As a rising junior in the Rutgers Honors College and an Information Technology and Informatics major, Annie Zhang 'ITI24 has already taken advantage of many of the opportunities she’s discovered during the previous two years, through Rutgers, SC&I, and beyond the banks -- and in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During her freshman year, she was the Marketing Chair for HackHers, a subgroup of Rutgers Women in Computer Science. During her sophomore year, she served the Rutgers community as a Student Help Desk Technician. Last spring, she worked as a Development and Fundraising Intern at Nomi Network, based in Brooklyn, New York, a nonprofit that “aims to combat human trafficking and provide women with resources to unlock their potential.” She conducted donor research, created visuals, and served as the Project Lead for her group intern project, where they interviewed staff members to increase accuracy in story-retellings.
Leading up to her junior year this fall, she spent the summer working at Accenture, where she was a Technology Summer Analyst. Sami Ruben, a Senior Analyst at Accenture, wrote on LinkedIn about Zhang, “During her technology consulting internship . . . Annie picked up on consulting and the Accenture ways of working in a relatively short time and developed an entirely new set of core consulting skills, including deepening her analytical and critical thinking skills. Annie was a pleasure to work with and showed her strong teamwork and delivery skills by seamlessly balancing multiple workstreams.”
Now that the fall term has begun, Zhang is starting two new internships: as a DevOps/ Infrastructure Intern at NBCUniversal and as a Marketing Intern at RippleMatch.
In addition to her commitment to her internships, Zhang has also been involved in many campus activities, including serving as President of Women in Information Technology and Informatics (she was previously the Spotlight Events Director); Cultural Chair for the Chinese Student Organization; Treasurer of the Baby-Friendly Space Club; an Honors College Ally (a mentorship position); a mentor for the Asian-American Cultural Center; and a Product Management Fellow for Blueprint.
Given how extraordinarily involved and successful Zhang is, SC&I interviewed her to learn why she decided to major in Information Technology and Informatics when she had planned to major in Computer Science, how she manages her time given her demanding schedule and her advice for incoming Rutgers students.
SC&I: Please tell us about why you decided to major in ITI. What are your career goals?
AZ: What I like the most about ITI is how it gives me a lot of time to do other things. I'm a very hands-on learner, so internships and extracurricular activities are how I really develop professionally and personally. Coming into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and I’m a first-generation college student, so I don’t have that many role models that I could look up to. But one of my role models was a Computer Science major, and he is very successful in what he does. I thought, “Oh, that’s what I want to do!” even though I had never touched code before. It’s a great field, but it wasn’t for me. I just really wanted to work with people rather than doing development work. Then I looked at ITI, which is very similar to Computer Science, and I realized that ITI really pushes the understanding of technology and organizations as a whole. There is also some development work, which makes for a great balance. I’m interested in possibly becoming a Business Analyst, which my internship with Accenture gave me some insight into. I am also considering going into Project Management because I feel like a lot of my interests and skills align with that kind of role. I also have a minor in Business Administration, so I’m very interested in the business field.
As a whole, if you look at percentages of women in the workplace, in management especially, you don’t always see that representation at a lot of tech companies. To provide myself with these opportunities, I seek out organizations that focus on developing skills and helping women succeed in the workforce once they graduate or in their internships.
SC&I: You are in a field that used to be (or perhaps still is) male-dominated. How can women and especially minority women, succeed in such an environment?
AZ: As a whole, if you look at percentages of women in the workplace, in management especially, you don’t always see that representation at a lot of tech companies. To provide myself with these opportunities, I seek out organizations that focus on developing skills and helping women succeed in the workforce once they graduate or in their internships. I joined Women in ITI on campus and other large organizations for women in the tech field, such as Rewriting the Code and Girls Who Code. Companies such as these offer amazing opportunities to people who put themselves out there. Rewriting the Code and Girls Who Code have career fairs throughout the year, and I actually got my internship with Accenture through Rewriting the Code. As a sophomore and a female, I was really surprised to have gotten any kind of internship role, especially because I hadn’t had much on my resume at that time. There are so many organizations that you can get yourself involved in, which help you build your resume and network. I used to be a part of Women in Computer Science, and I still keep in touch with my mentor, who is a Product Manager at Microsoft. As a first-generation college student, I didn’t think I would ever know someone who has such a significant role within a large company, so that was really cool. Around campus, I hope to make women aware of all of the opportunities and resources around them and help them build confidence.
