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SLU Student Uses AT&T Internship to Learn, Serve Remotely Due to COVID-19

09/14/2020

While the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has turned the professional world upside-down, for Parssa Sazdar, a junior computer science major at Saint Louis University, the summer was still an opportunity to get a taste of the working world through a virtual internship at AT&T that he won with the help of SLU’s Office of Career Services.

Parssa Sazdar holds an ear saver he 3-D printed as part of a project with his AT&T internship.

As part of his remote summer internship with AT&T, junior Parssa Sazdar embarked on a 3-D printing project to make ear savers for frontline health care workers, a project that he's continuing as fall gets underway. Submitted photo

“I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to keep my internship with AT&T during the time of COVID, especially since many other companies have canceled their internship programs,” Sazdar, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

Hired on into AT&T’s Technology Development Program (TDP) as a software engineer, he had the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects from test automation all the way to full stack development.

As part of the internship, Sazdar turned his talents to work on a volunteer project, Project SAFE (Students Assisting Frontline Workers). His work involved setting up a 3-D printer at home and printing ear savers for frontline health care workers.

Designed to be worn with masks to reduce the strain put on a worker’s ears due to wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time, Sazdar has printed just over 250 ear savers to date. They will go to staff members at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital and Missouri Baptist University Hospital.

SLU’s career counselors helped coach Sazdar to internship success during the spring 2020 semester before the University community dispersed due to the pandemic. Internship placement and career counseling are just two of the services the Office of Career Services offers current Billikens and alumni as they look to make their professional dreams realities.

Learn More About SLU’s Career Services

Learn More About Parssa’s Experience

Junior Parssa Sazdar in front of Cupples House on SLU's campus.

As part of his internship this summer, junior Parssa Sazdar got a glimpse of the working world at AT&T, and worked in a team of fellow TDP interns from the St. Louis office and we decided to build a software that would benefit the online education industry as we saw how many students have moved online due to COVID-19. Submitted photo

How did the internship work change from what you expected due to the pandemic?

I was originally hired on to work at the AT&T St. Louis office, which is very close to SLU’s School of Law. However, due to COVID, that plan changed. I was able to complete my internship remotely, through a company laptop that was sent to my house by AT&T.

One challenge I faced due to being remote was working with people in different time zones. The entire Network Call Automation Team was in a different time zone than me, so I had to be conscious of what time I scheduled meetings with them and when best times were to ask questions or to get support.

Being remote was definitely a much different experience had I been in person. However, it was still an amazing opportunity.

What did you do as part of the internship?

Overall, this was an amazing experience and I met a lot of great people.

I got to learn about AT&T culture and, basically, what it's like to work there. I was included on different video calls about professional development, AT&T leadership, diversity and inclusion and the business direction of AT&T.

I even got to sit in on a meeting with the CTO (Chief Technology Officer). I enjoyed my time with them this summer and it was such a great, positive experience.

During the internship, I had three main roles: my business partner work, intern innovation challenge work, and community service volunteering.

My business partner work was real work for the company that benefits one of the services AT&T provides. I did not do "busy work.” I was assigned to work on the Network Call Automation Team and got the opportunity to work alongside the team and my assigned business partner.

On the team I was tasked to write soft tests for the AT&T VOLTE (Voice Over LTE) network. Soft tests are test I write that simulate different kinds of calls that can be made using the AT&T VOLTE network. These tests are thorough and include a large range of circumstances including different clients, holding, 911 First Net calls, forwarding, etc. Through this experience, I learned a lot about networks and VOLTE.

I feel very blessed to have worked on the Network Call Automation Team because I got to work alongside some of the most brilliant and kind software developers; the team was a joy to work with. It was sad to leave when my internship ended.

The Intern innovation Challenge is a challenge that AT&T gives to their interns every year, usually based on a theme. This year the theme was to build a piece of software that would be beneficial if another pandemic (such as COVID) or natural disaster happened. I worked in a team of fellow TDP interns from the St. Louis office and we decided to build a software that would benefit the online education industry as we saw how many students have moved online due to COVID.

Specifically, we saw that there was shortage of ways students can collaborate with each other and be hands on with their course work. Our software, 3: Space, is a 3D education tool built to be used in a virtual environment (can be used in person too however) that benefits both teachers and students.

3: Space allows students to collaboratively or individually build 3D scenes or dioramas to assist with the understanding of class content. The software has many different applications and can be used in all courses ranging from STEM to the humanities. 3: Space also supports virtual reality (VR), which is instrumental in online learning.

Students can either view 3: Space scenes on their laptop or in VR (if they have the proper equipment); this allows students to view scenes and interact with class content in a truly unique way. This in itself opens up a lot of different uses including teachers taking students on virtual tours of different monuments or museums for example.

I have submitted a patent for the software, and it is currently patent pending.  I worked as a full stack developer on the team and the software used the following technologies: Angular, Spring, and A-Frame framework.

In addition, my team used agile development principles when building the program and arranged ourselves into a scrum team. We had daily stand up to talk about what we all were working on. Utilizing agile principles in our workflow is what full time developers use when building program; 3: Space was a great opportunity to practice these skills.

Tell us about your work with Project SAFE.

Through the process of printing the ear savers, I was able to learn about 3-D printing. My mom and sister are both nurses, so this project holds a special place in my heart.

I feel very blessed to have been a part of this project with AT&T and been afforded the opportunity to give back in this way.

How did this experience fit in with your SLU education to date?

The experience supplemented my course work and gave me the opportunity to apply some of what I learned in the classroom.

Also, this has impacted my choice of classes moving forward; I plan on now taking databases and networking classes because I have seen how important these two skills are in industry.

How do you see taking this experience with you as you continue at SLU and look toward your professional future?

Interning with AT&T has given me great experiences that I will take forward with me throughout my career.

For starters, I gained a great deal of technical skills in full stack development and test automation which I will take with me into future professional endeavors.

Also, it allowed me to explore what it's like to be a software engineer in industry and allowed me to figure out what field or area I am most interested in. This will give me a better idea of what I enjoy doing so I can apply to jobs and internships in the future that I am most interested in.

How did SLU’s Career Services help you on your professional journey?

Career Services and Floyd Welsh, my advisor, always treated me as unique person and catered to me purposefully using cura personalis.

I received a lot of support from Career Services as they proofread and made edits to my resume.

They helped me navigate a difficult situation when I received multiple different offers for software engineering internships and gave me really great advice that led me to getting my first choice of internship with AT&T this summer.

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Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.

Story by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications.