Students Impress During New Partnership with Software Company
By Ed Brennen
“Workforce Ready” isn’t just the name of the cloud-based application that Siriphone Chanhsy worked on during her six-month co-op at Kronos. It’s also an apt description of the Manning School of Business
senior following her experience working at the software company.
“Working as an application consultant at Kronos, I gained a lot of valuable skills that will help me become a more competitive candidate when I get out in the job market,” said Chanhsy, who’s on track to earn her degree in business administration, with a concentration in management information systems, in December.
Chanhsy was one of 10 UMass Lowell students who recently completed full-time co-ops at Chelmsford-based Kronos through a new partnership between the university and the workforce management software giant that includes the co-op opportunities and student scholarships. The students, who worked from January to June in a variety of roles including professional services, sales and marketing, were formally recognized by Kronos CEO Aron Ain during a July 9 event at the company’s headquarters.
“I want to thank UMass Lowell, and I want to thank all the students who have been here, for helping us do something that’s very important to us,” Ain said. “I strongly believe that we need to create opportunities for the next generation of people coming into the workforce to have an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work for a real company.
‘Near and dear’ connection
While the co-op partnership is new, the relationship between the university and Kronos is well established. There are more than 100 UMass Lowell grads working for Kronos worldwide, and of the company’s 84 interns this summer, 13 are River Hawks.
Keri Vadala, who graduated from the Manning School in 2004, is now Manager of College Relations at Kronos. After formalizing Kronos’ internship program six years ago, Vadala said she was thrilled to work with Vice President of Presales Barbara Vlacich to establish the new co-op partnership with her alma mater.
“This was near and dear to my heart,” Vadala said. “I think with an amazing school like UMass Lowell being right in our backyard, it’s a natural partnership. We saw how successful the summer internship program was, so it made sense to do a six-month assignment and see what students are capable of.”
To nobody’s surprise, they were capable of a lot.
Zach Rochon, associate practice manager for professional services, managed five of the co-ops — Chanhsy, Christina Pappas (business administration), Craig Travers (chemical engineering), Ashley DeFreitas (business administration) and Sean Berube (computer science) — in configuring customer software implementations. He said they exceeded all expectations.
“At first they started out supporting the team’s implementations, meaning they would step in and help out the full-time consultants when needed,” Rochon said. “And eventually they got to a point where they were leading their own implementation for clients. They were on the front line, the face of Kronos, essentially.
“We took a risk on them. It took a lot of convincing, internally,” Rochon added. “But the students did the convincing themselves with their excellent track record. They proved themselves and were able to leverage that to get more responsibility.”
Rising to the challenge
After writing scripts to create customer reports and helping build a Workforce Ready login page for a client in Virginia, Chanhsy was given the opportunity to cover for a project manager at the Kronos Technology Center in Indianapolis.
“I learned consulting skills, systems implementation, time management, working as a team,” said Chanhsy, who will continue working part-time as a project manager at Kronos this fall.
DeFreitas admitted to being a bit intimidated when she first read the responsibilities of her role as Visitor Program Coordinator. Thanks to supportive managers and co-workers, however, she quickly gained confidence.
“It’s one of the best cultures I’ve seen,” said DeFreitas, who is staying on at Kronos in a part-time role during her senior year. “Everyone was very welcoming, friendly and helpful, which you don’t always see in a corporate setting. I felt confident with any task that I was given. I may not have the most experience, but if my willingness to learn is there, I will succeed.”
Pappas said the co-op experience reinforced her decision to get a master’s degree in project management. “Talking to external customers was beneficial for me,” said Pappas, whose previous internship at Partners Healthcare focused on internal customers. “It was a really good learning experience.”
Other students participating in the inaugural co-op program were Daniel Peters (management information systems), Danielle Ringler (business administration), Bunchhieng Soth (computer science), Jamalie Thenor (computer science) and Steve Alabiso (business administration). Each student received a $3,000 scholarship from Kronos for the upcoming semester.
After seeing how much the co-op experience transformed students both professionally and personally, Manning School interim Dean Scott Latham
said he looked forward to deepening the partnership with Kronos in the coming years.
“These students learned about big data, data analytics, how to engage a customer, where Kronos’ position is in the market. Now they come back to us and they are better able to leverage what we’re teaching them in the classroom,” Latham said. “And when these students come back, they hold their head higher, they are more confident. They’re just better students,”
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for Career Development Greg Denon
said a new crop of co-ops will start at Kronos in January 2016.
“I think it was a huge success,” said Denon, who credited the efforts of Kerry Willard Bray
, assistant director of cooperative education for the Manning School. “The students did meaningful and productive work, which is something true of co-ops in general. When you go in for six months, you’re really viewed as an employee and the expectations the company has of you are ratcheted up a bit.”
“I wish there was something like this when I was in school,” added Vadala. “Now it’s a whole new world. You don’t stand a chance against competition unless you’ve done an internship or co-op. That’s what sets you apart.”