Three recent Palm Beach Atlantic graduates and one current student advanced their growing careers through 10-week summer virtual internships with Cognosante, a leading provider of health information technology solutions.
Senior Lucson Pierre and 2020 graduates Abigail Martineau and Zachary Stroven — all computer science majors — worked in customer relationship management (CRM) platform development and support for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Cognosante is a contractor for the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense. The company is based in Falls Church, Virginia.
Marketing major Isaac Miles, a 2020 graduate, served as a business development intern for J. Lodge. The Cognosante subsidiary provides speech analytics for quality assurance at customer contact centers. J.Lodge’s mission is to offer meaningful job opportunities to people with disabilities, in-home caregivers, and military spouses.
Cognosante’s national internship program is typically hosted at their headquarters in Falls Church, VA. However, due to COVID-19, the company transitioned the program to a virtual experience for the interns.
Early in the internship, Cognosante founder and CEO Michele Kang greeted the interns on a video call. Kang’s story of immigrating to the U.S. from Korea, furthering her education and then starting a successful business resonated with Pierre, who moved from Haiti in 2007. He considers Kang a role model, he said.
“She helps us know and remember that the American Dream is still alive. To have such passion for health and to start a business from your garage and build it into what it is today, it’s amazing,” Pierre said. “She’s so energetic and passionate. She keeps going and never stops.”
The University honored Kang with its American Free Enterprise Day Medal in 2019. That’s when Martineau first heard Kang tell the “incredible” story of her rise to success. Martineau was just as impressed when she met Kang again on the interns’ call, she said.
“I was just awestruck by how far she’s come and what she’s still willing to do for others,” Martineau said. “She really emphasized that Cognosante is a family. The fact that she was willing to get on this call with interns that she didn’t know, and she took time out of her day to emphasize that point, that’s something that I really appreciated.”
Miles said he was impressed with the communication and professional development opportunities afforded him by his supervisor, who allotted time for him to research the best way to handle the toughest parts of the job.
“This was a huge opportunity and something I would recommend to PBA students,” Miles said. “Try to get some experience with the CRM platform, especially in business, because so many people in sales positions and marketing are looking for it.”
For the VA, Cognosante provides a platform used to store and verify veterans’ personal information to offer the best possible services. Such a system takes years for developers to create, implement and refine. Because of the sensitive nature of the work, the interns were trained in patient privacy laws and cybersecurity, as well as the technical aspects of the job, they said.
Stroven said he enjoyed getting to know the staff at the Orlando VA — one of the few places he visited during coronavirus restrictions — when he picked up the government-issued ID that he needed to access his computer.
“That was definitely refreshing, seeing how much everyone cares about the VA,” Stroven said. “A lot of people are working there because they are veterans, and they have served, and that’s amazing as well.”
Martineau was especially thankful for the coaching that Cognosante’s Recruiter Shawn Crowley provided. Throughout the internship, he kept the interns connected and served as an invaluable sounding board for career next steps, she said.
The internships were the result of a new partnership between PBA and Cognosante. Crowley said he was impressed with the students’ strong work ethic, as well as the care shown by PBA’s Career Development office. The office is led by Director Dr. Kim Ladd and Assistant Director Jennifer Fonseca.
“It’s very rare that you find career counselors that can actually share the story of the students that they’re sending you, and that’s something that both Kim and Jennifer do a great job with,” Crowley said.
Ladd said Crowley took his time getting to know each applicant and put them at ease during the application and interview process. Cognosante could “write the book” on how to host an intern, Ladd said.
“Cognosante has been remarkable and exemplary,” Ladd said.