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Each month we like to meet the people behind the technology.  This month we’ll be featuring stories written by NetApp’s U.S. Public Sector summer interns.  The interns share not just what they did this summer but how the internship has shaped and changed their perspectives on life, education, and what might lie beyond.  This week, we meet Tara Ulepic, who during the academic year is an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, but this summer is The Fearless Intern.

 

The frequently toyed with phrase “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” has always been an overused cliché in my mind. With the price of failure seeming so high even at the beginning of our careers, it seems like our highly educated, perfection driven society leaves little to no room for breaking the status quo.

I have never been one to shy away from a challenge so I decided to drive full speed into the realm of possibilities that came with putting aside the fear of failure. Off I went, with my liberal arts education, to an interview at a Fortune 500 technology company where I ended up landing a marketing internship at NetApp.

I’ll admit, my first few weeks I played by the rules. I kept my head down, took extensive notes, and never questioned a task placed on my desk. Okay, I’m still doing all of that, but by week three, things got interesting. At a company-wide All Hands meeting I was captured by the words of our Executive Vice President of World Wide Field and Customer Operations, Henri Richard, expressing his interest in expanding on our existing relationship and market in the Asia Pacific sector.

As the meeting continued, I sat there thinking about how one of my extra-curricular activities landed me half way around the world at a tech conference in eastern China just six months earlier. I kept thinking about all these new products being debuted at the conference and how many of them might benefit from the data storage and cloud migration solutions NetApp provides.

So, I decided to send an email to Mr. Richard explaining my experience and how this conference could benefit the company.

Wait a minute! Did I just email my boss’ boss’ boss who reports directly to the CEO, George Kurian? Yes, I did, despite the fact that the signature line read ‘Marketing Intern’.

I figured that the absolute worst that could happen would be that I’d get no response. But instead, my decision to take a risk with such a forward thinking company, paid off!

Not only did I get a personal response commending me for my initiative and passion, but I was then directed to two of his colleagues to continue research into my company’s possible participation in the conference.

The moral of the story is take the risk! It only takes one moment of hesitation to get caught up in the possibility of failure, and forget every single one of us has a unique skillset. It’s easy to feel overshadowed in a position of inferiority, but that should never stop us. I’m a women working in an industry where I have no formal background or training, and yes, it would have been easier to mind my business and blend in, but where’s the adventure in that?

Whether you are working your first summer job, interning for your future employer, or have achieved tenure in your profession, do not deny yourself the chance to contribute your talents and never feel intimidated by the people who sit around the table with you. If you’re sitting at the table, you already did the hard part.

Wishing you all the courage to achieve success,

The Fearless Intern