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Student stories – a summer in Silicon Valley

15 January 2015

Mark Thomson - Santa Cruz 1

What is it like to work in Silicon Valley? Mark Thomson spent the summer there last year, as part of the Saltire Foundation’s internships.

Applications to take part in the Saltire Summer Internships for 2015 close at 1pm on Tuesday 24 February.

For more information about the programme, and help applying, please contact Abertay’s Career Development Centre on

What did your internship involve?

The internship was eight weeks with a major American multinational semiconductor firm, Intersil, based in the area of California known as Silicon Valley. I was working directly for the senior vice president of supply chain management on a distinct two-part project, benchmarking lead times before trying to reduce the lead times of parts which had fallen behind competitors.

Over the eight weeks I was able to put into practice theory I had learned in my third year modules and also learn from professionals through practical experience. I was working closely not only with the senior VP but also two of his senior managers. This was extremely beneficial as I gained a broad overview of how the company operates and why the supply chain department is integral to their success.

It wasn’t all just work and no play! Intersil hosted their annual summer barbeque which was an excellent opportunity to network with my colleagues, and they also took all of their interns to see the San Francisco Giants play baseball during one of the work days.

Mark Thomson - McWay Cove

How useful has this experience been?

The experience has been extremely useful from day one of the application stage and will be continuing on into the future.

The application stage I took as a personal challenge due to my dyslexia, as I knew there would be a lot of writing at a high standard required. Once through the application stage, the speed interviews begin. I had only ever been involved in face-to-face interviews, so this format was a massive learning curve for me.

The next stage was applying for positions on internship lists, at this point you had to be at the top of your game for writing covering letters. The Saltire Foundation were excellent here and would provide feedback on where the letters could be improved.

Work experience is extremely important when looking for graduate positions, so being able to show that I worked abroad over the summer is excellent for the CV. I have also been given the opportunity to network with professionals at the top end of their industries.

In August I returned home feeling full of confidence as I have been given the support to develop my abilities further throughout the summer, which has helped me focus on my fourth year studies.

Mark Thomson - Santa Cruz 2

What was it like to live in California for a summer?

There were nine of us in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was part of the six based in San Jose in the state university student accommodation whilst three others were in San Francisco. We were based right in the middle of the Bay Area meaning we could easily explore northern California during our weekends.

It was a strange experience to suddenly see Americans interested in the World Cup, which created an amazing atmosphere during the games. They even showed them at the different companies we were working for and gave us the opportunity to watch them during our down time.

Between the six of us we had two hire cars, which meant we could do a fair bit of travelling around, splitting the fuel costs between us. The price of fuel is a lot cheaper than what we’re used to in Scotland so we regularly made trips to places like San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Big Sur and Sacramento, where we saw America play Canada at rugby.

We were invited to two barbeques as well where all nine of us attended, and at the first three other Saltire scholars also came up from San Diego. These were a chance for us to get to know our supervisors better. They were all Scottish expats, which gave us insight of how their careers progressed from working in Scotland to progressing to the top of huge multinational firms.

Mark Thomson - Google

Would you encourage other students to apply?

I would highly recommend the programme to all third years as it’s not just about the experience you gain, this is also a massive networking opportunity with other undergraduates and professionals.

The whole process helps to develop your skillset from improving your ability to sell yourself, gaining feedback on where you may need assistance to improve in interviews, and of course the all-important work experience.

The projects we worked on through the summer were meaningful, challenging and support is given to help you develop throughout them. Both parts of the data analysis and evaluation project I produced are now working documents, which will be continually updated into the future.

For more information about the programme, and help applying, please contact Abertay’s Career Development Centre on

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