating breakfast like this in the morning, because it is not something I would never take the time to do at home.

7:30 am  I leave to drive to work around this time if my roommate and I are ready. It takes about 20-25 minutes to drive from our home in Durham to Cisco.

8:00am   I arrive at work early because my roommate that I drive, who does not have a car, wants to get to work at 8. My team usually does not get in until 8:30-9am, though the past week or so they have been in earlier because it was our year-end close on July 29th.  When I get into the office, I usually go over my emails first to see if there is anything important or anything someone has asked me to do. About half of the days there is something in my inbox that is of relevance to me. After checking my emails, I check my calendar to see what I have to do that day, and then I grab coffee from the break room.

9:00 am  More people trickle into the office and I am working on my project for my Sales and Services Finance team. I have done a few different excel projects that lasted over a few weeks, along with a project on compliance. I usually ask my manager if there is anything she needs from me, and, if not, I continue to work on my projects.

11:00 am We also have an intern team project that we complete for the company that is not finance-specific, like our job. There are 4 of us in a group and we meet to work on our project outside of our meetings without our project manager and mentor. We try to get as much done as we can and set up the schedule for how our meeting will go later.

12:00pm Most interns and rotational program employees go to lunch. We have to walk for five minutes to get to the closest cafeteria which is two buildings over. Every once in awhile we go out to a restaurant for lunch.

1:00 pm  When I get back from lunch, I either work on my projects or have a meeting with my intern project team. We meet for an hour, two days a week, so that our manager and mentor can make sure we are still on track and help us where we need guidance.

2:00 pm  As an intern, people want to meet and talk to you. A lot of the interns set up meetings with other interns’ managers and people in the rotational program. I set up meetings with managers whose positions are interesting to me, people in the rotational program I have not had the time to get to know yet, and people in the San Jose office because I am interested in moving to that office. I am not someone who can set up meetings with everyone just for the sake of networking. To network well, it is important to get something out of your meeting. If it gets to the point where you have so many meetings that you are not learning something or able to keep people separate in your mind, you may be meeting too many people in too short of a time.

3:00 pm  At this point, I will go back to my desk and write down what my meeting was about and what I learned. Then, I will finish my projects for the day.

4:00 pm I will wrap up my work and ask my boss if there is anything else I can help with. I usually end up catching up with some people on my team that have been busy working all day.

4:30 pm I go to Cisco’s gym which is really nice and cheap for employees. There are a lot of work out classes that I enjoy going to like Tabata, Cardio Kickboxing and Barre. It is a great way to end the work day and get moving after being stagnant most of the day.

6:00 pm Finally home for the day!

My intern project team after our training presentation

Cisco’s Intern Events

One of the perks of being an intern includes company provided events. Cisco has not disappointed me with their fun incentives. On our last day of training, we were rewarded with two hours of laser tag at Hard Knocks and concluded with dinner. Interns and those in the finance rotational program were invited as a way to form friendships outside the office and take a load off the office pressures. I did not get home that night until almost ten, but it was worth it because I got to know the people I worked with while doing something fun.

A week after, all finance employees were able to attend a Durham Bull’s baseball game. The game was at one in the afternoon on a Wednesday, so we all left after lunch to head to the game. After about an hour of watching the baseball, we moved to seek shade, because the sun was bearing down on us in ninety degree heat. I ended up talking to the first year employees and managers in the finance rotational program. After another hour we all went home; I was quite relieved to get home early compared to when I work in the office.

Last week we had two events back to back. One afternoon we had a bowling event after lunch that included finance interns, employees in the finance rotational program, and our managers. This event included arcade games, bowling, food and raffles. Sadly I did not win any prizes, but I did get to network with managers of the rotational program that I could potentially work for full time. This event allowed me to be on a team with a VP of Finance, who is the finance leader at the RTP location. I emailed him a few days after the event, saying it was nice to meet him and that I would like to hear more about his position in Treasury. We have a meeting this week to talk more!

