SDI Employee Spotlight – Wahab Balogun
At SDI, we’re thankful for all our employees. This month, our ongoing Employee Spotlight series focuses on California-based project manager Wahab Balogun, whose passion for...
The SDI Internship Program has offered valuable opportunities for local college students to explore the inner workings of an IT consultancy and managed services provider since 1996.
After completing the program, five of this year’s interns received internal promotions and took things to the next level as full-time SDI employees. We recently caught up with Alston Rancharan, John Shrader, Luke Morton, Vitalina Olevych, and Erick Velazquez to hear about how they did it, what they learned, and where they hope to go from here.
Luke Morton’s SDI internship was the longest of the group. After learning about the opportunity from his dad, Morton joined our Internal IT team in March of 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to change the world.
“SDI took a chance on me during a period of incredible uncertainty – something that unfortunately can’t be said for many of my classmates whose internships were cancelled by other companies at that time,” Morton said.
Since then, he has learned a lot. Morton began his internship by imaging SDI laptops and manually correcting records in our IT database, but now he’s a System Administrator, developing automated reports and documenting standard procedures.
“Starting to log and categorize IT assets forced me to learn an enormous deal. When I found basic Excel sheets insufficient to convey the data requested, I learned Excel’s tools to generate substantially better charts and pivot tables. Then, months of manually downloading systems reports led to me learn methods to automatically query said systems’ APIs to generate and transform these reports!”
“Before interning, I thought I wanted to become a computer engineer – designing the core architecture for GPUs at NVIDIA,” Morton said. “I’m still primarily focused on computer systems, but my focus has shifted toward the integration and automation of these systems rather than the core underlying microarchitecture.”
After earning a degree in psychology and biology, pre-med student Vitalina Olevych realized she didn’t have the stomach for a career in medicine. She got a job at a hospital and began taking a few courses in computer science at City Colleges of Chicago. Olevych started her internship in November 2021 and joined the Department of Water team about a month later, in December 2021.
“This has been quite the change all around but a pleasant change,” Olevych said. “When I was an intern, my manager treated me just like any other Business Analyst (BA) on the Water team, which allowed me to learn a ton and made my transition easier.” Olevych was promoted to a full-time Business Analyst position on the Water team in June.
She expressed excitement about continuing to develop her technical skills and pursuing relevant certifications.
“My SDI internship taught me not to be afraid of asking questions – and I asked a lot of them,” Olevych said. “Because I came from a completely different field, there were a lot of unknowns for me. In asking questions, I was able to understand more, contribute more, and feel like a bigger part of the team.”
Interning at SDI reinforced the professional ambitions Alston Rancharan already had. “My career goal was to become a System Administrator and that goal has remained the same,” Rancharan said. “The experience and knowledge I will acquire with my recent promotion is a great step towards that goal.
Rancharan joined the SDI Internship Program in March of 2022 and was promoted in July. Initially a member of the Desktop Deployment Team, he now works as a Helpdesk Specialist.
“The new position is very different from the work I did during my internship,” Rancharan explained. “As an intern, I set up and installed computers for our customers. My new role requires me to troubleshoot and solve problems that users have with their computers or the network.”
As an intern, Rancharan said he was most impressed by the Desktop Deployment Team’s organizational skills. Watching them work and consistently complete daily tasks on schedule taught him the importance of making plans and sticking to them, just as he now plans to stay the course he plotted and become a system administrator someday.
“I’m excited to learn more about troubleshooting,” he said.
John Shrader is the only member of the recently promoted group who participated in the SDI Internship Program twice. Shrader was an SDI intern for the first time in 2021 and returned for a second internship in 2022. Both times, he imaged PCs and deployed them to client sites. Shrader was promoted in June and now works as a Helpdesk Specialist.
Prior to his SDI internships, Shrader envisioned himself becoming a software engineer, but now that has changed. “I’ve realized that I want something more hands-on with less time behind a monitor, like Desktop Support or Cybersecurity,” he said.
“As an intern I went all over the city and deployed PCs for our clients and did face-to-face troubleshooting and customer service,” Shrader said. “My new position is very different. Now I focus on the troubleshooting and customer service, but I do so over the phone at our 1010 Office.”
Shrader shared excitement about continuing to expand his technical knowledge and sharpen his customer service skills. “There’s still a lot I don’t know,” he said, “and I’m very glad to have the opportunity to learn on the job and from people that have been in the industry for years. I thought I knew a lot about computers and troubleshooting, but I had barely scratched the surface before I joined SDI,” Shrader said. “There’s a lot more out there for me, and I’m ready for it.”
Erick Velazquez is the only member of the group to previously intern anywhere except SDI, but his previous internship wasn’t in IT, which is his real passion. Unsurprisingly, he liked SDI better.
“My SDI internship was more focused on what I really wanted to do,” Velazquez said. “I got to learn more.” Velazquez became an SDI intern in March 2021. In that capacity, he supported the City of Chicago Deployment Team. Velazquez was promoted in July and now supports the Chicago Park District as a Desktop Engineer.
“There are some similarities between my work as an intern and my work now,” said Velazquez. “I still deploy laptops and workstations for users, but now I get to do more than that. I also assist users with their technical problems.”
Velazquez shared that he felt excited to learn even more from his team members in his new role, particularly about networking. “Before I started my internship, I really wanted to be a Desktop Engineer. Now that I am a Desktop Engineer, I wish to climb up the ranks and become a Network Engineer,” he said.
Velazquez also expressed gratitude for the interpersonal skills he learned by example from his SDI colleagues. “I was surprised that I got to work on a team as an SDI intern. I thought I would have to do everything on my own, but I had a team for support. We helped each other out and learned from each other. I’ve learned a lot from the people at SDI. They’re just really great.”