Busting Myths: What It’s Really Like to be an Intern at IBM

There are lots of misconceptions about what to expect as an intern in a large organization like IBM, but Laura Varela had a reality check when she joined IBM as a Marketing and Communications intern. Here she shares her learnings and realizations from her internship experience.

By Laura Varela

I have been thinking a lot about my experience as an IBM intern, as well as certain misconceptions about internships in general. Ten weeks into my internship, here are my realizations and advice on how to make your internship experience successful.

Photo: Laura Varela

Myth #1: “In a large company, you’re only Intern #363920474”

Some people may flinch at being called “intern”, what with its association with coffee runs, and evil copy machines. Over a ten-week program, IBM offers internships that parallel the responsibilities of a first “real job.” As an intern in IBM Marketing & Communications, I gained hands-on experience and was in direct communication with everyone from managers to senior executives. I was challenged on a daily basis and our work had real-life impact – we were able to see the ripples of our daily tasks across to other departments. Not once did I wish my day would go faster – if anything, I wished I had more time to do a coffee run!

Myth #2: “You’re stuck in whatever position they offer you.”

If there is anything college students do not want, it is a static way of life. We are afraid that the office jobs will become boring very quickly, and that employees lose their excitement. However, the most productive element to my internship was the opportunity to view how a large organization works. My managers were quick to realize that I had a desire to learn more about our team and its effect across the company. I was assigned to support an important announcement for the new IBM Z mainframe, involving people and departments across the company. The experience taught me about the immense coordination that occurs to make news happen. You should never be shy to ask to learn and do more. Internships exist to provide opportunities – it’s up to us interns to seek them out!

 Myth #3: “Internships at large corporations are only good for your resume.”

At a time where employers’ hiring requirements continue to grow, an IBM internship on your resume may certainly catch an employer’s eye. But a bullet point on your resume will only take you so far. From my first day, the internship offered me opportunity after opportunity to apply my knowledge and learn new things. I built new skills, hard and soft, that not only related to my day-to-day, but some that will follow me to the professional workforce.

I saw how management and executives worked, recognized a job well done, and provided advice when needed. IBM will certainly be a line in my resume, but it is an incredible experience that I know has prepared me for my next professional step.

How to Succeed at Your Internship

In preparation for your own internship experience, be it at IBM or elsewhere, be prepared, do your homework, think how to show your strengths, be clear on your objectives, and learn in advance about the company and its leaders.

Let me share with you some great advice that was given to us by IBM Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso:

  1. Surround yourself with great leaders. Make yourself known to them and listen to what they have to say because their wisdom gained from experience will help shape you.
  2. Create a balanced structure. Your time is important, and there should be a healthy balance between your work and personal life. By doing so, you will gain a thoughtfulness of time, and your work will be stronger.
  3. Have that genuine passion for what you do. Your attitude plays a massive role in how this internship affects you. Be excited to learn and work, and ask yourself “What can I contribute?”

Have that passion, and that willingness to learn. Remember, this company could be your future employer. Show them that you are the right one to hire.


Laura Varela is a student of State University of New York (SUNY) – Oneonta taking up Mass Communication Major in Media Studies concentration, Minor in Journalism and Theatre.

Do you find Laura’s story interesting and would love to get the chance to experience this? Why not take some time to check out our Entry level page in the US.

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One thought

  1. Hi Liz,
    Just want to check if you have already successfully unsubscribed to the IBM Jobs Blog?
    Thank you.

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