Seven Weeks to Awesome

Tech Square's unfair advantage is the breakthrough talent you find here. Each year, brilliant minds from dozens of universities descend on the heart of Atlanta's tech scene for summer internships at local startups and Fortune 500 companies.

While the work experience is unmatched, the social opportunities for interns can sometimes be lacking for those working in small offices. Enter the Summer 2017 Cohort of Sandbox Academy, a seven-week program that provided an avenue for interns to meet peers and mentors, sharpen their skills, and level up their professional profile. 

I was part of the cohort, which kicked off Monday, June 5 and ran through Monday, July 24. With a class of 30, representing a handful of companies and labs around Tech Square, including Springboard Benefits, TEQ Charging, ATDC, SQ5, Siemens, and Keysight, to name a few, we dove into an enriching session on advice for the workplace. Here's what I learned: 

Week 1

As a warm up, we started off with the Tech Square Scavenger Hunt. Let’s see how well you would do:

  • Name a movie represented on the 12th floor of the Century Building elevator doors.
  • What headquarter building is going in north of SQ5?
  • How many Chihuly glass pieces are in the main atrium of the Scheller College of Business?

Mentors Carrie Moore of Delta Airlines, Sam Martinez and Mario Suffren of Goodie Nation, Carl Bedingfield of the AT&T Foundry, Kaushik Santhanam of Keysight, and Trish Whitlock of the BridgeCommunity helped give advice on how to be the best part of the team we could be. We discussed questions round-robin style, such as “what does it take to be a great team member,” and, “how do you deal with difficult people, politics, & problems?” Although all of the interns work at different companies and in different disciplines, we were all able to gather gems from the session to apply to our jobs the next day.

Week 2

For the second week of Sandbox Academy, we headed over to ATDC for the Turning Your Talents into Strengths workshop run by Terri Kelly, a certified Gallup StrengthsFinder coach. All of us took the StrengthsFinder test in preparation, and she broke down the top 5 most common strengths of the entire group, which were Learner, Achiever, Input, Restorative, and Woo. She taught us the importance of identifying and capitalizing on our strong suits to maximize our potential in our everyday actions and contributions to a team.


We ended the second session to identify our goals with Ed Rieker, serial entrepreneur and adjunct faculty member at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Ed share how he discovered that the simple act of writing down goals sets you on the path of making them come true. 

It was interesting to see that the way I had written mine down, because they were pretty much in this order -- with immediately achievable goals first, and then longer term goals, which I either am afraid of or don’t know where to start. At the end, he made us all promise to make some steps forward on our goals. Since then, I have made my own business cards, signed up to volunteer at an animal shelter, and researched how to get a motorcycle license in Georgia.

Week 3

For the third week of Sandbox Academy, we attended Flipping the Search, a miniseries session on how to reach your potential while job searching. From career fairs, to resume building, to facing the ever-rising competition for positions is a daunting process for students. We started the evening with Roger Lopez, CMO of BillMo, who led us through a workshop on LinkedIn. While most of us already have LinkedIn profiles, we learned how to utilize these tools to land interviews and expand our network.

In the second part of the evening, mentors Melisa Griffin and Trevor Loranger of Keysight; Vincent Haines of Honeywell; Carrie Moore of Delta Airlines; and Rylan Albach of Sideqik shared their wisdom on interviewing. A few of our burning questions included:

  • “How can you best prepare to stand out?” 
  • “How can you nail the interview?”
  • “How can you finish strong with the follow-up?”

Week 4

In the fourth and final week of the miniseries workshops for the Sandbox Academy, we started with a presentation on interviewing and workplace pro-tips, by Kurt Ronn. Here are some quick takeaways to keep in mind in an interview:

  • Answer the question first, then explain the context.
  • Share how something wouldn’t have happened without you.
  • When talking about failure, conclude with a summary of what you learned.

Afterwards, over 15 mentors attended for a speed-mentoring activity. We rotated through, each meeting six of the mentors in order to see which ones would be a good fit for our career interests. These mentors are going to be made available to us in the coming weeks for additional 1-on-1 time. I met some great mentors that I am incredibly excited to sit down with this week and talk to about transitioning my career path from software engineer to designer.

Mentor Mashup

The last few weeks of the Sandbox Academy consisted of mentoring sessions from various players in Tech Square. I spoke with Carrie Moore, who is an Experience Designer for Delta Airline's the Hangar. Carrie had a one-on-one with me, showed me around the Hangar, and talked me through my options as I look forward to graduation and am deciding between working or graduate school.

I also met Geoff Wilson, CEO and Founder of 352 Inc. Geoff invited me in to shadow for a day at his firm, which creates digital products for clients. I was able to sit in on a client meeting and participate in their design sprint workshop. This was an incredibly fun experience and was exciting seeing the design process I had learned in school applied in real life.

The Sandbox Academy made for an enriching summer, as I found myself feeling inspired to push my career forward after every session on Monday evening. I met great mentors that were helpful and specific even to my niche of computer science, design thinking, and graphic design, who I wouldn't have met without the program. With each session I felt like I was making a productive step towards improving myself career-wise and learning how to network, utilize my strengths, and land jobs. I would recommend the Sandbox Academy to any intern familiar to the area or just coming through Atlanta for the summer for an extra-rich internship experience. 

Editor's Note: Sandbox Academy is offering a four-week Fall 2017 Cohort focused on helping you level up for your next job interview or job fair. Learn more about the program and register for it here.