I greatly enjoyed the Business Technology programme and it is hard to overstate the number of opportunities that an internship at Discover will provide. It is a unique experience to not just contribute meaningful work using cutting edge technologies but also to interact with senior management, to be immersed in US culture and so much more.
Integration in the Chicago office was seamless and as interns we quickly became part of existing teams and could contribute real work. There was a genuine interest in both our activities and the work we were doing. Opportunities were provided to then share your progress with the team which were met with enthusiasm.
The manager I was allocated for my time in the US was very experienced and extremely knowledgeable of the entirety of the system in which I was working. Communication was excellent and the work provided was well structured and allowed opportunities for collaboration. Support went well beyond just the technical, and showed genuine interest in helping us to gain insights into other areas of the business and generally maximise our internship experience.
The quantity of work provided does vary greatly between teams depending on a range of factors such as where that team is in the development cycle. Personally, I was very busy with a large project split between multiple interns, but I found this enjoyable. Although our team did have deadlines, these were never a source of stress, and the holistic approach was flexible meaning meeting or exceeding these goals is predominately based on self-motivated drive to build the best product. Note that long hours and weekend work are never expected or permitted, allowing opportunities to enjoy other aspects of the overall internship experience.
Again, this varies from team to team, as you may be contributing to application live in production. Personally, as I was working on a new project that served more as a proof of concept this was not the case. However, rigorous testing methods and high code quality are expected regardless.
Beyond the technical experience gained in terms of specific frameworks, the key skills I improved include: collaboration, workplace communication, technical presenting skills, problem solving and adapting both to a new environment and new tools rapidly. These skills have shown themselves to be extremely useful in my degree course and have proven very interesting to future employers.
The general atmosphere is professional but not overly formal, both in terms of dress and general ethos. Seating varies between buildings, but overall there is a move to open seating and 'pods' for teams, both of which allow good communication between teams. A good indicator of the general attitude is the fact that senior management, including the CEO, can be seen around the campus and also often eat in the canteen with all the other employees.
This is a complex question because as the first group of UK interns taking part in this programme, there were some issues particularly involving the US Visa application. However, this is to be expected and excellent communication greatly mitigated these issues. I am certain this aspect of the programme will be greatly improved over the coming years. The programme is very well established in the US so this was a seamless experience in terms of organisation.
Integration between the US and UK interns was excellent and there were many social opportunities. These included a range of company organised events but extended well beyond this. There was a great sense of camaraderie and outside of work time there were many opportunities, ranging from trips to downtown Chicago to just relaxing by the pool.
Nightlife around the accommodation itself is limited purely to a range of restaurants. However, via the train you can reach downtown Chicago which needless to say provides a limitless range of options. The location of the accommodation may not remain the same in coming years so this is something to check, although the current location is far better suited for the commute to work.
Yes, there were a range of company-organised activities including a volunteer day at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and a cruise on lake Michigan. There was also an opportunity to work with other interns as a team to design a novel solution to a business problem before presenting your solution, competing with other teams.