Ball State, Muncie host TechPoint Xterns for the first time in summer 2021

<p>In 2021, TechPoint is hosting students in Indianapolis and Muncie to complete local business and technology internships.<strong> </strong>The nonprofit organization brands its Xtern program as &quot;the ultimate tech internship experience.&quot; <strong>TechPoint website, Photo Courtesy</strong></p>

In 2021, TechPoint is hosting students in Indianapolis and Muncie to complete local business and technology internships. The nonprofit organization brands its Xtern program as "the ultimate tech internship experience." TechPoint website, Photo Courtesy

Apply for the TechPoint Xtern program

Interested students from any state or country can apply for business and technology internships on TechPoint’s website. 

Applicants will choose what fields they want to apply to, including software engineering, business analysis, user-experience design and more. Applicant resumes will be reviewed based on classroom and extracurricular involvement. Approved applicants will be invited to complete work sample assessments under time limits to showcase their professional skills.

A selection committee made up of university faculty and industry professionals will review work sample assessments and score performances. Assessment scores and applicant resumes are then sent to Indiana companies searching for interns so their staff can decide which applicants they are interested in interviewing for internship positions.

All interviews will take place on Finalist Day. Last year, students chosen for interviews were emailed an invitation approximately a week before the scheduled virtual event and asked to accept the invitation by a deadline of two days after the email.

After Finalist Day interviews, students will rank their top choices for internships and companies will rank their top choices of students. An algorithm of those ranks will generate matches for students and companies. If a company agrees to hire the students it was matched with, it will send official letters with details about salary, start dates and expectations. Students offered an internship must accept or decline the offer.

Source: TechPoint website

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article listed Muncie Power Products as a participant in the TechPoint Xtern program. It has been updated to reflect that the company is no longer a participant. This article also earlier stated that TechPoint is a company, but has been updated to say organzation.

More than 2,000 students applied for business and technology internships with TechPoint’s Xtern summer 2021 program. Less than 10 percent of those applicants were invited to interview with companies to secure an internship this summer.

TechPoint brands the Xtern internships as “the ultimate tech internship experience.” The organization — launched in 2003 by the merging of the Indiana Software Association and the Indiana Information Technology Association — is a leader in the Indiana technology industry and works each year to match business and technology students with internships at state companies.

When the Xtern program first launched in 2014, TechPoint Talent Program Operations Manager Joe Perin said students were living in Indianapolis apartments, but it has now “blossomed into this major talent program,” complete with residence hall housing arranged by TechPoint and local colleges.

Xtern is an Indianapolis-based program, but has partnered with businesses in South Bend and Bloomington previously, and is hosting students in Muncie for the first time this year.

Xavier Walls, Ball State junior computer information systems major, said he was nervous for the Finalist Day — where some hopeful Xterns are invited to interview for positions with companies looking to hire students for the summer.

“You see the roster of all the people coming and there were people in the top 100 of Purdue coming [and] people from different states and countries,” Walls said. “I thought ‘what makes me better?’ I was happy just to make it to finals, honestly.”

The application process

To qualify for the Finalist Day, each student had to complete a work sample assessment in the field of study of the internships they applied for, then, companies reviewed applications to determine which students they wanted to interview. Walls said he had four interviews on Finalist Day and was matched with First Merchants Bank in Muncie to intern in the bank’s data center this summer.

Perin said TechPoint uses an algorithm that asks all Finalist Day students to rank their top choices for an internship from the companies they interviewed with and asks companies to rank their favorite students to generate matches.

Walls said his top pick was First Merchants and he started his internship June 2, where he communicates with the IT team and bank leadership to analyze data on investment opportunities.

“I’ll use data visualization software so I can make sense of the raw data and present it to the executives to say ‘hey, maybe we should invest in this opportunity’ or ‘maybe we should expand here because of these data points,’” Walls said.

He said it was difficult to communicate his excitement for the internship opportunities at some points because the Finalist Day in November 2020 was completely virtual.

“I like to communicate more face to face,” Walls said. “It was a lot harder to express to them how much I’m actually into the work I’m doing with just seeing my head and shoulders.”

Walls had an online Xtern experience last summer with Franciscan Alliance — now known as Francisan Health — as a business analyst. However, this year, his First Merchants internship will be in person in Muncie. 

“I want to be able to go there and see what they’re doing,” Walls said. “I feel like I will have a better realization of what I actually want to do in the field if I’m in person.”

The virtual experience

Hailey Leonard, senior computer science major, is another Ball State student in the Xtern program. She is interning remotely with Indianapolis company CNO Financial in the IT department.

Leonard competed at the Spring Finalist Day at the beginning of the spring 2021 semester and said she was emailed in March that she was offered an internship.

“I was a little surprised, not because I didn’t think I was qualified, but I knew there were so many other talented applicants and candidates,” she said. “I knew it would be really tough to work my way up through all of those awesome people.”

Leonard had two interviews on Finalist Day and couldn’t remember which company was her top pick. She said the virtual interviews were laid back.

“It wasn’t one of those interviews where you feel really anxious the whole time,” Leonard said. “That makes me feel better about the work environment and knowing that it won’t be super stressful, but I’ll still be able to learn a lot.”

