Wednesday, August 19, 2015

UMSI Master of Science in Information Application is Live!

Just a quick note that our MSI application for fall 2015 is live and available.  Check out information about the application deadlines and apply here:

The early deadline for fall 2016 is January 15, and in the meantime we'll be blogging about different parts of the application, UMSI events, financial information, and more!  Keep checking the blog for more information, or Register with us and you'll receive weekly messages too!

Please also feel free to email or with any further questions about our program.

We look forward to staying in touch this fall!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Internship: Question and Answer

Hi everyone - This is the first of a series of posts profiling UMSI students and graduates at internships, part-time jobs, and full time jobs. The first set of answers comes from Alice Rhee, a second year UMSI student specializing in HCI, who worked at Yahoo as a User Research Intern this summer.


Where is your internship?
I’m interning at Yahoo, and I work out of both the Sunnyvale HQ and the San Francisco office.
What have you enjoyed most about your internship?
I have a brilliant mentor who gives me opportunities to grow and helps me understand the UX landscape outside and inside of the company. I didn’t have a background in corporate work (I came to UMSI straight from my undergrad) so it’s incredibly valuable for me to see how product teams, corporate strategy, and UX research all operate together. It’s also valuable to learn what to say and how to say it--after listening and soaking in the lingo, I feel like I can speak more knowledgeably to colleagues and explain UX research more cogently to clients.
When did you start looking for an internship?
Early…probably late fall semester. I started looking at positions I was interested in to get a sense of what people were looking for and the skills I needed to develop second semester to become competitive.
Do you wish you would have started looking earlier or later?
I think early is fine, because it’s always good to be prepared and aware of the skills and experiences you should be developing. That being said, I would seriously beware of: 1) becoming obsessed with online job boards; 2) getting sucked into a negative spiral of worry about all the good positions being taken; and 3) burning yourself out too early with internship searching.
Applying for any sort of job or internship is terrifying, because you’re putting yourself out there and asking if someone thinks you’re worth it. There can be a lot of fear and deep anxiety around the process. Have a close friend or family member be a reality check, and make sure you get outside and away from your computer screen!
What resources did you use as part of your internship search?
  • Networking
  • LinkedIn – to reach out to alumni and to search for companies. Made sure I put that I was seeking a UX internship in my headline so I would come up in recruiters’ search results—I found this very effective.
  • iTrack – put my resume up so that recruiters who were looking for UMSI students could contact me
  • Online job boards - I set up a job alert on Indeed for UX positions located in places I wanted to work in and checked a few smaller UX-specific job boards as well.
What resource do you feel led to your internship offer?
Networking directly led to my internship offer. Someone close to me worked at Yahoo and was willing to send my resume to the UX team there. Internal referrals are more of the norm for hiring there, so if you can find an in that’s the best. I dropped multiple applications out into the Internet void and got one good hit back, which ultimately didn’t go through.  
A note on networking: “Networking” is this word that is held up as the holy grail of getting a job. All the career workshops and fairs and whatever that I’ve ever attended have focused on it. It’s always made me fearful because I felt like: 1) I didn’t have a huge or powerful network coming straight from undergrad; 2) the idea of communicating with someone with the intention of getting a job felt slimy; 3) I am an introvert and I always felt like I was inconveniencing others by reaching out to them.
Try reframing networking as relationship-building/making friends/learning from others. It makes it far easier to approach people at career fairs or reach out to alumni for informational chats. No one likes to be used, but people like to talk about themselves and help others. I found that alumni were very open and friendly to talking to me! Be open, honest, and confident in your abilities and value to the company.

What were the successes and/or challenges you experienced during your internship search?
If you’re going for a big corporation, expect multi-round interviews and possibly a presentation. Several of these can wear you out, especially if you do the needed background research on companies and are also juggling classes and work.
It was awful when companies I interviewed with never called me back or let me know the results. I kept hoping for too long. Make sure it’s very clear to you and your interviewer exactly when the next follow up will be, and then if that date passes, wait a few days and follow up (sometimes people are legitimately busy), wait a few more days for them to catch up on their email and then move on.
What advice do you have for incoming students and their internship search?
  • Set aside dedicated blocks of time towards developing your online portfolio. This is critical if you want any sort of position in UX. It doesn’t much matter as a researcher if you don’t build your own website–I am currently using a free Wordpress template—just make sure you have something professional up.
  • If you’re fresh out of college, don’t hide it on your resume…but you do NOT have to advertise that fact to the world. You don’t have to have a section on your resume that says “Coursework”--you can say “Projects” or “Experience” and get your interview first.
  • When you’re interviewing, make sure you demonstrate that your work was focused on actionable results. Never do research just for the sake of doing research when interviewing for an industry job.
  • Big companies move slow and being on their timelines can be killer when it’s March and you just want the security of your internship already. I was interviewing for several companies in March and got my offer early April.
  • Apply for things that you may believe you’re not fully qualified for. I’m a perfectionist and if I don’t hit every single bullet point on a job application then I feel like I can’t apply, and I’ll be beat out by the faceless hordes of other applicants who are much better candidates than I am. The truth: no one is expecting to find the six-winged unicorn intern who is qualified for everything. Don’t limit yourself. Show that you’re eager and demonstrate that you’re willing to hustle. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude or your personality fit with your co-workers and your company.
What skills have you used most at your internship? Are there any courses or co-curricular opportunities you'd recommend for developing those specific skills?
UMSI does a great job of giving their students opportunities to gain actual practical experience in the classroom. If you have little experience to begin with, soak as much of it up as you can during your first year. If you’re looking into UX research, here are the top two classes I recommend you take:
  • SI 622 – the client work I did with my team for 622 directly led to me getting my internship. Not a whole lot of applicants can say that they’ve done rapid user research for a well-known company using multiple methods and speak articulately about it.
  • SI 582 – This is an interaction design course, but UX research necessarily interfaces with UX design and you’ll need to understand how to speak to the designers on your team and have some level of familiarity with design tools.