ECE internship placements rise

Posted on November 15, 2016

Along with steadily increasing numbers of Queen’s students choosing to enter Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) after first year, there’s rising interest among organizations offering them internship opportunities.

The Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP) offers the chance for 12- or 16-month paid positions to students after second or third year. This year there are 45 ECE students on internships at 30 organizations. That's an almost two-fold increase in placements from the program over last year.

Student William Kutarna
EQUIPPED TO SUCCEED: “I found that the team at Ericsson was committed to training-up competencies to ensure I did meaningful work for them,” says ECE student William Kutarna. “They have a really good system there.”

“I think definitely, the large number of ECE internships has to do with the calibre of jobs that are available,” says fourth-year computer engineering student, Brandon Liebman. “I’m in software and you can see the effects of your work on a system almost immediately. It’s easier for a company to give what seems like a high-calibre position to an intern because we can make meaningful contributions more-or-less right away. They gave me a project and said ‘go.’”

Liebman is back at Queen’s after working 16 months at AMD in Markham. He worked with a team on drivers for AMD graphics hardware in high-end Apple computers. Along with the technical work, he got the chance to learn what it’s like to work with a professional team, interact with AMD’s clients and even to travel to Cupertino for a few weeks to work at Apple headquarters. Not only did he gain valuable work experience, but his internship earned him a job at AMD in California when he’s done his studies in May.

“It was luck and good timing,” he says. “But I’ve heard that a lot of people have found jobs through connections they made during their internships.”

And that’s the biggest advantage to doing an internship: That fresh graduates have industry connections and a year or more of work experience on their resumes. It gives them references and a working track record that can only help get them established in their careers. But the trade-off is the risk that students may find themselves in jobs they find unfulfilling or that, by postponing their studies, they miss graduating with their year.

“You have a year crest on your jacket so you want to graduate with that year, or you don’t want to miss Sci Formal or all those social reasons,” says fourth-year computer engineering student William Kutarna. “But in ECE a lot of my friends were doing internships as well, so I knew when I came back there would still be a lot of people in my fourth-year class.”

Kutarna is back at Queen’s after working for 16 months for Ericsson in Ottawa. He was on a team that installed and tested software on cellular radio equipment for use in subways and other areas where reception from surface cell stations can be poor.

Kutarna says, aside from the technical experience, he earned enough money on the job to pay for fourth year out-of-pocket. He also got a healthy taste of what working full time is really like. There were people from all walks and stages of life with many and varied priorities. It’s different from the university experience, he says, and adapting to it during his internship further prepared him to enter the workforce.

Both Liebman and Kutarna say their engineering education helped prepare them for their internship work but both recommend applying for positions between third and fourth years rather than between second and third. Both say also that working an internship is a big change from studying.

“For example, I was developing in C++ at AMD and took a full course in it in third year,” says Liebman. “But after I got to work I realized that what I learned barely scratched the surface. It’s good that I knew what I was doing but mostly I knew what I didn’t know and it’s good to know what you don’t know.”

Kutarna and Liebman say they’re very happy they pursued their internships and enthusiastically recommend other ECE students do the same.

“Priority one: find something that you want to do,” says Liebman. “Priority two: have it enrich your academic experience.”

Learn more about the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program

Organizations offering internship positions to ECE students…

General Dynamics Mission Systems IBM Honeywell 3M
Qubit Systems Blackberry Semtech Neptec
OPG AMD IBM Toronto Hydro
Semtech Ericsson Proctor & Gamble Magna Closures Technical Centre
Fancom Connects Hydro One Sumida Technologies JSI
Ciena Honda Embross First Derivatives Canada Inc
Velodyne Scent Trunk L-3 Wescam CIBC
Pivotal Celestica