Though Leonard is interning remotely, she said she doesn’t feel she is missing out on anything because the Xtern program and CNO Financial are working to include her in activities.

Leonard said some Xterns have created a book club, movie club and trivia nights. She is most excited for the book club to network with interns outside of CNO Financial.

“I’m really excited to have a book that I’m not forced to read, but have a schedule because it will hold me more accountable and give me the opportunity to talk to the other interns about the book as well,” Leonard said.

With trivia nights, Leonard said Xterns will gather in person but also create a Zoom link for people who aren’t able to travel to Indianapolis, which is helpful for her as she is working from her hometown in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Perin said some Indianapolis companies are hosting interns remotely or on a hybrid schedule.

The Muncie partnership

Each of the five Muncie companies hosting Xterns for the summer — Accutech Systems, First Merchants Bank, Magna PowerTrain, Mursix Corporation and the City of Muncie — have in-person or hybrid positions, said Carter Anderson, associate director of the Muncie Innovation Connector.

Anderson said bringing the Xtern program to Muncie came from community collaboration with people already familiar with TechPoint. He hopes Muncie will continue to be a satellite city for Xterns in the future.

“TechPoint has been doing this program for a number of years, so from a foundational perspective, they really understand how to run a successful program,” he said. “We expect that other employers, not just the ones listed, will jump on board and begin to have Xterns in the coming years.”

After the first summer program reaches its end, Anderson said TechPoint staff and partners will discuss how they can improve the program and keep recruiting Xterns to Muncie for future years.

“As long as we continue to see the results that we want in our city and that our employers want in our city, there’s no reason why this program shouldn’t stick around for the long term,” he said.

Between Muncie and Indianapolis companies this summer, Perin said about 55 companies have hired at least one Xtern. Usually there are 80 participating businesses, but fewer this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the main reasons why we do this program is not only to get these students connected with really great internships, but it’s also to show off our communities,” Perin said. “Indianapolis is a booming and growing city and there’s a lot of great things going on here, but there’s a lot of really great things going on in Muncie as well.”

Anderson said he hopes to bring Muncie technology leaders in to discuss the future of the industry so current Xterns “can begin to get excited about their future in Muncie.”

Along with professional development, Anderson said Xterns will have volunteer opportunities with local nonprofit organizations, such as Muncie’s Animal Rescue Fund, or through mentorship opportunities for young children learning technology concepts.

“Most of these events would happen away from the workday and in the after-hours to really help them enjoy life in Muncie outside of work as well, but still be connected to their career and their opportunities here long term,” Anderson said. “I think it’s just going to further their perspective of what this community can offer and get them excited about something other than their work life.”

The community connection

Perin said TechPoint is not heavily involved in the projects Xterns complete over the summer, but facilitates relationships between students wanting internships in business and technology fields and companies looking to hire students for those positions.

TechPoint also partners with local colleges to offer students free housing. Xterns in Indianapolis this summer are living in Butler University’s Irvington House and Xterns in Muncie are living in Studebaker East Residence Hall.

Perin said TechPoint encourages their business partners to offer Xterns between $12 and $24 per hour.

“Most of these are pretty decently paid internships, especially when you consider that we do provide free housing for the participants,” Perin said.

Grant Gillespie, senior computer science major interning with International Vending Management (IVM) Inc. in Indianapolis, said the free housing is convenient and minimizes his commute time.

“The free housing in Indy is a huge plus to this whole internship program and I’m thankful to just be able to drive 20 minutes to my job, versus an hour and 20,” he said.

Gillespie said he was paired with a roommate also in the Xtern program for the summer. He moved on May 31 and started his internship with IVM June 7, where he assists with IVM’s technical support and development teams. 

He said his experience with the Xtern program has been positive so far, especially with the opportunity to explore the community outside of work responsibilities. On June 5, Gillespie said he signed up to tour the Broad Ripple area in Indianapolis and was grateful TechPoint was “really introducing the interns to the area they’re living in.”

Though his application experience was unique compared to previous internship and job application processes, Gillespie said he enjoyed the personalized feedback anonymously given on his work sample assessments by industry professionals.

“I hadn’t really experienced almost anything in this program, from the work assessments and interviewing all in one day for three different companies — I hadn’t experienced any of that,” he said. “You got pretty good feedback on what you did right and what you did wrong. The companies weren’t harsh, it was very constructive criticism.”

After he graduates in spring 2022, Gillespie said he would consider working for an Indianapolis company.

“Indy is very up-and-coming in the tech industry,” he said. “Indy’s a great place to work for that stuff and the culture and size of Indy I also like, so I would see myself sticking around there for a while.”

Perin said he hopes Xterns will appreciate the communities they work in this summer and consider living in Indiana in the future as they pursue professional careers.

“[At TechPoint], we’re just a bunch of people who love our communities,” he said. “We’re excited to share what we love about the communities and hopefully get students to like and love the communities and maybe want to stick around after they graduate.”

Contact Grace McCormick with comments at grmccormick@bsu.edu or on Twitter @graceMc564

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