#MyCarletonSummer: Syed Usama Amer ’19

24 October 2018

Usama at his internship!

What did you do this summer?

I was working as a software development intern for a company called MIAC Analytics. I was working in their New York office.

How did you decide to do this/how did this opportunity present itself?

I was quite lucky. I worked for them over the winter through the Career Center’s externship program. The company was started by Paul Van Valkenburg, a Carleton alum (Class of 1982). He very kindly encouraged me to apply for the summer internship program.

Tell me about the position.

I was placed in the web development team working on CTrac. CTrac is one of the analytical tools that MIAC has developed for its clients. I was being mentored by another Carleton alum, Pete McNeely (Class of 2013). I was responsible for writing a suite of unit tests for various front end components of CTrac. Essentially, my job was to ensure that everything was working as it is supposed to from the user perspective.

Describe a day in the life.

My office was on Fifth Avenue, across from Bryant Park in New York City. I was living in Union City, NJ. Fortunately, through family connections, I was able to find a nice place to stay over the summer with a Pakistani family. The family in question knew my grandfather’s best friend from med school in Pakistan and he connected me with them.

I would wake up at around 7 AM and commute using the bus to the Port Authority Station. The walk from 9th Avenue to 5th Avenue was the highlight of my day. I enjoyed observing the comically sharp contrast between the awestruck expressions of the tourists and the businesslike demeanour of the locals. I think a quote from one of my favourite novels, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” encapsulates my experience of working in New York: ‘In a subway car, my skin would typically fall in the middle of the color spectrum. On street corners, tourists would ask me for directions. I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker.’

I would arrive to work at 9 AM. Along the way, I would make a stop at a nearby deli and get a cream cheese bagel. I discovered that Tandem Bagels (in Northfield) has nothing on New York City bagels.

A typical day would involve streamlining the solutions for the problems I had solved the day before in the first half of the day. I would usually be refactoring code and refining my solutions. I would take a break at 1 PM. Having an office in the heart of the city meant that I was surrounded by several different restaurants I could frequent for food. After grabbing food, I would usually go sit in Bryant Park. The weather would usually be beautiful. I must admit, people watching and eavesdropping on nearby conversations was my guilty pleasure. New York is incredibly diverse.  Often, you could hear a smatter of French, Punjabi and German in the same eavesdropping session. After my one hour break would end, I would go back to work. Usually, this would involve working on new tasks and writing more code. At around 5 PM, I would head back home. I would make a stop at the gym on my way back home. By the time, I reached home, I would be very exhausted. To relax, I would cook dinner and binge on “Mad Men” on Netflix.

What was your favorite thing about your job?

I learned a lot during my internship. I felt I grew more confident in my skills. I had incredible mentors who created an environment conducive to learning and personal growth.

How did Carleton make your summer/fall possible?

If Carleton did  not have the externship program, I would not have gotten this opportunity. I am very grateful to the Career Center and the Carleton alumni who have made it possible that such opportunities continue to exist.