Explore Rochester IT Graduates Third Class of Rotational Students (2007)

Many students return to school in the fall with stories about trips to the Grand Canyon or the family reunion in Syracuse. For this year's class of the Explore Rochester IT (ERIT) Rotational Exposure program, theycan talk about their experiences setting up SQL servers alongside the professionals at Energy East or participating in software testing activities with the IT group at Bausch & Lomb.

The group of 12 students from Monroe Community College, SUNY Brockport and Rochester Institute of Technology spent several weeks this summer at local companies: Energy East, Frontier, Bausch & Lomb, ExcellusBlueCross BlueShield and Wegmans as part of the ERIT rotational exposure program. Students were assigned to three companies and spent three weeks at each one working side-by-side with the IT staff members.

At the recent celebration of the closing of this year's rotational program, the students were praised for their contributions to the companies by several of the Chief Information Officers who sponsored the program, including Don Reeve, CIO of Wegmans. Reeve was the host for the evening gathering of about 50 people at the Pittsford Wegmans, Tastings restaurant.

"Thanks for loving technology,"said Reeve in his address to the students, program advisors, and peerCIOs, "and for wanting to learn more about technology in Rochester."The rotational exposure program was designed to showcase the many interesting technology career options open to students after graduation- and to encourage them to remain in the area to pursue the challenging careers some might think are only found in larger cities or with the current technology giants.

There are many options today in the world of information technology. As a career and industry it has evolved from traditional programming (still a strong component of the business) to digital media and specialty fields such as computer security and network architecture. Companies across the US are looking for IT workers today who combine a solid foundation of traditional computer science with specializations in areas as diverse as biotechnologies, computer forensics and data management. Local students have been able to explore the many options IT holds as part of a growing career exploration program through Explore Rochester IT.

Bola"BJ" Ojawale, spent his summer with Wegmans, Bausch & Lomb and Energy East. "I worked with the systems teams at each, the systems they used were really cool," he said. As part of his assignment, he worked with staff who were responsible for security measures in the organizations and, he found his calling. "Information systems forensics, security - it's for the thinkers," he said, "it's the most challenging!"

For BJ and several of the other students, the program was an opportunity to see the different roles IT can play in a company and the different responsibilities an IT professional could take on. A first year information technology student at RIT, BJ will be changing his major from general IT to network security. Originally from Maryland, BJ knew early on that he wanted to work with computers."Exploring helped me to know what I'd really like to do. I'm on track,"he said, "and I'm very excited!"

Members of the 2007 summer Explore Rochester IT Rotational Exposure
Programparticipants and several of the area Chief Information Officers.
Photo by Peter Bilious.

In the last three years, applications for the exploration program have increased significantly. Program coordinator, Courtney Bowersox from Wegmans said more than 70 applications were received this year, up from approximately 20 the first year. With the increase in applications for the rotational program, the quality of the students has been noticeable as well. Equally so, the enthusiasm within each of the corporations that participate in the summer program has grown too. "Thanks for your enthusiasm," said Patrick Neville, CIO of Energy East to the gathered students. Summers are one of the busiest times for the staff at Energy East and the other participating organizations. The inclusion of the students to both shadow staff to learn and to contribute on projects is a welcome addition. "We're excited each year when you join us and we enjoy your enthusiasm."

Contributing to a server project within Energy East, Jennifer Grosso saw the rotational program as a chance to explore, she said. "We are able to select some areas when wes tart the program," she said, "but it was really helpful to go with a group I had not gone with before." Jennifer spent the summer with Energy East, Frontier and Excellus where she participated on the database teams and had the opportunity to work with a team as they setup and installed an SQL server.

While some of the students shadowed IT staff, the majority were expected to participate in some aspect of a company project. "They put us to work the first day," said Stefanie Milstead of her rotational experiences with Wegmans, Bausch & Lomb and Excellus. "I was able to participate with the B & L team on software testing and helped write some of requirements documentation," she said.

"It's important that you feel successful in the program," said CIO Reeve in closing his address to the students. "We hope that we helped you learn about the opportunities in IT and to be able to learn about business, then connect it with IT."The students were able to make interesting connections with each other,with the many staff at the local companies as well as their own ideas about the role IT can play within an organization. As BJ said earlier,"it is for the thinkers - it's the most challenging!"