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Seizing Opportunities for Growth and Learning through Practical Internships

If I can emphasize anything to students looking for internship opportunities, it would be to take advantage of every opportunity. My professor, Dr. Katina Sawyer, emailed me a LinkedIn description of an organizational development internship at SAP and told me she thought I would do well in that position. I immediately applied because I have a very close friend who works at SAP, and she had always expressed her love for the company and the people. After I applied, Dr. Sawyer put me in contact with someone in HR who connected me to the hiring manager. I am forever in debt to Dr. Sawyer because that connection secured me a conversation with the hiring manager, Liz Brenner, who spoke at #VUHRD's Annual Networking Reception this past year.

As soon as Liz received my resume, she emailed me and said that my resume looked great and asked if I could talk in 5 minutes! I was so excited and extremely nervous. Liz was very easy to talk to and essentially told me that they needed someone full-time (which I could not provide due to my graduate assistantship), but appreciated our conversation. I had never wanted an internship so badly; working at SAP would give me the exposure to a Fortune 500 company, aid me in building valuable HR and professional skills, and ultimately work with very talented people. I took a chance and emailed Liz back saying I greatly appreciated meeting her and if she would give me the opportunity, I would work as hard as someone working full-time, while working part-time. She then emailed me back saying she wanted me to meet team members. About a week later I was told that I GOT THE INTERNSHIP! I don’t think I have ever heard more exciting news in my life. This just shows that when you take a risk and be bold very often you are rewarded with opportunities. Of course, after the promise I made her, I had to deliver!

My team--HR marketing and Enablement--is made up of 12 very talented internal HR consultants. We specialize in change management, marketing, graphic design, communication, and human resources topics, and are utilized on high-priority HR programs. I've been so excited to receive opportunities to add value to important and impactful projects at SAP; it shows how much SAP values early talent and the fresh perspectives we can bring.

While education is extremely important for understanding the foundation of a topic such as Human Resource Development, internships are crucial in developing practical skillsets and knowledge prior to students entering the workforce. Last year, Dr. Sawyer wrote an article, “Keeping It Real: The Impact of HRD Internships on the Development of HRD Professionals." She references a study in the article, stating that “Qualitative and quantitative data were collected from HRD professionals who had participated in an HRD internship while they were undergraduate students. This data was analyzed to better understand the structure and focus of student HRD internships. Specifically, while the data is preliminary, this study generated insights regarding the extent to which effective internships are able to promote the development of key HRD skillsets, and which skillsets were most likely to be enhanced.”

My SAP internship has proven to be the most influential experience for me; I am learning valuable skills such as networking, risk-taking, cultural competence, data analysis, change management, marketing, and executive presence from my teammates. SAP fosters an employee-centric culture of learning, caring for, helping one another. I have never experienced anything like it. Just to provide you with an understanding of how caring and fun my team is, I will give you an example. For my birthday, I came in to a beautiful handmade chocolate cake that my coworker made for me. Mind you, I have only been on this team for 5 months! I am so fortunate to be able to learn from some of my new best friends. Not many people can say that they work with best friends, but I luckily took advantage of an opportunity that led me to the most incredible learning and relationship building experience. I challenge you to do the same! You never know what can happen if you take advantage of opportunities.


Megan Peiffer is a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development at Villanova University. She also serves as Co-President of the VUSHRM chapter. Learn more about her here and connect with her on LinkedIn!

SAP photo credit: Marc Smith

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