Meet the Aruba Interns: Kate Fernandez

By Sylvia Ruiz, University HR Programs Manager
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Set to begin her freshman year studying computer science and cybersecurity at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, this fall, Kate talks about how learning to code in elementary school piqued her interest in technology. Sylvia Ruiz, Aruba’s university and internship program manager, chats with Kate Fernandez from Sacramento, CA, who has been an intern for the last two summers in the HPE Aruba office in Roseville, CA. She shares how mentors at Aruba and the community of interns have been her best possible prep for college.

Kate Fernandez Aruba InternSylvia Ruiz: Why did you choose the internship at Aruba?
Kate: Since both my parents worked at HPE, I was exposed to technology when I was young. I tackled my first coding project in Adobe Flash in fourth grade and continued to take computer science courses in middle school. At St. Francis High School, I worked as an intern for the technology department and took both AP Computer Science courses. This is my second summer interning at Aruba. I applied for the program last year because I wanted to have the opportunity to apply what I’d learned in the classroom. I came back this year because of the phenomenal sense of community among the interns and the fun, educational atmosphere. 

Sylvia: What group do you work for at Aruba and what are your key tasks?
Kate: I’ve worked in the Remote Test Lab (RTL) as a member of the automation team and in the DevOps group in Roseville. I’ve done software development, making Web tools for internal use. Since I didn’t focus on Web design at school, it’s been lovely to learn new languages like JavaScript or PHP and use them to build a meaningful project. My team grants me a lot of autonomy and I get the sense that the work I do is important. Aruba trusts the work done by the interns, which means a lot to me.

Sylvia: How did you prepare for your internship?
Kate: I didn’t know exactly what I was going to be working on prior to my first day, so I wasn’t able to brush up on a certain programming language or review a key algorithm before I showed up on site. The classroom is great to learn basic skills, but being in a working environment is so different--you learn on the job. Coming in with the right mindset in crucial. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could, and simply being prepared to adapt to different situations has served me well.

Sylvia: How would you describe the corporate culture?
Kate: At Aruba, I see a good mix of people who work hard and care about their work but remain friendly, approachable, and welcoming. My coworkers are always open to questions and amazingly supportive. I think other parts of HPE are different from Aruba, but I’ve found the corporate culture at Aruba to be equal parts focused and fun.

Sylvia: Who has been the most inspiring mentor for you?
Kate:  I’ve been lucky enough to find multiple wonderful mentors at Aruba. One is my official mentor, a CSU, Chico student going into his senior year. He’s taught me so much about computer science, and he’s the first person I go to whenever I have a question. Last year I sat across the aisle from a full-time employee who has worked here for over 15 years. Even though he wasn’t part of my organization when I started—we now work under the same manager—he has become a wonderful resource for both technical and professional advice.

Sylvia: What have you enjoyed most?
Kate: The sense of community and the environment is outstanding. I’ve heard friends or family members at other companies talk about being in the “rat race,” but I don’t feel that here. I’m also grateful for all the things that I’ve learned that I can apply to studying computer science in college. 

Sylvia: Do you feel any extra pressure being a woman in computer science?
Kate:  Sometimes. When I was visiting Marist College, I realized how male-dominated the computer science program is. Coming from a single-sex high school, that was a little bit of a shock, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little nervous. But here at Aruba, I haven’t felt outnumbered to the same degree, and I think that’s in part because of all the amazing women on site.

Sylvia: What was one thing you learned about yourself that surprised you?
Kate: I’ve learned a lot about autonomy and pursuing things. In school, there’s a lesser degree of freedom. Teachers check in on you and make sure you stay on task. When I’m interning, I am responsible for my work and my schedule. And I’ve started to learn when I need to sit down and solve challenges myself and when it’s time to ask for help.

Sylvia: What was your first day like?
Kate: I started off this year with the same manager I had last year, so he knew what I was capable of. By noon or so on the first day, I had a project and was starting to work on it. Some interns have a lot of downtime on their first day, but that wasn’t my experience. I was able to dive right in.

Sylvia: What intern event are you most excited about?
Kate: That’s so difficult to decide! We have numerous official intern events as well as quite a few unofficial gatherings. We put together an event called FILM, which stands for “Friday Intern Lunch Mob.” Every Friday, we spontaneously “mob” a place for lunch. That’s definitely one of my favorite things.

There’s free pizza on Thursdays, so we usually gather around that. Oh, and the snack room. I always run into other interns there!

Sylvia: What tips would you provide to future students applying for Aruba internships?
Kate: Don’t be afraid of things you don’t know. It’s fine if you have no idea what you’re doing; most of us felt the same way when we started. Just enter with an open mind and be flexible. Don’t worry about not knowing something. Write it down, ask questions, and stay open.

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little more concrete, I’d recommend learning the basics of Git. It’s a skill many incoming interns have to learn on the job and absolutely fundamental to the way things are developed.

Sylvia: What is your most interesting office experience so far?
Kate: One of the other interns created a pun corner on one of the whiteboards where someone draws a new pun every day. Most of the interns got moved earlier this summer, and following the move, another intern started a second intern pun corner. The first pun corner has since turned into a list of intern inside jokes, but for a while we had two intern pun corners. The intern pun corner is definitely entertaining.

Sylvia: What is your ideal future career path?
Kate: I love reading, so I’m considering getting a job in the technical side of book publishing. But to be honest, I have so many interests, so we’ll just have to see what happens!

Sylvia: What technology do you find the most fascinating?
Kate: 3D printing. From printing organs to buildings, there’s so many possibilities. I think it’ll allow for a level of specialization and efficiency that we haven’t seen before.

Sylvia: What is the one thing most people don’t know about you?
Kate: I can’t eat chocolate for medical reasons, and I haven’t had chocolate in years.