Thomas worked for the Cooper Center for Economic and Policy Studies on a variety of projects including developing a web application for the SolTax program that allows localities in Virginia to estimate tax revenue by investing in solar.
“My work on projects with CEPS has definitely helped further my professional career as I have secured a software engineering internship at Capital One this summer. I think this work has reinforced the idea that I enjoy software engineering enough to make it a career."
Web Designer/Coder Intern
Thomas was a third-year undergraduate student in the Engineering School, studying Computer Science when he completed his internship.
Why did you choose to intern with the Cooper Center, Center for Economic and Policy Studies?
I was looking for a part-time job/internship that would allow me to further develop my programming skills. I saw a job listing on Handshake and thought that it would be an interesting opportunity to get my first experience in a professional setting with what I was studying. The job application was asking for help with the drill down Alluvial Flow diagram described below, and I thought that it would be a good chance to learn something new about Virginia and how to develop an interactive application.
What were some of the projects you worked on during your internship?
I have worked on two projects for CEPS. The first was a drill down Alluvial Flow diagram showing the Virginia State Budget that was meant as a demonstration for the Department of Planning and Budget for them to further develop. It showed the sources of income for Virginia and then showed how the budget was split to each Secretariat and then how each Secretariat further distributed the money to its subdivisions. The second project and the one I'm currently working on is called the SolTax model which is a web application that is meant to be used by localities in Virginia to determine which method of taxing solar projects would generate the most revenue. This is important because Virginia recently passed new legislation which allows localities to adopt a revenue share method of taxation instead of using the current M&T/Real Estate tax rate and localities must decide which tax plan to implement.
What did you learn as a result of this work experience?
I have gained a lot of experience with both my hard and soft skills. I have become much better with the technologies I am working with to develop my different projects. Particularly with my current work with the SolTax model I have had to talk to stakeholders who would use this product in order to gain insights as to what they would want the application to do. This has required me to learn how to ask probing questions to understand their needs and to help me understand the tax code of Virginia. It has also made me become a better technical communicator as I have had to describe both the method for calculating revenues necessary for the SolTax application which relates to the tax code and technical aspects of the code required to make the application.
Has your experience helped you in your academic studies, given you skills you can use in a future career or helped you to think differently about your academic and/or career path? If so, how?
I have used my time with CEPS to further my understanding of topics I have already begun to learn in the classroom. My work on projects with CEPS has definitely helped further my professional career as I have secured a software engineering internship at Capital One this summer. I think this work has reinforced the idea that I enjoy software engineering enough to make it a career.
What did you most enjoy about the internship?
I'm able to develop my projects with a lot of autonomy. Of course there are basic requirements that need to be met, but the majority of the time I am able to implement the necessary features as I see fit. It has also allowed me to try out new techniques and technologies which have definitely made me a better software engineer.
Would you recommend working at the Cooper Center to future students?
Yes, I would recommend working at CEPS to another student as it provides a great opportunity to get hands-on experience with a project. All of my coworkers are very supportive, understand my position of also being a full-time student, and they appreciate the work I am doing.