Handshake’s goal is to help students find great jobs and internships. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that my internship this summer at Handshake was more than just a great internship, but an incredible experience that challenged me to take ownership of meaningful projects to drive the company toward its mission.

This past summer, I worked as a product management intern on the Handshake student team, specifically working on improving the First Destination Survey, our graduating senior outcomes collection feature. I was responsible for owning the project end-to-end, from conducting analysis on our collection process last year, facilitating user and competitor research to discern best practices, and ultimately orchestrating growth experiments to test key assumptions. By the end of the summer, I created a comprehensive playbook for school adoption, implementation, and growth as well as created several product specs on ways we could reintegrate some of our very valuable data back into the platform to provide value for students.

Thinking back to choosing my summer internship in the spring, I remember making long pro-con lists, talking to several people who knew of my prospective companies, and conducting lots of research in an effort to optimize my experience. I used these methods to analyze companies, from company culture to growth opportunities and the types of projects I’d be working on. Ultimately, although I signed an offer letter with a set title and salary, like most college students, I still was not sure that my experience would measure up to expectations.

I like to think of internships as a trial run for the real world, or an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a role, company, and industry to evaluate it as a prospective long-term option. They serve a crucial purpose to help students navigate their studies and ultimately, young careers. Handshake provided me that real-world experience, and much more.

The First Destination project was not my only task. In fact, as the summer progressed, I played crucial roles on the construction and data collection of our new student dashboard and onboarding platform flow. I spearheaded two A/B tests, led our mobile app beta test, and was directly responsible for several elements of our six-million student launch August 24. My manager, and managers across the Handshake organization, were eager to constantly loop me in on projects, meetings, and discussions that they thought I might find interesting. And employees were eager to get to know me, lend expertise about their experiences, and share their excitement to revolutionize students’ often stressful job search. From weekly “Handshakes” recognizing individual accomplishments, to scavenger hunts and company-wide celebrations and trivia, I felt accepted and just as valued as any full-time employee.

My experience wasn’t isolated. My fellow Handshake intern class (ten total across all company departments from engineering to design and customer success) were constantly challenged to take on projects far larger than the scope of a traditional “internship.” For example, two interns completely revamped our Handshake Career Center Demo Platform (both engineering platform and content), and redid our support page. Other interns worked directly on onboarding for our new student dashboard, and a design intern Stephen created the mock-ups that you see for Handshake’s mobile app in the app store. Our data engineering intern, Samhita, worked on a cool project which she chose - to create data visualizations analyzing student career outcomes by major and past experience, ultimately illustrating that your first destination out of college is not necessarily tied to your prior internships or your major.

Talent is equally distributed but access is not. Handshake is changing that statement, allowing students from every demographic and socioeconomic background to find great jobs and internships. I feel especially grateful and proud to have worked at Handshake this past summer and to have played a significant part in making our mission a reality.