IBM Internships Map Out IT Priorities

The company wants IT professionals who are savvy in green, Web 2.0 and virtual-world technologies.

If its internship programs are any indication, IBM already knows what it wants to see in an IT department in the next five years: pros savvy in green IT, Web 2.0 and virtual-world technologies.

These are IBM's three focal areas for the summer 2008 season of its most competitive internship program, Extreme Blue.

"We try to come up with some strategic clusters that map to IBM's strategic initiatives and that's where we'll have multiple projects this summer," Veronica Woody, program manager of Extreme Blue, told eWEEK.

The program consists of project teams staffed with three technical team members and one MBA student per project. IBM is sponsoring an average of 50 projects, six at each U.S. lab and the rest spread across labs in Canada, Europe, China, India and Brazil.

The company's green data center initiative is new this year, based on estimates that the renewable energy market will be worth $220 billion in the next 10 years. Salaries at green tech companies grew by nearly 40 percent in 2006.

"We polled 1,100 tech CEOs and the temperature is that they're really serious about green initiatives, and our students are extremely interested in environmental issues, as well as corporate responsibility," Woody said.

In Austin, two students on an IBM green project speak of it enthusiastically, not only for the technologies they're working on but for the experience they're getting navigating a large organization.

Ryan Holt, a computer science major at the University of Colorado, is designing the user interface for a green project called Energy Scale. It allows users to do server-level power management of the computer in their data center, giving them the ability to optimize the power on their servers.

"A lot of what they teach you in school is technical skills, such as using certain methods to solve problems. But I'm learning a lot of people skills here. We're not starting from scratch, but working on an existing IBM project, so I'm learning how to ask for help so I can find the resources I need to complete my work," Holt said. The IBM program puts a big emphasis on being able to hone the elevator pitch, he added.

"You've got to have your pitch ready so you know how to get funding for your project from an executive. It also helps you turn a novel idea into a sellable product," Holt said.

Perry Jones, an MBA student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York, (with bachelor's degrees in computer engineering technology and electrical engineering technology), is the business element in Holt's project team. Jones said while he is excited to work on a green project, working on any Extreme Blue project is an honor itself.

"The program is so competitive, so if you get selected for any project-green or not-you're already leaps and bounds ahead of most of the people who apply for the program," Jones said.

Jones feels that he's able to sharpen the skills he's learning in school.

"This is much related to the kinds of things I was doing in college, especially trying to find the right market for the technology and making sure the customer gets what they want," he said.