UMD Students Kickstart Their Tech Careers with Micro-internships

Break Through Tech DC at UMD facilitates its first Sprinternship™ program with 15 companies and 58 undergraduates.
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When Veda Singireddy began her first year as a computer science major at the University of Maryland in fall 2021, she wasn’t sure what her path forward would be. But after completing Break Through Tech’s Sprinternship™ program in January 2022, she entered the spring semester with a new outlook on her studies—and a summer internship offer.

Launched at UMD in March 2021 to propel more students who identify as women and non-binary into tech careers, Break Through Tech facilitated its first Sprinternship program over winter break. First- and second-year computing students spent three weeks tackling a company’s business challenge.

“During my Sprinternship, I realized that I loved working in the tech space—and that actually working in the real world teaches you valuable skills and lessons that I can't learn sitting in my dorm studying,” Singireddy said. “More than anything, I am glad that my Sprinternship brought me clarity on what I want the next four years of my life to look like.”

After accepting her summer internship offer, Singireddy decided to adjust her four-year plan to include a co-op so that she can spend even more time honing her coding skills in a professional environment. 

Sophomore computer science major Abril Arias was also looking for career clarity when she applied for the program. She hoped that participating in career readiness workshops and being part of a professional environment would help her figure out where her interests lie in computer science.

“When I found out about the Sprinternship program and how they were helping minority students gain experience for their careers in tech, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to kickstart my career with a reputable company,” Arias said.

Arias’ Sprinternship gave her a unique look into startup culture—something she says inspired her to start a side project of her own to explore back-end functionality and ultimately “seek opportunities that will push me to become a better thinker.” 

Creating Tech Company Buy-in

Arias and Singireddy interned with Goodshuffle, an event rental management software startup. Along with two classmates, they built a front-end app for warehouse fulfillment workers to manage inventory.

“By the end of the program, the Sprinterns were building features very quickly,” said their supervisor, Richard Rice (B.S. ’15, computer science), a software engineer at Goodshuffle. “On the last day when the Sprinterns were polishing and tweaking the app before the final presentation, they were adding changes and features and creating pull requests as fast as I could review and merge them. We really built momentum as a team.”

Hosting Sprinterns gave employers a chance to not only solve challenges they may not otherwise have the bandwidth to explore, but also to access emerging talent and participate in advancing diversity and inclusion. Studies show that diverse teams, including those with greater gender diversity, are on average more creative, innovative and, ultimately, more profitable. With the market for tech jobs continuing to grow, tapping into this talent pool is a necessity for employers. 

“Coming from UMD myself, I knew the quality of these students’ talent would be high. They truly exceeded our expectations in what they were able to accomplish in just under three weeks,” Rice said. “They built a large majority of the features we wanted to add to the app. This helps save time and effort when we get the app ready to be deployed so it can be tested with a subset of our users.”

Equipping Students with Professional Skills and Experience 

From coding apps and UI/UX design to data analysis and market research, UMD Sprinterns hit the ground running—and they accomplished a lot. 

Capitol Interactive Sprinterns used virtual reality photo capture to create an interactive virtual tour experience along historic U Street. Easy Dynamics Sprinterns coded a Microsoft Teams Chatbot to improve internal communication and decipher acronyms. UMD Division of Information Technology Sprinterns analyzed data on overloaded access points on campus using Tableau. Two Six Technologies Sprinterns created a hate speech classification model in LaBSE using Python.

UMD Department of Computer Science Sprinterns were mentored by Jeanine Worden, the director of IT. They served as business analysts, interviewing the staff leads in the undergraduate office to define requirements and propose solutions that could simplify and automate business processes. And the list of projects goes on. 

Immersing interns in an organization’s team and culture in just three weeks may seem difficult—but Sprintern hosts were up to the task. Goodshuffle’s Sprinterns worked with employees across the organization from marketing to customer success to leadership.

“We got one-on-one time with each of the Goodshuffle co-founders and the senior vice president, who all acted as mentors and extended their hands to say they'd be happy to help us anytime in the future,” Singireddy said. “I felt really connected with the Goodshuffle culture in such a short period of time, and I’m really excited to come back this summer as an intern.”

For Arias, who also received a summer internship return offer from Goodshuffle, the most important takeaway was the value of proactive communication in teamwork, a lesson she’ll carry with her for a long time to come. 

“To reach our team goals and effectively get my ideas and thoughts across, I need to actively communicate them,” Arias reflected. “I plan to apply this to my academic and career goals by calling attention to my ideas and not letting myself go silent out of fear. They may be more valuable than I think.” 

Written by Katie Bemb

Are you interested in getting involved with Break Through Tech? Email breakthroughtech [-at-] umd [dot] edu () to get more information on the Sprinternship program and how your organization can be part of building a more inclusive tech ecosystem.

The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.