Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015

UNO’s New Job Shadowing Program Gives Underclassmen a Glimpse of Their Studies at Work

Job Shadow Day at GE CapitalAt GE Capital New Orleans Chief Information Officer Mike DeBoer gives UNO computer science students an overview of the company’s vision, work, clients and goals. “In your lifetime,” DeBoer said, “you are going to see a metamorphosis of change that the world has never seen. That’s why you have to be a computer science major.”

They filed through the glass doors of the GE Capital building at 9 a.m. Slacks and skirts, suits and blouses.

One by one, the University of New Orleans undergraduates quietly finger-tapped their information into a computerized visitors' database at the front-desk of the company’s offices on the 30th floor of a downtown New Orleans building.

“That software program you’re using,” a man at the back of the room spoke up so everyone could hear, “that was designed by UNO students.”

Students smiled and nodded and continued the process of getting registered as visitors for the day—a  day most of their colleagues were off on Fall Break, enjoying a little free time before class got back in session.

But for these students, a day spent job shadowing at GE Capital was a day closer to understanding their career goals and how their day-to-day studies might come into play in a technology-rich workplace like this. When their professors told them about the voluntary opportunity, the available spaces filled up quickly—first come, first served.

“I want to take everything they give us,” said Saroj Duwal, 19, a freshman computer science major from Nepal.

GE Capital in October became stop No. 1 in UNO’s new campus-wide job shadowing program organized by the Office of Career Development. Celyn Boykin, the department’s director, says it made sense to launch the program at GE Capital, home of the already established Software Engineering Apprenticeship Program with UNO, known as SWEAP.

Boykin says that the job shadowing is a formally organized opportunity for underclassmen to get a glimpse of the actual work performed by professionals employed in their field of study, laying the groundwork for relationships with potential employers. This time, students in beginning level computer science courses were offered the opportunity. But Boykin says the program will eventually extend to students in all majors.

“The most ideal student,” Boykin says, “would be a freshman or sophomore. They’re not really sure what they want to do—the student who hasn’t gotten very far in their major. It’s really a good way for students to connect with a network base early.”

At GE Capital, the students heard first from Chief Information Officer Mike DeBoer, who has led the company’s tech center since 2012. He gave them an overview of the company’s vision, work, clients and goals.

“In your lifetime,” DeBoer said, “you are going to see a metamorphosis of change that the world has never seen. That’s why you have to be a computer science major.”

The students laughed.

Then they heard from Brittany Allesandro, a GE Power & Water software engineer and UNO alumna who got her start with the company in the apprentice program in January 2014.

Ben Rongey, 28, a sophomore computer science major attending UNO on the GI Bill, was visibly pumped to be spending his day at GE Capital, asking numerous questions.

“GE is a leading innovator in the industry,” he explained during a break. Rongey was already interested in working in information security software. But the day spent with GE employees reinforced that enthusiasm.

Nearby, Courtney Bienemy, 22, a sophomore transfer from Nunez Community College, started tinkering with computers at 11, when she disassembled her mother’s broken computer and somehow managed to reassemble it in working order.

For Bienemy, the job shadowing program was an exciting opportunity to see into a professional workplace in a way she hasn’t before. For the past five years, she has worked at McDonalds to help play her student bills. “I want to put my degree to good use,” she said.

Boykin says it’s clear by the first overwhelming response from students that that job shadowing is needed and desired—more  than 60 students applied for the 20 open spots.

Boykin plans to collaborate with faculty from all colleges to identify strong opportunities for future job shadowing experiences, paving the way for future internships and employment.

For more information or to share ideas about job shadowing opportunities, contact Boykin at (504) 280-6225 or

Read More

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UNO Department of Computer Science
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GE technology apprenticeship completes its first session in New OrleansThe Times-Picayune
New Orleans GE Capital branch and UNO announce technology apprenticeship programThe Times-Picayune