People & Programs
Professional Internship Program opens doors for non-traditional tech workers
Creating the next generation of STEM professionals is a lofty ambition for any organization.
For Tracy Brown and the leadership team at TACC, this goal takes shape through the center’s Professional Internship Program, which to date has helped close to 30 adults change careers after completing the program.
Created in 2017 in the Advanced Computing Interfaces (ACI) division, interns spend four months gaining real-world technical experience. Instead of a weekend workshop or a short coding bootcamp, participants learn day-to-day by working on complex software development projects at TACC.
“TACC took a chance on someone with an English degree who was switching careers. I’m grateful for this experience.”
“This program provides exposure to those who may not otherwise see a future in technology, and we attract bright minds to help on projects that are important to the center, so it’s a win-win,” said Tracy Brown, TACC's manager of Web and Mobile Applications.
According to Brown, the internship creates a welcoming environment for those looking to enter the STEM industry and increases the number of skilled tech workers in the field.
“We do our best to teach the skills necessary to qualify for technology jobs,” she said.
The program’s success in-house in the ACI division led to TACC’s Life Sciences team adopting the program, too.
Austin Darrow is a recent graduate from the Life Sciences cohort which ended in May 2023. Darrow was a high school English teacher at Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas, before teaching himself coding skills. That curiosity led him to a Stanford University coding program in 2021 and, eventually, to TACC.
“TACC took a chance on someone with an English degree who was switching careers,” Darrow said. “I’m grateful for this experience.”
“TACC is a stronger place when we learn from different perspectives. It’s inspiring to see our interns successfully change careers after completing the program.”
The Life Sciences interns coded the Drug Discovery Virtual Screening app, which allows researchers to upload a protein receptor file and test that receptor against millions of known drug molecules to find the best fit, a key step in the development of new medicines.
Their hard work resulted in the publication of an academic paper detailing the research that went into the app. The paper was presented at the 2023 Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC) conference earlier this year.
At the end of the internship, all three interns accepted full-time jobs at TACC: Darrow is a software engineer; Joshua Medina is an enterprise software engineer; and Tiffany Huff is a senior cybersecurity software engineer.
TACC ACI Director Maytal Dahan credits the program with broadening participation in areas like cyberinfrastructure and cyber engineering.
“It’s important to bring a diverse set of voices and backgrounds to STEM. TACC is a stronger place when we learn from different perspectives,” Dahan said. “It’s inspiring to see our interns successfully change careers after completing the program.”