The next morning we had a volunteer event at a day care and spent time with special needs and typical peer children. After playing with the kids for a few hours, the interns and some of the people in the finance rotational program went to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Then we headed back to work. That afternoon I attended another event in a large conference room with games, snacks and drinks, which included all of the finance department employees. I ended up winning a gift card for having the fastest time in one of the games.

Throughout the internship there are a lot of Speaker Series, along with Lunch and Learns. Some weeks there are as many as three events showcasing important speakers. Being in a technology company, many of these meetings are over WebEx, Cisco’s telepresence platform that is similar to Skype. These talks are usually with Vice Presidents, but sometimes they can be with people higher up. Last week, finance interns in my location had a meeting over WebEx with the CFO, Kelly Kramer. This week Chuck Robbins, the CEO, will speak to all interns and answer questions. These sessions are a great way to learn more about the company leaders and form connections with executives.

Cisco is open to suggestions, as well. I pitched an event to my program manager, and will soon be putting on an event of my own in three weeks!

Introduction to Cara Armstrong

Hello! My name is Cara Armstrong and I am excited to share my internship experience with you over the course of this summer. I recently finished my third year at Ohio State, majoring in Business Administration with a specialization in Finance and a minor in Leadership Studies. This summer I am interning at Cisco Systems in Research Triangle Park, which is located in North Carolina between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.  Along with two other interns, I am living in a house in Durham, near Duke University. Thankfully, my internship did not start until June 12, so I was able to relax for a few weeks of the summer. I am excited to dive into my internship, but first I will tell you a little about myself and how I secured my internship.

Beginning my freshman year at Ohio State, I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue within the finance field. I got involved in the Undergraduate Finance Association and went to their weekly meetings to learn more about different careers and companies within finance. These meetings helped me weed out jobs that I knew were not right for me, like investment banking and financial advising.  My sophomore year led me to a new job at Fisher College of Business in the Undergraduate Leadership and Engagement Office. I completed administrative work supporting different co-curricular programs, such as student organizations. Over the year, I networked with different companies, joined new organizations and decided that I was going to travel abroad to Europe for the summer. Deciding not to have an internship between my sophomore and junior year worried me because I did not wish to hinder my future chances at gaining an internship or job. In hindsight, traveling abroad did not hinder my career outlook, but rather broadened it. Interviewers and employers love that I had overseas experience and gained valuable skills that could seldom be taught through school or work. Over the course of the summer I traveled to New York City, went on the Sustainable Business Global Lab in Copenhagen and Rotterdam, spent time in Amsterdam with new friends, lived in Germany with extended family, traveled to the Alps, went to a Euro Cup soccer game in France, visited Rome and Barcelona, along with the Spanish islands of Ibiza and Formentera. The new experiences were invigorating and allowed me to become more independent and adaptable.

 

When I got home, I started my junior year and began my search for an internship for the following summer. During this time I became the Vice President of Operations for the Undergraduate Finance Association, switched my minor to Leadership Studies, and started in the Business Analytics Industry Cluster.  My responsibilities at work increased as I became Peer Impact Consultant, where I help students get involved in co-curricular activities to assist them in finding a career path and developing outside of the classroom. I applied to many different internships, but one company caught my interest. I had seen Cisco Systems on campus the previous year, and they came to the Finance Career fair where I was able to speak one on one with someone in the rotational program. Knowing the opportunities I would have at a giant technology company like Cisco, this company quickly became the place I wanted to work. I learned everything I could about the company and the rotational program. Going into the first interview I felt prepared and confident in my interest in the company. After the interview I emailed my interviewer, thanking him for his time. I also emailed the person I met the Finance Career Fair, telling her how my interview went. After about a week I received an email asking for a second round interview. I was ecstatic that my personality and passion for the company had paid off. Thankfully, I got an email a few days later congratulating me on getting the internship; I couldn’t have been happier! The next 8-9 months following were difficult because I desperately wanted this new phase of my life to begin. Rather than being nervous for my new internship, I welcomed my new work with open arms!