Jason Marceau is a Director at Karsun Solutions. He holds a Master’s of Science in Business Analytics and Management Science from the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. Recently he returned to the University of Southampton to share his summer project experience with aspiring students and reveals how the program continues to inspire his work within Karsun’s Advanced Analytics practice. This post first appeared on LinkedIn.

Graduate Summer Projects Value

Graduate summer projects are an excellent opportunity to work directly with practitioners in students’ chosen field of study. Programs pair advanced students with employers, where they research real-world challenges and prototype solutions. Summer projects act as an extension of coursework building toward students’ capstones or dissertations. Karsun Solutions engages with students locally on such projects and as part of my dissertation at the University of Southampton I participated in such a project, an experience that informs my work today.

Below I share my summer project journey for those that were not able to attend the CORMSIS (Center for Operations Research, Management Science, & Information Systems) lecture at The University of Southampton, UK. These are helpful insights for any student that may have the opportunity to participate in an in-depth summer project with their advanced or graduate studies.  I summarize the high points related to leveraging the value of these projects.  Though to hear my stories of the great adventure and experience you’ll have to find me at my next engagement at the University of Southampton.

While my lecture focused on CORMIS and its analytics projects, a summer project supporting any advanced studies or dissertation allows you to apply academic knowledge, build your network, prepares you for progressive hiring processes, and builds your personal story.

Apply Academic Knowledge

A summer project brings the academic knowledge to life and allows for an understanding of the practical application.   However, the value goes much deeper. Embrace every moment you have within the project and company to learn.  You will learn far beyond the academic application here if you seek it out. Also, many will encounter challenges along the way. If in fact those that do will be better served by the experience.  It will force you to learn to adapt, have alternatives, and overcome obstacles for success. This is a key element that you can speak to when interviewing with companies.  This will make you stand out as a problem solver and someone who can overcome adversity.

Build your Network

Building your network can perhaps be one of the most powerful things you do during the summer project.  You see I am not really that smart, I just know a lot of smart people.  The point being no one has all the answers, but the power of a network often does and it can open many doors not seen by others.

Prepare for Interviews

Many progressive companies have changed their hiring process from interviews to technical challenges first.  This weeds out those that only understand the academic.  In fact, the company I work for Karsun Solutions does exactly this in many cases.  It takes the risk out of knowing if someone can interview well but can’t do the job.

Build your Personal Story

Seek out the greatest experience and if it scares you then it is the probably the right answer. The culmination of academic, practical, relationships, experiences, challenges, failures, and successes all develop your personal story.  A good story will often make your stand out when seeking an opportunity, it will keep you hungry for more, and it is fun to tell.