Student Oral History Project

Sara Martin

Sara Martin, Graduate, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Sara Martin graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with a double major in Supply Chain Management & Information Systems and is a currently in the data science master program. During her time at as an undergraduate student, Sara acquired a number of internship experiences. One was at Thrivent as the application engineer and later they were an intern at Menasha Corporation. Sara spends a lot of time training in software development and has learned a lot of new coding. Currently, Sara is seeking employment, looking all over the country using LinkedIn to see who is hiring during the pandemic. She has moved home to Chicago to finish the semester online. The transcript of Sara’s interview below has been edited and condensed.

Could you tell me a little bit about what your life has been like over the past year?
Over the past year, I started my master's degree in Data Science, pretty much right over the summer after I graduated. At the same time, I interned for a company called Reveture and partook in like a three-month training program to be a software engineer. So, for three months, I was living in Virginia near their headquarters. After I did my training, I went on and I got a job over at JP Morgan Chase in a software development role. Currently, I am looking for a new job in the middle of the coronavirus. I feel that my time has been spent doing a lot of learning, I’ve been doing a lot of training to get established as a software developer. So, I’ve had to learn a bunch of new coding languages. That’s pretty much what I’ve been working on and going to school full-time.

Are you currently seeking employment? If so, can you kindly explain your hiring and search process?
Yes, I am seeking employment. Right now, I am pretty much looking anywhere all over the country. Well, I am going like on my LinkedIn account and trying to network and figure out who is hiring. I’m applying to any position that I qualify for. I’m primarily keeping it to software engineering roles, because that's what I like doing. I want to be doing work in that field. I'm looking for remote work; and trying to figure out the best place to go.

What are some of the challenges in seeking these opportunities?
One challenge is the lack of experience, because a lot of software engineering roles want five years of experience and I only have a year or so. So, I'm trying to get into one of the junior roles but with all the COVID-19 stuff happening right now, a lot of companies that I've talked to have stopped searching for people. So, that's what's happening. I've just been waiting around for companies to get back to me on the hiring process again.

Could you describe your perceptions of the pros and cons of completing an internship?
I think the pros of having an internship is that you get lots of experience. You get experience in working with people and in how to communicate with others. So, when you first get to the internship, you are clearly made to understand how a professional conducts themselves. The internships help you figure out what it’s like in the workplace; in the real world. A lot of the internships I've been a part of have been willing to teach you and help you develop your skills. So, there's a lot of company enthusiasm and engagement to help out the Interns. I think that's been the great part about it.

On the negative side, I feel like there's a lot of pressure in internships because you have to go through so many interviews; and at UW-Oshkosh, they made a big deal about it; “you have to get this internship. If you don't do an internship during your time as a student, you can't graduate.” So, I think it just adds a lot of pressure to it

What are some of the changes that have occurred in your life given the COVID-19 pandemic?
It is hard to find employment because a lot of companies have gone remote. And they don't know when they're going to get back up. I've had a couple interviews that I had lined up but then they decided to stop the process because they're concerned about the economy. So, it's definitely a challenge in that regard. Because companies are very wary, they don't want to just start bringing on people for no reason. And having a background in software engineering, sometimes it's hard to put someone into a remote position that isn't fully like developed compared to someone who has experience and can just hit the floor running. So, that's kind of like another challenge. It's just like hard to find a job right now because everyone's looking for a job. So, it’s like stressed out because you still have bills and everything you've got to pay. It's out of your hands, so there's really nothing you can do because companies don't want to do anything at the moment. I'm hoping that it doesn't last too long, but it seems like it's going to go a little longer.

In terms of my responsibilities, like I'm still doing my school, and now I'm more focused on studying and keeping up with technology and practicing my coding. I'm just like applying to jobs here and there. Luckily, I don't have to stress too much about going out and doing all this other stuff around Chicago. So, I don’t have to worry about all the travel and everything like that and catching the virus and stuff.

How are you coping during these challenging times?
I just try to do some more things that I like, like playing some video games. Trying to just talk to friends. I hang out with my fiancé and I work out a little bit. I bought some workout equipment for my apartment so I can sort of keep moving since our gyms are all closed. I've been trying to do stuff like that just and trying to get my mind off a lot of things.

The interviewer for this profile was Mary Dueñas, a Research Assistant at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.