We know there are many pathways to success beyond college. In truth, such planning begins before graduation. For example, you might study business or engineering in hopes of applying for jobs with large companies where such skills are required. But did you know that your options for employment are dramatically expanded when you also demonstrate mastery of a language other than English? In other words, majoring in a language in addition to a major in another discipline increases your options and "employability." Such is the case for UNC Charlotte graduate student Mason Reynolds.
As an undergraduate double major in German and Computer Science with a focus on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Mason could not have imagined how his hard work would lead him to a paid internship. After his sophomore year, Reynolds studied abroad in Göttingen, Germany and knew that he wanted to experience more German culture. Upon his return, he spoke with German professor Anabel Aliaga-Buchenau, PhD, who suggested he consider an internship in Germany as an option for further developing his language skills while also gaining experience related to his other major. He was introduced to the German-American Exchange who facilitates international internships in German for American college students. Within a relatively short amount of time, he received numerous calls from German-based companies, leading to interviews with two of them. Ultimately, he chose to work with a lesser-known company, Gerhard Shubert, where he could put his background in AI and robotics to use. He spent the summer of 2019 in Germany helping the company to develop systems for one of their robotics projects. This was his first professional work experience.
Prior to departure, Reynolds felt confident about his knowledge of robotics, having taken an advanced course at UNC Charlotte. He was less sure of his ability to communicate and to know the technical language needed to collaborate with German co-workers in a new setting. In particular, he was aware that the dialect of the region where he would work would be different than the Hochdeutsch, or "standard German" he had learned at UNC Charlotte. Fortunately, his coworkers were very supportive and willing to help him as he developed a facility with the dialect. During morning meetings, Reynolds would speak in standard German while his coworkers would ask him questions in the local dialect. He appreciated their willingness to switch to standard German in order to effectively carry out these daily meetings.
Reynolds chose German because he knew it would be valuable for a career in robotics and because he knew it is widely spoken in western Europe. For undergraduates interested in a career that requires living and/or working abroad, he recommends first taking courses in a language that interests you. Next, he suggests engaging a professor or advisor to explore program and career options. He shares that ". . . professors in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies are very willing to discuss options and assist with planning as a major, double-major, or minor." Next, he suggests attending career fairs and special events hosted by the Department or the University. Such events offer great networking opportunities with other like-minded individuals. He also suggests planning early since he decided later in his undergraduate path to begin German study, but would have benefitted from more time to learn the language.
Before returning to the States at the end of the internship, the leadership at Gerhard Shubert inquired about Reynolds' plans following the completion of his Masters in Spring 2020. While he had some ideas, he was not certain where he might pursue employment. They offered him a full-time job and in addition, the opportunity to earn a PhD at the University of Stuttgart while working for the company at their expense. The combination of the two offerings will allow Reynolds the opportunity to work in AI and robotics while also engaging in university-level research. Graduates from computer science programs rarely begin working directly in the field of robotics. As for Mason Reynolds, studying a language and seeking out internships paved a pathway of promise for this UNC Charlotte Niner.