Sipit Provides Meaningful Internships to UM-Flint Students

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Michael Farmer, PhD (center) and UM-Flint computer science students.
Michael Farmer, PhD (center) and UM-Flint computer science students.

Students from UM-Flint's Computer Science & Information Systems program have found meaningful internship opportunities with Sipit—a local company with the mission of bringing technology and digital tools to small businesses and non-profits in Flint, while creating 200 high tech jobs within the next 3-5 years.

A recent project involved creating donor databases that would outperform the much more expensive options on the market while offering a better user experience. The project was born from a local non-profit's need to better organize and reach donors with their limited staff.

Anvitha Akurathi presents her group's donor database project.
Anvitha Akurathi presents her group's donor database project.

Anvitha Akurathi, a graduate student in CSIS and intern at Sipit, has a lead role in the project.

Says Akurathi, "So far, I am a Team leader for 2 Web development projects and 2 Database Application Development projects for non-profit organizations. The roles I had taken were Team Leader, Project manager, and Business Analyst."

When asked about her responsibilities within the role, Akurathi listed:

  • Collecting and documenting the requirements of the project
  • Developing design documents for the project
  • Creating project plans
  • Assigning tasks to the team members
  • Deploying the project to production
  • Handling Change Requests, troubleshooting and maintenance of the project

Although helping non-profits with donor relations is the goal of the project, the goal of an internship is to prepare students for their future careers. Akurathi described her experience in that light, "From the career perspective, internship is a best way to know the real-world scenarios and projects. They give an exposure to the real problems that we face in the course of development and deployment of the project. Students can also develop the job discipline and acquire the skills of learning new technologies and applying them in solving the challenges of the project."

Sipit provided all of that and more to Akurathi and her classmates, with the added perk of being in a convenient location near campus. "I was waiting for an opportunity to learn and work for something related to my education. Sipit is a new start-up by few passionate individuals of Flint. I could feel the passion and motives they had for the company when I met them for the first time. A start-up can help us learn so many things related to real world and the technological problems faced in projects, build ourselves in many ways possible and mold us in the best way. Very fortunately, Sipit is very near to our college which made the transportation very easy for me. I had all the good reasons for choosing the internship."

Anvitha Akurathi explains components of the intern-designed donor database.
Anvitha Akurathi explains components of the intern-designed donor database.

She continued, "Start-ups like Sipit will help students to learn social and communication skills along with the career related skills. We will learn work-ethics, professional communication with higher management authorities and clients, time management, dealing with people and involving with foreign culture. I could see only benefits out of an internship in a company like Sipit."

CSIS Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Michael Farmer, added, "The internship partnership with Sipit is an outstanding opportunity for our students to work on real-world IT applications. The fact that Sipit is focused on projects that help organizations focused on improving the quality of life in Flint makes it an even more compelling story. All of our students that have worked with Sipit found the experience incredibly rewarding."

When asked about advice for students considering an internship, Akurathi said, "I wholeheartedly advise them to go for an internship. They help us in building [ourselves] both in terms of career and personality. I would suggest the students to be honest, be open for learning new things, and keep up the trust people had put on us when given the opportunity. Maybe this would be best time to quote what Steve Jobs had once said: 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.'"

The most recent database completed by the students has been deployed to Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, and they are actively using it. Sipit is reaching out to other Habitat affiliates around the country to see if they can provide them with systems as well.

Sipit co-founder Andrew Schmitt says, "The students are incredible. We are lucky they have chosen UM-Flint for their graduate degree program, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the University and helping these students make Flint their home long term."

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