Team Culture at VMware Entices Co-ops to Go Full-Time After Graduation

February 6, 2020

By James Powers-Black

At a big company like VMware, it might seem hard to foster a sense of teamwork between full-time staff and the numerous co-op students from Northeastern. But Genevieve Epstein (BSCS ’22), says that’s exactly what makes VMware’s co-op program so special.

“They want a team player, not just someone who can code very well,” insists Epstein, who in Fall 2019 was on her first co-op with VMware.

Although VMware favors hiring students on their second or third co-op because the work is challenging, Senior Engineering Manager Paul Casey says they found Epstein to be very capable. She served on the Multitenancy Team and worked on two important projects involving application programming interfaces, or APIs, which help developers implement and maintain software.

Liam Weldon (BSCS ‘20), agrees that teamwork is integral to VMware’s culture. Before his Fall 2019 stint at VMware, he had done two previous co-ops at other companies. At VMware, he served on the networking team for a product called Cloud Director.

Khoury Co-ops Serve on Scrum Teams

“It is a social job as much as it is a technical job,” Weldon explains, adding that part of the beauty of a team is mentoring. “There’s one assigned mentor, but many more people on the team end up mentoring them, so everyone gets a little piece of the experience.”

Casey was impressed with Weldon’s experience. “He’s very seasoned and was able to deliver on very challenging projects.”

VMware is a pioneer in the virtualization sphere, making software that makes cloud computing do what only hardware did before — creating a digital foundation for IT. Founded in 1998 and based in California, VMware has grown into a global, publicly-traded company with more than 24,000 employees that has helped transform industries as diverse as retail, manufacturing, transportation, banking, health care, government, and telecommunications. With two Massachusetts locations, the company welcomes Khoury College student co-ops onto its scrum teams, a project management framework named after a rugby formation.

VMware management values its relationship with Khoury College, says Senior R&D Manager Joel Feldman, and staff have made changes to improve the experiences of co-ops and boost talent development. The co-ops are members of various teams, each consisting of 10 to 15 people, with an emphasis on cross-functional teamwork and iterative progress toward a goal.

“It’s the latest way software development is structured,” Feldman says, “so it’s as close as possible to the experience they would have as full-time staff.”

At VMware, Co-op Leads to Full-Time Employment

VMware’s team-focused culture is an important reason some former Khoury co-ops decided to join the company full-time after graduation. David Silvia (BSCS’19), joined VMware full-time in June 2019. He remembers that, even as a co-op, the staff treated him like part of the team, “working tickets like everyone else.” Now on the technical staff, he appreciates that VMware orients new staff and helps them understand how to advance in their career. He’s considering working on a master’s in computer science in the future.

Sasha Rudyakov (BSCS ‘18) worked as a co-op in 2017 and came on full-time four days after she graduated. She explains that learning from mistakes is part of the co-op experience at VMware: “The engineers have very high standards for code and a strict build process but treat co-ops as part of the team and help them learn.”

Rudyakov says she appreciates how Khoury College’s project-based courses prepared her for the co-op — and in turn, the VMware co-op made her a better student. Feedback during code review helped her see how she could improve.

“That really helped me and humbled me and made me realize there’s a lot that needs to be learned outside of classes,” she admits. “I need both the fundamentals and the practical.”

Silvia, who served in the Marine Corps before attending Northeastern, praises the college for preparing him to work at VMware.

“All I knew about coding was from one community college course on Java,” says Silvia, adding that Khoury’s focus on fundamentals helped him learn new languages and skills. “It makes you like a multi-tool because you can adapt to any situation.”

That he has been able to succeed at a dynamic company like VMware, says Silvia, is “a testament to Khoury College’s computer science program.”