Students create jobs for themselves, others through Interns for Indiana program

September 13, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – When Purdue University students Cody Ward, Sean Smith and Arjun Bhasin applied for the Interns for Indiana program, they had no idea that their internships for Rook Consulting Inc., a Silicon Valley-based startup, would end up creating jobs for themselves and others.

Purdue University students Sean Smith, Arjun Bhasin and Cody Ward began working as interns for Rook Consulting Inc., a Purdue Research Park-based company, in May. They turned their internships into jobs for themselves and others through the development and marketing of a new product for the company. (Photo by Melissa Lawler)

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The students worked in Rook Consulting's recently opened site in the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette.

"It's been amazing. We all started as interns last spring and now we are paid employees at Rook, and the company has hired two other full-time and five more part-time employees," said Bhasin, a junior at Purdue majoring in computer science. "We just had no idea it would lead to this, but this opportunity has been the biggest accomplishment of my whole life."

The product Bhasin and Smith developed is an IT risk management application that can be used in the health-care, financial services, defense and other sectors with complex organizational structures such as holding companies and universities.

"The system navigates through a company's computer system and looks for areas of vulnerability and then provides concise recommendations on how to effectively resolve identified issues," said Bhasin, who is from New Delhi, India. "What's different about this system is that it calculates the data in real time, and it is 40 percent to 60 percent faster than what is currently on the market. Also, the encryption techniques that we developed create a secure pipeline to protect a client's information."

The system is so new that it doesn't have a product name yet, but it is already being implemented for clients through Rook Consulting.  

"These students just took this project and ran with it. Sean and Arjun helped develop this product and then Cody contributed to the go-to-market strategy for it," said J.J. Thompson, founder and CEO of Rook Consulting. "Now, we've got a web application that could generate more than a $1 million in revenue for us next year. It's fantastic. We started with the idea of giving three college students an opportunity to work and learn on the job, and what they've given us is immeasurable. It's taken our company to the next level. Of course, when they completed their internships, I hired them."

Bhasin, Ward and Smith had no idea when they applied for the Interns for Indiana program that it would take them so far in such a short time. But they did have one thing in common: They wanted to work for a small startup. 

"I saw a flyer about Interns for Indiana and attended the meeting, and I was looking for a startup because I thought I could do more with a small company," said Ward, a junior majoring in economics. "I heard about Rook Consulting, and it sounded like a great opportunity to learn about sales. It ended up being much more than I ever thought. I learned what it is like to do 'cold calling' for clients, and I got legal experience and learned about accounting, taxes, and so many other aspects involved with business."

Ward, who is from Eden Prairie, Minn., said he would stay in Indiana after graduation to continue his work for Rook Consulting or for a similar company in Indianapolis.

Smith, a senior in computer sciences who is earning his certificate in entrepreneurship, said the experience is giving him an "insiders' view" on what it is like to run a business.

"I definitely appreciate what it means to be a CEO of a startup," said Smith, who is from Jeffersonville, Ind. "I appreciate the experience that I've gotten because it confirms my desire to start my own company and it showed me how much goes into running a business and how you have to focus on many different aspects." 

Bhasin said he has no regrets going with and staying with a small startup.

"I interviewed with Amazon and Microsoft, but my father encouraged me to go with a startup because of the experience I would receive," Bhasin said. "It turned out great. Where else could I go and interact directly with the CEO on a daily basis and have the opportunity to work on a meaningful project? J.J. is not just my boss, he's become a friend and mentor."

Thompson said the Interns for Indiana program is not just beneficial for the students but for entrepreneurs starting their own companies.

"I could not be happier with the hard work, the positive attitude and dedication that Cody, Sean and Arjun brought to my company," Thompson said. "This is a great program, and I would love to offer more interns an opportunity to work for us." 

Interns for Indiana, which was launched in 2004 through Purdue’s Discovery Learning Research Center with financial support from Lilly Endowment Inc., matches Purdue students with Indiana high-tech startups. The goal is to provide undergraduates with a challenging entrepreneurial opportunity while offering significant assistance to local companies to encourage economic development within the state. The program also seeks innovative ways to retain college graduates in Indiana.

"Interns for Indiana has continued to be an important program for Purdue, and the experience of Sean, Arjun and Cody is a perfect example of our mission to encourage "Discovery with Delivery." They translated what they’ve learned in the classroom into real-world applications for Rook Consulting," said Amy Childress, project coordinator for the Discovery Learning Research Center. "We encourage students to get involved because it gives them valuable on-the-job experience before they graduate, helps them make decisions about what type of positions and careers they would like to pursue, and provides a more comprehensive view of the various employment prospects within the state. Students learn that great opportunities exist, not only in large, well-known companies, but also in the many small- and mid-size companies that are vital to Indiana’s economy." 

Through Interns for Indiana, 461 Purdue students have provided more than 172,000 hours of labor for 154 Indiana companies in just six years. About 60 percent of the participants have remained in Indiana after graduation. Six students have started their own Indiana companies. Interns for Indiana program information is available at http://www.purdue.edu/dp/ifi. Any companies or students interested in participating in IfI may contact the Discovery Learning Research Center at 765-494-4555 or learningcenter@purdue.edu

     
Sources:
J.J. Thompson, jj@rookconsulting.com
Cody Ward, cody@rookconsulting.com
Sean Smith, sean@rookconsulting.com
Arjun Bhasin, Arjun@rookconsulting.com 
Amy Childress, childres@purdue.edu

Contact:
Cynthia Sequin, (765) 588-3340, casequin@prf.org

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