Student Spotlight: Q&A with International Grad Student & Red Hat Intern, Sayee Jadhav

Meet Sayee Jadhav, an international student in her second year of the M.S. in Technical Communication program. 

Although COVID-19 disrupted much of the normal student life on campus, Jadhav offered us some time away from her teaching assistant responsibilities to tell us about her internship experience at Red Hat. 

How did you learn about our program?

I had some experience working as a technical writer in India, and looked for programs that would extend my learning beyond on-the-job training. Unfortunately, there are no formal higher education programs in India, and that is how I started looking at MS in Technical Communications programs in USA. A few friends have done the program and they could not recommend it enough. NC State’s MSTC program was ranked higher in the Google searches, blog articles, and Society of Technical Communication (STC) USA database for course structure, faculty, experience, and alumni placement. I applied, got selected, and reached out to a few professors and past students. I chose NC State because of the course structure, feedback from alumni, the teaching assistantship offered to me, reviews of the course within the tech. writing community, Raleigh weather, and proximity to RTP.

Can you share how you felt and what was your experience during your first semester in the program? Can you share a bit about your early experience at RedHat and what did you do to overcome any hurdles you experienced during the opportunity?

I experienced some significant highs and lows in the first semester. After working for so long as a corporate employee, I struggled with adjusting to a frugal student life. What kept me going was how much I enjoyed attending classes and learning new things every day. NC State has a strong infrastructure and pretty campus, and whenever I’d feel low, I would go on long walks across the campus, or spend some time in the gym or library. With time, I forged friendships with my fellow peers too, and met some amazing people through NC State and IBM NCSU Pathfinder program. All this helped me to connect with the surroundings and cope with the difficulties of being in an entirely new country and new culture. Since the first semester, I think I have become more resilient as a person. 

One fantastic piece of news was getting a summer internship at Red Hat towards the end of the first semester. Because of the pandemic, Red Hat offered a completely virtual internship to all its interns.

In my internship, I used web analytics to drive improvements in the technical content and the content structure of community-driven docs. I am writing a blog article to provide more details about my project and will share it soon. I worked with a very supportive and encouraging team, got a taste of the amazing ‘open source’ culture, learnt new tools, technology, and a collaborative writing style. My time at Red Hat was filled with great learning moments (the wall beside my work desk was filled with sticky notes!). My team knew the challenges of working from a remote office, and were empathetic, supportive, and always up for great conversations and laughs in the virtual office. I’m confident these moments will help me grow, both professionally and personally.

Any takeaway experiences you’d like to share after finishing?

Considering that we were working in a virtual office, I used the following ways to engage with my colleagues at Red Hat:

  • Doing research before asking questions/approaching colleagues
  • Asking questions…for no question is a stupid question
  • Being prepared for the meetings and being on time
  • Building relationships with people from my team and from other departments
  • Having open communication with my manager. Often times, I would frankly tell her what I am going through, and that helped cultivate trust and transparency between us. 

Another important thing – With the virtual office and physical distancing, it’s easy to lose track of time. The bigger question is – are we are really working from home or are we living in the office? With no fixed time and nowhere to go, it’s easy to let the work spill over into our personal time and cause burnout. It’s important to establish a daily work/study discipline and adhere to it, even though routines seem impossible to stick to in current times.

What advice would you share with your peers considering a similar opportunity?

After working in the industry, having a relatively set life in my home country only to ‘uproot’ it later and come here, I have only one regret – that I didn’t do it sooner. There are simply so many things to learn and so little time! While I don’t think that formal education is mandatory, it is immensely helpful for professional and personal growth. The key is to trust yourself, manage your mindset carefully, be disciplined, and consistent. And yes, breathe! Things will work out eventually.   

How were you able to fund the cost of completing your graduate studies while working through this experience?

I received the Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA), which covers the tuition cost, health insurance, and provides a stipend that takes care of the monthly expenses. As an international student, I have work restrictions and so have to rely on the stipend only. While the stipend is not much, it is still a decent amount if we manage our expenses right.

What sorts of topics have interested you at NC State?

The topics that have sparked my interest are content strategy, information design, user assistance, and accessibility. After my internship at Red Hat, I’m also curious to see how I think and work differently after putting on the “open-source culture” glasses.   

After graduating, what are you planning to do and how do you plan to apply your degree?

I intend to get back to the software industry, look for roles that offer opportunities to design the content strategy, and to develop the overall user experience and usability of products and websites. I also plan to continue my learning, maybe by participating in Society of Technical Communication or other writing groups or taking online classes.   

What surprised you the most about living in North Carolina?

I wasn’t surprised per se, but I’m told Raleigh has dense greenery compared to other cities. I also like the weather here – it’s neither too cold nor too hot and I kind of like the frequent rain.

What is your favorite restaurant in the Triangle?

Beasley’s in Downtown Raleigh; they make a mean hot chicken sandwich. I also liked Leash Indian restaurant in Morrisville.                                               

 

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