You Can Thrive in Tech: How a Non-Tech Intern Is Thriving in the Tech Industry
By: Khadejah Stegall
Khadejah is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.
The tech industry is constantly growing and people are always trying to build the next Facebook or work for the largest tech company. In the field of media & entertainment, it’s important to know that you don’t have to go the traditional route of working for a news station or TV network. Tech offers plenty of opportunities in entertainment such as digital, marketing and corporate communications.
With that being said, meet Kristen Shipley. Kristen is a junior studying Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations at North Carolina A&T State University. She's had paid internships since her freshman year. This past summer, Kristen completed an internship at Facebook working with Instagram (which Facebook owns.) She contributed to the launch of Instagram stories. Kristen is the president of the National Association of Black Journalists chapter at NC A&T and is also a LinkedIn editor. Her LinkedIn speaks for itself and she's gotten thousands of views on her posts prior to working for LinkedIn, hence why the program manager reached out and encouraged her to apply. She's one of the few - and may be the only - editor representing an HBCU.
Let’s hear what Kristen had to say about breaking into the tech industry as a non-tech student.
Q: You received your first paid internship during your freshman year. What advice would you give to freshmen and sophomores on getting their first internship?
A: The biggest suggestion I have is to volunteer in a field you are interested in. I believe I got my internship my freshman year because I interned with a congressional campaign and they were able to attest to my abilities and recommend me for my internship. I also recommend starting school off strong with a great GPA because I think it does make a difference and gives you some credibility even if you do not have much experience.
Q: How did you achieve your internship at Facebook?
A: I found out about the Facebook internship through INROADS, a career prep program for minorities. I then applied and made sure I got a few people to review my essay and materials before I submitted them.
Q: What would be your advice on breaking into the tech industry?
A: My advice on breaking into the tech industry is to do some research on companies and take advantage of opportunities! Many companies have programs, webinars, and do campus information sessions to recruit students. You can never get anything in tech if you don’t apply.
Q: What advice could you give to students on breaking into the tech industry but are afraid that they don't have any tech skills or experience?
A: The biggest piece of advice I would give is to get involved in programs like INROADS, MLT, or company-specific programs like Google BOLD Immersion to get exposure. These types of programs also have partnerships with companies. I also suggest doing research and going to information sessions.
Q: What challenges did you face, if any, in Silicon Valley as a black woman since Black people make up less than 10% of the population?
A: I was grateful in that I was a part of a diversity program, where many of the other students looked like me and we were all there to support each other. I also felt very comfortable in my work environment. Everyone was very invested in my personal and professional success. However, all of the police shootings of black bodies over the summer were tough to process. My team was very supportive of me and were willing to talk about the things that mattered to me.
Q: How important is it to be a part of organizations that recruit minority talent such as Inroads, MLT, T-Howard, etc. Could you talk about your experience with these diversity organizations?
A: Super important! It’s really about connections. A lot of these organizations have already established their credibility with companies, and they know the students will be prepared for the industry. These organizations prepare you, guide you along the way and build your credibility.
Q: You were at Facebook and now you will be interning at Google this summer! What inspired the transition from Facebook to Google?
A: I’m big on growth and new opportunities. I loved my experience at Facebook and learned so much! My goal is to stay in tech, so I thought trying a new company would give me a new challenge and chance to learn how another major tech company works.
Q: Where do you see yourself at in the future?
A: In the future, I see myself helping companies, especially in tech, to develop programs for young people, especially college students from underrepresented backgrounds. I would love to serve as Chief Diversity Officer or create my own business that achieves this goal.
Q: Who do you look up to?:
Michelle Obama, Melissa Harris-Perry and Kerry Washington.
Khadejah Stegall is a college mommy blogger that inspires others to achieve the impossible through the power of Jesus. She enjoys family time, eating vegan meals when it's convenient and mentoring others on professional development. To be inspired by more post, follow her blog at khadejahstegall.com.