Diving Headfirst into a Tech Career (aka Learning to Swim in the Deep End)

My name is Patrick Ladd, and I’m a full-time undergraduate student majoring in Finance at DePaul University, scheduled to graduate in 2021. I am also a full-time Business Operations Intern at George Jon, the eDiscovery technology and consulting powerhouse.

What is eDiscovery, you ask? Truth be told, I asked that exact same question when I first started looking for a job two years ago and came across the GJ opening. I was not actively pursuing work in the technology sector, let alone eDiscovery, but was simply seeking an opportunity to expand my educational and professional knowledge base. I wanted to challenge myself, step outside my comfort zone, and lay the groundwork for future career options. Sometimes you need to jump in the water and see if you sink or swim.

So, I did my homework, researched the industry and the company, and rehearsed my pitch to make a great first impression and secure the job. Two years later, I can tell you that the effort was worth it! The opportunities afforded to me at George Jon have been invaluable to my personal and professional growth. Internships are no cakewalk, especially in a tech-based business where processes and goals (and staff) can change rapidly. You need to be nimble and prove your value, day-in and day-out, constantly learning and absorbing to grow your institutional knowledge. Change is constant, and you need to be willing to adapt your skills and attitude to swim with the changing currents.

While I’m still young and learning the ropes, below is advice based on my experiences for go-getters who want to gain a competitive advantage when seeking to break into a new professional landscape:

  1. Research the industry and organization you are entering. Simply put, do your homework.
    For the non-technical candidates out there (as I once was), it’s a matter of survival, being able to talk the talk and speak intelligently about the position you are looking to enter. You need to be able to articulate the organization’s value proposition and explain how your contributions will help the company succeed.
  2. Know what you don’t know. Asking questions is how you learn (and shows initiative).
    There is nothing wrong with asking for advice or help, considering that you are not a subject matter expert. The more you learn, the better your can do your job; the better you do your job, the more “right questions” you’ll ask. Your teammates will see your professional evolution and be happy to answer your questions, as your growth will also help them succeed.
  3. Take on projects outside of your comfort zone. Hard work brings rewards.
    Never be afraid of a challenge. Just like researching and writing a term paper, you’ll be driven by curiosity and self-instruction (and sometimes working after-hours and weekends). It’s worth it, as you’ll broaden your horizons and enter rabbit holes that develop new skillsets, not to mention proving your value and dedication to senior staff. You’ll never be the “nameless intern” if you show your willingness to work hard and learn.
  4. Seek diverse opportunities within the company to develop wide-ranging skills.
    To be a “Jack of all trades”, in my book, is a good thing as an intern. Showing curiosity and asking for challenges is the best way to avoid being stuck in just one department/task for your tenure. The more hats you wear, the more you’ll be exposed to different needs, personalities, politics, and assignments, gaining a holistic view of business operations and learning where you might want to take your future career. The ability to understand business operations and recognize cross-departmental dependencies is a skill that can only be learned in the real world, so embrace it.
  5. Solicit constructive criticism and internalize it for future use.
    Accept it: you will inevitably make mistakes as an intern. Being able to accept criticism and internalize it with a positive attitude will drive growth and development. It will also elevate your status in the company as someone who can learn from mistakes and deliver improved work as a result.
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As you can see, I’ve already done the hard work for you, taking my lumps and adapting to the tech world over 20 months at George Jon. Put my experience to the test and use it to jump-start your tech internship!


About the Author

Patrick Ladd is a full-time undergraduate student majoring in Finance at the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University and is expected to graduate Cum Laude in June of 2021. He is also a full-time business operations intern at George Jon, an eDiscovery Technology and consulting firm based in Chicago, IL.

Pat is also an active member of his collegiate and local communities serving as President of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s DePaul Chapter and helps fundraise for CAMP – A FASD Community.