On the last day of his junior year, Psychology major Olabanji Sonuga came to a realization: Engineering Psychology, the path he’d been pursuing for the past three years at University of California Merced, was no longer the source of his interests and passions. After reflecting with his mentor in the Margo F. Souza Leadership Center, Olabanji determined that UX research was where his heart truly lied. Although he had direction, Olabanji faced a new challenge: building experience in his freshly chosen field, and doing it quickly.Building Experience for a New Career Path
As Olabanji prepared to enter his senior year, his resume was noticeably void of experiences directly related to his new career aspirations. With the help of his mentor, he was able to secure an on-campus position as a Digital Media Student Lead, but Olabanji shared, “that was more content creation… I had to stretch to incorporate research”.
Olabanji knew he needed something more directly related to his goals, and again turned to his mentor for help. His mentor turned him on to Parker Dewey. Olabanji recalled, “He presented it as a way to get experience on my resume that wouldn’t take the whole summer but would still give a meaningful experience… I needed experience fast and needed people who were willing to take a chance on the limited skills in UX research that I had, and Parker Dewey had opportunities for that.”
Almost immediately, an interview study opportunity at Netflix caught Olabanji’s eye, but he tried to manage his expectations when applying.
“I did not think I was going to get it. I thought, this is Netflix, so I’m going to try, but there’s no way.”
When Olabanji received the email letting him know he had indeed been selected, he was excited to give the project everything he had, and take from it everything he could. He shared “My goal was to ask as many questions and learn as much as possible.”
Olabanji got to work directly with an expert User Experience Researcher during his Micro-Internship, and used every second as an opportunity to learn.
“It can be hard to find people in this field who are knowledgeable and willing to share their understanding of what employers are looking for, but [my supervisor] very clearly wanted to see me succeed… I got to soak up so much knowledge and couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
When asked about the specific ways his supervisor helped him grow, Olabanji had a lot to say. He recalled how his supervisor gave him not only advice, but also a better understanding of why and how to word questions to avoid unintentional bias. She also taught him how to recognize and ask an interviewee to expand on points that could be important to the research. Olabanji is excited to apply these lessons to future opportunities, saying “now these skills are in my interview toolkit”. As a result of his Micro-Internship supervisor’s feedback, Olabanji shared that he has also improved his slide deck building and presentations skills.
“In my Micro-Internship, I made the leap from college student level to professional. It was a huge difference… It helped me learn the steps to become a well-rounded researcher.”
Not only did Olabanji get to conduct research as part of his Micro-Internship, but he also got to present it to staff at Netflix, and hear conversations about what they might do with his findings.
Olabanji felt the gravity of his work as he heard those conversations. While he had previously done research projects for on-campus jobs that lead to action, this would be on a whole new scale. Olabanji shared “It was a reference for them for what they could do next and it was more meaningful because it had wider applications for millions of members. I remember thinking, this is big. This is something that might result in a change in my own user experience because of my research. It’s something that everyone in the world who has a Netflix account might see.”
Olabanji continues to stay in touch with his Micro-Internship supervisor, who is helping him with his search for a full-time UX Research role. Olabanji shared, “she’s helped review my resume and cover letter, and even sent me some job opportunities and boards to look into.”
Olabanji is excited to apply what he learned in his Micro-Internship to his next opportunity.
“I 100% will use what I learned at my Micro-Internship… It’s changed the way I interact with others and conduct myself professionally as a UX researcher. I really needed that.”
Regardless of the details of his next role, Olabanji looks forward to continuing to learn from seasoned UX researchers, and plans to eventually pursue a masters in Human Computer Interactions.
Olabanji had some words of wisdom to share with employers who haven’t yet tried Micro-Internships.
“Take a chance on these students. A lot of us are finding our passions. While we may not be as seasoned, we still have hustle and determination to learn, grow, and help your company, because helping your company helps us excel too.”
Olabanji took a moment to further reflect on the Micro-Internship model and then added, “and Micro-Internships are cheaper for you too!”
Olabanji encourages his fellow students and recent grads to “Apply, apply, apply!”
“It’s one of the easiest applications that I think I’ve ever done, and it led to the most meaningful professional experience that I’ve ever had.”
DECEMBER 2022 UPDATE:
Olabanji's Micro-Internship experience continued to have an impact even after this story was initially published! Not long after finishing his project, Olabanji was contacted by Amplinate, a company with an opening in UX research. The company had found Olabanji through their mutual LinkedIn connection - his Micro-Internship supervisor. In fact, it was the CEO who reached out to Olabanji, and invited him to learn more about their open contract role.
Olabanji accepted the invitation and did some research before connecting. Not only was he excited about the prospective opportunity in UX research, but he also appreciated that Amplinate has a mission of having more diverse representation in research.
During their conversation, Olabanji was able to share more details about his Netflix Micro-Internship. This experience, combined with Olabanji's passion for UX research, impressed the CEO, who encouraged Olabanji to apply for their opening. In Olabanji's words, "I think the fact that I had experience working with a client of that caliber spoke to the professionalism I could bring to the role."
Today, Olabanji is under contract as a UX Research Assistant with Amplinate, where he assists the senior UX researcher with responsibilities that include coding data, data analysis, and developing presentations decks - all duties he gained experience with as part of his Micro-Internship.
"There's a ton of overlap between my Micro-Internship and this. The only difference now is I'm doing it with a team of people instead of doing all of it as one person."
Olabanji again encouraged current students to make use of the resources available to them in college, especially Parker Dewey. As he reflected on the timeline from when he changed his career goals to now, he also highlighted that it's never too late, and encouraged students and fellow recent graduates who are searching, "check the page every day if you can, and don't stop hustling."
As Olabanji shared advice and the details of his new role from his own apartment, with his new dog Echo smiling from his lap, he once again expressed his gratitude for his Micro-Internship experience.
"I don't think I'd be here right now if it weren't for Parker Dewey."
Could you use some hustle and determination from a Career Launcher at your organization? Learn how to access similar talent with a Micro-Internship.