When the COVID pandemic brought the world to a standstill last year, Shrikant had to pivot — and quickly. Unable to travel and study in the USA, the Mumbai, India native deferred enrolling in a graduate computer science program and opted for a remote externship through Cleveland State University’s Career Accelerator Premium program instead.
Shrikant first looked for IT work, wanting to build on the momentum of his recent graduation from the University of Mumbai with a Master’s of Information Technology. At the height of the pandemic, though, companies were slow to hire.
Enter Harsh Joshi, an international student advisor in Shorelight’s Ahmedabad office, who was helping Shrikant with his US master’s degree applications. In discussing potential online learning opportunities, Harsh suggested Shrikant apply to Career Accelerator Premium. The professional certificate program designed exclusively for international students, developed in partnership with Paragon One, sounded like a perfect fit for Shrikant.
“The pandemic had affected lots of the industry, and this was the best bet to gain some experience,” says Shrikant. “The application process was pretty simple and straightforward. It was sort of [a] sure-shot chance of getting my top three [remote externship] choices.”
Remote Externship, Real Experience
The Career Accelerator Premium program gives international students like Shrikant access to externships at top-ranked companies in the US such as Facebook, HP Tech Ventures, and Crafted Capital. The remote extern roles build skills in high-growth sectors like business, engineering, data science, digital marketing, and venture capital. The work-from-home externships vary in length — from six to 12 weeks — and the host employer and role options change each semester.
Career Accelerator students have been hired at Google, JPMorgan Chase, Facebook, WhatsApp, Hewlett-Packard, KPMG, Motorola, Mastercard, and Ernst & Young.
Once enrolled in Career Accelerator Premium, you are assigned a mentor who is with you every step of the way, providing career advice, answering questions, and helping you submit your externship application. The program begins with a set of workshops and professional bootcamps to help fine-tune your personal brand on LinkedIn, research companies and new industry sectors, and gain a full understanding of the American job application process.
Best of all, even with your Career Accelerator Premium externship, you are still eligible for curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT), two programs that enable international students to work in the US.
“Career Accelerator Premium provides the experience and support for international students looking to build practical skills related to their future careers,” says Jason Rickey, program manager for Shorelight’s Career Accelerator program. “For students interested in supplementing their academic experience with professional experience, this program provides that opportunity.”
“Students will gain real-world experience where they can apply their academic learning to their industry field,” Rickey continues. “They learn alongside students from other cultures during the workshops, further enhancing their ability to engage with a diverse world.”
From Applicant to VC Analytics Extern
Shrikant originally planned to pursue an externship at a biotech or data science company. Career Accelerator Premium’s preparation workshops and his mentor helped him discover an unforeseen path — and golden opportunity — in venture capital (VC).
“As I am from [an] IT background and had no idea about venture capitalism, this was a boon for me to learn and explore a new subject, along with business analytics,” says Shrikant. “I never actually imagined that I would be working in VC, as I never had the background [in] finance.”
VC it was. Shrikant ranked his top externship choices and landed at Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), an early-stage venture capital firm that specializes in data, engineering, and biotech startups.
In his role as a business analyst extern in Fall 2020, Shrikant researched startups with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and conducted business analytics (BA) on promising companies to see if they were a good match for KDT’s mission portfolio.
“We were provided a few parameters on what we have to pay attention [to] and had to research based on said parameters,” says Shrikant. “We had weekly meetings, where [KDT] explained to us what VC does and how they strategize the investments and exit strategy for good profit return on investment. The most exciting part was to interact with KDT team members and ask them questions about various things related to VC and know how they make decisions based on analysis.”
Like most externs, Shrikant would have preferred to be in person with his cohort, but is grateful to have completed a remote externship. Considering COVID travel restrictions, “This was a great opportunity,” he says. “I learned a lot from the [online] weekly meetings. I don’t think there are any cons, since this only helps to upgrade our knowledge and skills. It also helps to boost our confidence ... Absolutely, people should go for it.”
Building Skills and Creating $110 Million Opportunities
Shrikant was assigned to the health care startup sector — and was initially uninspired. “I wasn’t interested until I found the amazing potential in that market segment,” says Shrikant of his assignments to research startups that are developing “dynamic and disrupting” technologies.
In his research, he focused on startups using artificial intelligence (AI), and a drug discovery startup, Valo Health, came up. The numbers looked good, the MedTech offering felt right, and he shared it with his director at KDT.
“She immediately said that I have hit the bull’s-eye, and they were already in talks with this startup, but nothing materialized at that time,” says Shrikant. A few months later, KDT announced they were investing $110 million in Valo Health.
“It was a great confidence booster for me to know that I actually understand the business,” says Shrikant.
Preparing International Students for Dream Careers
While Career Accelerator Premium cannot promise you a $110-million mention on your resume, we can say that enrolling in a work-from-home externship provides career networking opportunities, encourages lifelong friendships with teammates and mentors, and prepares you for dynamic, challenging positions in fast-growing global companies.
“Career Accelerator Premium is a wonderful program — it gives you reality check and shows what kind of competition you will be facing when you enter the real world, because the externs are equally talented and hardworking,” says Shrikant. He also appreciated the LinkedIn profile workshop and one-on-one career counseling advice.
“Ask questions and interact with your mentors — they are the most helpful people you will ever meet,” he says. “They always checked on me and were ready to help me whenever I was doubtful of something. [Now] I can confidently apply for research analytics or business analytics [positions].”
The Future Is Bright for Shrikant
Companies will have to wait a couple years to hire this bright candidate, though — Shrikant has been accepted to Cleveland State University for the Fall 2021 term. He has begun the F-1 student visa process, and is expected to arrive on campus in the USA this August to begin the Master of Computer and Information Science (MCIS) program at CSU’s Washkewicz College of Engineering, a top-200 graduate engineering program (U.S. News & World Report, 2021).
“I aspire to work as a data scientist in biotech or [the] automobile industry,” says Shrikant of his future career plans. “I am really fascinated by fast cars, so I would like to be part of the new era of electric and AI-powered cars.”
Full speed ahead, Shrikant.
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