Photo: Christina McPherson
Christina McPherson
Class of 2009
Concentrations:  Human Resources, Finance, Strategic Management

I was very excited on my first day at my Human Resources internship at Sun Microsystems, Inc. in Menlo Park, California. I had just spent three grueling days in the car traveling from Michigan, but finally I was “home,” living just a few miles from where I lived several years ago and within 90 minutes’ drive of my family. The sky was sunny and I was dressed in a casual but sharp suit, wanting to be in a suit without looking like I was in a suit since Sun’s dress code policy is a casual one (they just ask that you “do,” as in do dress in something).

After a half-day orientation, in which I was introduced to Sun’s values and got my super-cool badge, I met with my manager to connect, go over my work plan, and get the lay of the land. When I first got a look at my work plan, which I was very excited to see, I was a little taken aback. It included 16 projects and encompassed four pages. I could not imagine how I could get so much done in just 13 weeks. But I was ready to dig in…

I spent my first couple weeks getting settled in my office and in meetings after meeting after meeting. I met so many people! All of these meetings allowed me to get a feel for the kinds of people that work at Sun, gave me some detail on my various projects, and strengthened my understanding of the organizational layout of this 30,000+ -person organization. The more I learned, the more I liked the company, the people, and the range of projects I had been assigned to for the summer. I was appreciative of the time that was taken to develop a work plan tailored to my abilities and designed to give me maximum exposure to the company – and specifically to Human Resources in the company. I felt like a new hire as opposed to an intern because I came into some teams mid-stream and worked on projects where I had many others relying on my performance.

So, what did I do? My biggest project involved an aspect of business that’s not the pretty side – reductions in force. Sun has a developed process when it contemplates a reduction in force, designed to strictly comply with the relevant labor laws and maximize the compassion and dignity shown to employees. I worked as a liaison between managers and the legal department. I also worked on a qualitative survey, which was designed to uncover why a certain group of employees was leaving Sun at a higher rate than other groups. While we didn’t answer our specific question, what we did learn was invaluable and continues to spark debate as to in which direction this project should proceed. I helped to design the continuing people strategy for a work unit that was shifting focus to being more innovative (I went back to my Wagner text for this one!). I worked on a team developing a resource of ‘best practices’ for HR. I designed a survey to evaluate a fairly new rewards program. I also served on the Intern Council, which was a sub-section of the 80+ interns from the Bay Area, and helped to plan intern events (which included a trip to mini-golf/race car/arcade venue, a volunteer event and a Giants baseball game). I did lots of other things, but these were some of my main projects.

It was a fantastic summer overall, and in fact I enjoyed it so much that I am continuing to work for Sun part-time this semester. I am able to continue with some of the projects I worked on that are ongoing, see the direction of other projects, and even take on new ones. It keeps me connected to California, which will be more and more important as the weather in Michigan gets colder…