SC&I: You have taken advantage of many great opportunities at Rutgers. How did you discover them?
AZ: I am the oldest child in my family, so growing up, I had to guide my younger siblings without necessarily having anyone to guide me. So I had to find my own motivation when pursuing different opportunities and interests. I didn’t have any trouble navigating my way through college because of the support Rutgers provides to first-generation college students. In high school, College Board matched me with a mentor who would remind me, for example, to fill out my FAFSA or sign up for my classes, which was very helpful in beginning my college experience. Without that support, I might have struggled a bit more with knowing all the first steps students take as they prepare for college. When I entered my freshman year, I always kept an eye out for different opportunities around campus on Handshake or at the involvement fair that could help me get involved with different organizations. For many students, it’s more difficult if they don’t have the support that I was lucky to have had.
I could balance all of these responsibilities, along with my coursework and involvement in other clubs, because I felt grateful for the ITI major for providing me with all of these great opportunities.
It was very important to me to maximize my professional growth and personal development, and joining as many clubs and extracurriculars as I could was crucial. I currently hold a position as President of Women in ITI, which was something I really wanted to put my time towards. Ultimately, it’s about the community and support students have in college that will help them succeed.
SC&I: During the 2022 spring semester you interned at Nomi Network, which works to mitigate human trafficking and find resources for women. Did you apply your ITI skills there?
AZ: Nomi Network is a non-profit organization, and I helped maintain the donor catalog. It was a really good learning experience. The organization’s purpose surrounds human trafficking and how we can help women pursue educational and professional opportunities and find the resources they need to come out of bad situations and reach their full potential as individuals. The organization will often start by teaching women smaller skills; for example, one of the projects the organization worked on was helping women learn how to sew masks for the pandemic. And after those smaller opportunities, Nomi Network would transition the women into the real workforce, where they have company partners that will train them in technical skills and other assets that set them up well for building their professional experience. It’s an amazing cause, and working for this organization was a very valuable experience. I also had a part-time job on campus this past Spring semester as a Help Desk Assistant. I could balance all of these responsibilities, along with my coursework and involvement in other clubs, because I felt grateful for the ITI major for providing me with all of these great opportunities.
SC&I: Please tell us about your internship this summer with Accenture.
AZ: My Technology Analyst position with Accenture just concluded for the summer. What I love about Accenture as an IT consulting firm is that they connect you with members of the company based on your interests so that you can really improve your skills. I told my manager I was interested in Business Analysis and Project Management, so he paired me with a couple of people that I could shadow, and I could see what they were doing in their roles. This job really aligned with my major.
The flexibility of the ITI major and my schedule give me an avenue to dive into more parts of technology that I wouldn’t have considered before.
SC&I: This fall, you will intern as a DevOps/Infrastructure Intern at NBCUniversal and as a Marketing Intern at Ripplematch. What opportunities will you be able to take advantage of through these internships?
AZ: The offer came in for NBCUniversal for DevOps/Infrastructure this fall, and I don’t have previous experience in that field as I had applied for a different role within the company. My experience in the past has involved more client-based work, which isn’t exactly what DevOps and Infrastructure are about, but the manager was really interested in helping me learn the skills that come with that internship. The flexibility of the ITI major and my schedule give me an avenue to dive into more parts of technology that I wouldn’t have considered before.
My RippleMatch internship, which is starting this fall, will be about five hours a week. It’s very client-based, and I will be on campus encouraging other students to sign up for the platform. I really enjoy making resumes and helping people with their LinkedIn profiles, so I look forward to incorporating that interest of mine into this position.
Overall, I’d say that when you do things you enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work, and you actually have fun with it!
SC&I: How do you manage your time, and do you have time management advice for other students?
AZ: I definitely still make time for myself, such as touring campus or seeing my friends. I am an avid user of the Apple calendar on my phone, and it sends me alerts when I need to attend an event or start working on a task, and I always see the notifications. Overall, I’d say that when you do things you enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work, and you actually have fun with it!