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How a Tech Internship Prepared Carlton To Lead
By Carlton M.
What is an opportunity you’re glad you said yes to? For me, it would have to be my decision to join Capital One, both as an intern and an associate in the Technology Development Program. As a technologist, I was fascinated by the idea of a bank built on analytics, data and cutting-edge technology. But moreso, I am constantly impressed with the genuine interest from all levels of the company in helping associates succeed and thrive.
Think about it—a company is really just a sum of the people working there. Joining a company with a demonstrated interest in increasing workplace diversity, and mechanisms to support underrepresented groups, was very important to me. If it hadn’t been for that feeling, I may not have been inspired to take on leadership positions and pave the way for others to also find their place here.
An unforgettable experience as an intern leads to a fulfilling career
If I could give aspiring technologists one piece of advice, it would be to say “yes!” to opportunities. Don’t let your hesitations stop you, because you never know how that one yes could change your life. My 10-week Technology Internship Program proved that to me in many ways and started me on a rewarding path of an exciting career with the opportunity to lead and help others. During the first week of onboarding festivities, I was able to meet and get-to-know my fellow interns. The friendships that I formed, while sharing a meal or participating in the intern hackathon or fun outings sponsored by the company, are so special.
I also had the chance to work on innovative tech. I worked on a team in the Risk Tech organization and I built a REST API proof of concept using Java Spring Boot. Throughout my internship, I was making strong connections and working on innovative tech, which cemented for me that Capital One was the place I wanted to be. Though I am an introvert by nature, I always felt like I could connect with my fellow interns and the leaders and associates I worked with. I also felt that my ideas and knowledge were recognized and appreciated. That inclusive environment is so important.
After I completed my internship program, I was very fortunate to receive an offer to return the following year, to join the full-time, two-year rotational Technology Development Program (TDP) at Capital One. After graduating from Northeastern University in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Business Administration, I started my software engineering career as a TDP that August.
The opportunity to excel in the Technology Development Program
All TDP associates gain a deep and wide breadth of knowledge and experience in the field of enterprise-level software engineering and have the chance to rotate onto two teams to see what different opportunities are available within Capital One. On top of these career defining experiences, the community within the tech development program is so amazing. Everyone is at a similar beginning stage in their career and we’re able to bond over the new opportunities in this exciting time. We have our own Slack channels, take part in happy hours and fun events just for our program, and look out for each other as we navigate the new career experiences. I really appreciate the opportunities the program provides.
I still felt there was more that could be done though to bring technologists from a variety of backgrounds into the program and make them feel welcome. As a Black software engineer, I’m often the only Black tech associate in the room. I felt there was an opportunity to continue to increase representation in the TDP and help others feel they belong. It has been a passion of mine since I joined Capital One. Soon after joining the Tech Development program, I volunteered on the Blacks in Tech business resource group’s recruiting committee, which helps to attract new associates to join Capital One and increase the representation of Black tech associates at all levels. I decided to join the TDP Council and support this important work as a leader among my peers.
Expanding inclusion through the Technology Development Program Council
Community and resourcefulness are such big aspects of the TDP experience, that an associate task force, called the TDP Council, was created to ensure every TDP associate feels supported and connected. The Council is an associate-elected assembly whose primary goal is to increase development and engagement among TDP associates. The council leads three subcommittees to achieve their goals: the Fun & Service Committee, the Learning & Development Committee and the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee. As a newer member of the TDP, I enjoyed many of the events and activities planned by these committees, such as a private movie screening or monthly “lunch and learn” meetings for TDPs to present on various topics.
I decided to join two of these committees during my first TDP year, because I felt called to serve my fellow associates and ensure they had a positive experience. I was then elected to lead on the TDP Council during my second year in the program. All TDPs have a manager and mentor, and I was excited to serve alongside these leaders in answering associates' questions about the program. Additionally, council members provide feedback to leaders and are the voice for the 1,000+ associates—I wanted to do my part to create an inclusive environment for all.
My position on the TDP Council is the perfect opportunity to inspire change and help create that sense of belonging for current and future TDPs through programming, helping with recruiting efforts and mentoring others. TDPs come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and I hold the belief that we should all strive to make our teams and organizations as equitable and inclusive as possible. One day, many of the current TDP associates will be in leadership positions, driving the vision for the company. Our time as a TDP associate, and our experiences, will guide our leadership and teams, and help shape what Capital One will be in the future.
Saying yes to opportunities despite self-doubt
On a few occasions during the past year, I’ve given a presentation entitled Building Your Personal Brand. In this presentation, I lay out what a personal brand is, why it is so important and how to improve it. One of my strongest recommendations is to simply say “yes!” to opportunities. As the saying goes, fortune favors the bold. These moments where we say “yes!” to opportunities outside of our comfort zones are where the real growth happens.
Although I tend to be an introvert, I never let this inhibit my ability to lead or give back and help others. By accepting challenges and opportunities to get myself out there, I slowly became more comfortable approaching people, public speaking and sharing my story. I remind everyone who hears my presentation that every opportunity may be the last opportunity to try a new thing. If I hadn’t said yes to my internship or the TDP program or any of the exciting opportunities I’ve had to lead or serve during those programs, I would have missed out of some great, memorable experiences. So, just remember to say yes!
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