IOL Student Employees: Gaining Experience, Making Connections and Building a Future

It's common for a college student to have some sort of job. But how many of them actually enjoy what they do? How many have positions that relate to what they want to do in the future? I am one of the lucky few that can say I look forward to coming to work each day, to a job that is preparing me for the future. The InterOperability Lab (IOL) is a place where students, like myself, can explore cutting edge communication technologies, while interacting with world leaders in the industry. As students, we are encouraged to learn and absorb as much information and skills as we can during our short tenure at the Lab. Whether it's reading specifications, writing test suites, testing products, or creating test tools, the full spectrum of any technology is explored.

We also learn valuable intangible skills, such as communicating with vendors from across the world, understanding the financial side of business, and managing our time. Not only are we expected to work through summer and winter vacations, but during the school year as well. Above all else, more valuable than any paycheck I could ever receive are the problem solving skills I have acquired while working here. I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to go to California and test cutting edge technology for an industry leading company. Instead of working with vendors via email, we get to work right beside them in their lab. This experience is like looking into a crystal ball for me. I get to see what life will be like after graduation, while studying as an Undergraduate.

While in California, I'm in my element. Driving around, seeing all of the famous companies' world headquarters to say the least is inspiring. I feel like I could go hide in a garage and invent the next big thing. Working on emerging technology with popular industry equipment, and alongside top engineers is more than anything I could ask for. Not only am I learning, but I'm also receiving guidance and instruction directly from some of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met. It's like having the answers to every homework assignment and test.

It's pretty clear that this field of work consists of troubleshooting, thinking outside the box, and most importantly, caffeine. For most people, this would sound like a lot of work; they wouldn't want to do it. But to me, everything about it is fascinating. I found that if you love thinking so hard your brain hurts, then you are in the right place and these are the right people to talk to. I am getting paid to learn. As a college student, this is blasphemy.

One of the main reasons my experiences at the IOL have been so great is because of my bosses. Collaborating with fellow students in many ways is helpful, but there are some things you can only learn from experience; something our bosses have a lot of. They encourage my group to pick their brains and obtain as much knowledge from them as possible. Not once have they ever turned me away from asking a question or making a suggestion to the group. It is for this reason, along with many others, that I feel as comfortable with them as I do with my co-workers. They believe in grooming us to be the best of the best in the future. All of this extracurricular learning has also helped me with school. Being able to apply the things I am learning at the lab inside the classroom has reinforced many concepts that I see other classmates struggle with.

I feel like I am getting away with theft at the IOL. Because if the money isn't enough, and if the endless pool of knowledge isn't enough, I get the chance to meet so many different people from a variety of companies. The thought of knowing I will be able to get a job after school, based on the experience I've gained and the connections I've made, provides peace of mind. I have a lot of doors open to me, and everyday it seems to be that another one opens.

Michael Klempa, Research and Development