An update from English alumna Ameliah Tawlks ’12:
“Within my first few weeks of the master’s in writing and rhetorics program, I had scheduled a meeting with Dr. James Kalmbach about the possibilities for a graduate internship. When he asked me how I would feel about going to California, I immediately began to dream of beaches and movie stars.
Little did I know moving to Silicon Valley and working for IBM would come to change my perspective on scholarship and industry in technical communication. Between searching Craigslist for a temporary place to live and making arrangements to talk to family and friends, I didn’t have much time to consider the ways that my internship would affect my experiences of being a graduate student.
At the end of December, I left to drive IBM’s Silicon Valley Laboratory in San Jose, California, and did not return to Illinois until the end of June. The beginning of my time at IBM was overwhelming—I had become disconnected from my entire network of friends and colleagues. I was going through a crash-course in Californian corporate culture while doing my best to quickly assimilate some knowledge of complex mainframe concepts. I was lonely, self-doubting, and terrified that I would not be able to do the work asked of me.
The next six months were undoubtedly the most memorable in my college career. Every day at IBM was a new experience. Over time, I became more comfortable and confident in my work. I met people from all around the world, and learned how to communicate and interact with others in such a way that would never have been possible in a classroom.
That being said, I couldn’t count the number of times I was grateful for my coursework and experiences at Illinois State. I found myself confident and informed about technical writing principles and how I could apply them. My hands-on training from previous internships such as the English Department’s Publications Unit and the College of Arts and Sciences Information Technology TAP lab was invaluable. I was able to use skills and knowledge such as style-based editing and markup language formatting on daily basis.
Most of all, I was proud and eager to bring a humanities-based approach to a highly technical environment. It wasn’t until I actually faced a situation that called for what I had learned through coursework that I realized how much I have taken from my classes over the past five years.
If I could share anything with fellow ISU students, it would be to push them to search for internships that they may think are only a dream. As a freshman, I would have never thought that I would be able to go to California and work for a company such as IBM. My path at ISU led to an incredible experience that changed me as both a student and professional.
With the opportunities I’ve had as an ISU student and an IBM intern, I am optimistic for what the future has in store. I have no doubt that these experiences have prepared me for a successful and rewarding career.”