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Interns, alumni find success at Skyward

This summer, 17 student interns at a Stevens Point-based edtech software company have something special in common with their supervisors.

They all attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Skyward, named EdTech Digest Company of the Year in 2019, provides administrative software solutions to more than 2,000 school districts worldwide. The company also offers internships for students in a variety of majors, with 12 Pointers working full-time in customer consulting and support, two in compliance and eLearning, and one each in accounting, programming and organizational development.

These internships often turn into full-time positions. Skyward currently employs 275 Pointer alumni – more than 40 percent of its workforce.

"Providing internship opportunities is a win-win for the students and for us as an employer," said Rebecca Gaboda, organizational development manager and a 2005 graduate from UW-Stevens Point. "Students experience hands-on what it's like to work in a corporate setting, and we get the added value of learning new ways of doing things and the opportunity to build a strong foundation for potential full-time employees in the future."

"From my experience, it feels like they brought me here to teach me," said Tate Rauman, Wausau, a programming intern who is majoring in computer information systems and will gradute this December. "They are investing in you to see you grow and develop."

Rauman joined Skyward in June 2020, trained for two months then worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was the coolest thing to be two months in and start working on features and changes in the software for real people to use," he said. "My favorite part of the job is the people. They make you feel comfortable and at home, and that helps you do a better job." He now leads a team of seven peers.

His supervisor, Jason Prinsen, interned for Skyward his senior year at UW-Stevens Point. He was offered a full-time programming position three months before he graduated in 2013. Eight years later he is Skyward's training and development team manager.

"Working with both the people and the programming is perfect for me," Prinsen said. "We have a strong culture that works well together, with peer-led teams, and we are growing fast."

Ashley Reuter, Shawano, an international studies and political science major, works closely with software clients and professionals as a customer service representative. She took the internship at Skyward to try something new.

"This internship has pushed me to learn something outside of my classes," she said. "I've learned problem solving and professional customer service, and I'm so much more confident when talking to people."

"While a business background may help, customer service is about being personable and the ability to adapt and troubleshoot," said Mason Czaikowski, customer consulting and support manager. He also was a customer service intern with Skyward before graduating from UW-Stevens Point in 2018 and taking a full-time position with the company. He has supervised 12 interns since then, 10 from his alma mater.

"It's easy to create a personal relationship with my interns from UWSP," said Czaikowski. "We've had some of the same professors and same extracurricular experiences."

Reuter, who hopes to pursue a master's degree in tourism management when she graduates in December, is grateful for her professional experience. "This internship will benefit me with whatever I do next," she said.

Skyward also took on a wellness intern this spring, for the first time in seven years, to help with post-pandemic social and emotional wellbeing. Lexie Lambrecht, Waukesha, works with wellness administrator Chris Harrison, a 2014 UW-Stevens Point graduate, and Gaboda.

Lambrecht, a health promotion and wellness major and May 2021 graduate, was eager to try new ways to have employees engage with each other.

"I've always had a passion for wellness for myself and others," she said.

On her first day she created a challenge in which employees submitted photos that represented a word, such as "family," "nature" or "bravery," on an internal social media site. Employees enjoyed commenting on the photos and learning about each other, she said, and won prizes for completing all 10 challenges.

"In my classes we would do health coaching and management planning, but now I can do it in real life," Lambrecht said. "I'm using everything I've learned and coming full circle in this internship."

"Interning at Skyward gives you a quicker and stronger start to a professional career," said Prinsen. "If you start early, such as your sophomore year, it can provide free learning and makes your college classes much easier."

Work has begun on creating space on the UW-Stevens Point campus where Skyward interns can work on company projects, making it more convenient for them to work part-time while attending school full-time.

"I love the unity and camaraderie a group of interns brings to Skyward," said Gaboda. "They remind us how important it is to build relationships, and not just the skills of a job.  It's the combination of those elements that really increase job performance, satisfaction and engagement – all of which we value at Skyward."

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