Claudia Vu grew up in Fremont, California — in the shadow of Silicon Valley at a time when technology was becoming dominant in Northern California. Vu says she watched one of those brands — in particular — growing up. And while Oracle’s buildings and products surrounded her for most of her life, Vu says she became most familiar with the brand through the Oracle Arena in nearby Oakland, where the Golden State Warriors play home basketball games and major national and international musical acts often perform.
For 12 weeks last summer, Vu worked as a Finance and Operations Intern with Oracle after her sophomore year at the University of California-Irvine’s Merage School of Business. During her internship, Vu says a large part of the work involved collaborating with the Manufacturing and Distribution division to look for alternative cost-saving opportunities.
“When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a business career but I was unsure of what specific field to pursue,” Vu, a Business Administration major, says. “I was always familiar with Oracle because it is a Fortune 500 Company, but I learned about the internship position from an alumnus in my business fraternity.”
AN INTERNSHIP CONNECTION
While in high school, Vu worked at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken chain near her home, earning $10 an hour to pack chicken, mop floors, and take orders. As her first job, Vu says she was excited and worked hard to be the best she could be. When Vu left her job at KFC during her senior year, she walked away not only having refined the process of managing supply and customer demand but was also awarded a $15,000 scholarship for showing exemplary work ethic and dedication to her job.
Once Vu entered college, she says she began seeking mentors with the same attitude and became part of the professional business campus fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi. Through the group, Vu says she has connected with many individuals including an alum of the fraternity who shared that his department at Oracle was looking for a Finance and Operations intern for the summer.
Vu says the opportunity met all of the criteria she was looking for in an internship — a finance position in a tech company with a San Francisco Bay Area location. With that, she forwarded her resume to the alumnus with questions about the role as well as what it was like to work in his department. Though she had to formally apply for the position through the Oracle website as well, Vu says the alumnus helped by handing her resume directly to the hiring manager.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS
Within a week, Vu says she was on a phone interview with an Oracle analyst where she answered some basic behavioral questions such as why she was interested in the role and what separated her from other candidates. The 20-minute conversation felt casual, Vu recalls.
Her second phone interview was with a hiring manager, and Vu says this felt more like a formal interview. The conversation felt more intense as she was asked to talk about her resume and why she thought she’d be a good fit for the opening. Vu says in order to prepare for this interview, she watched Youtube videos on Oracle’s specialization in cloud database technology to learn enough to hold a conversation on the topic.
“As a second year at this time, my resume was a bit more diluted with positions related to accounting, marketing, and administrative work so justifying my eligibility for this Finance and Operation role was stressful,” Vu says. “However, I was aware of this weakness coming into the interview, so I made sure to highlight my willingness to learn, my transferable skills, and even did research on Oracle’s current business initiatives (Cloud Fusion) to prove my understanding of the business. This proved to be effective as I received an email a week later that I was pushed to the final round.”
When Vu was asked to travel to Redwood City for an in-person interview, she was both excited but also concerned as it was during finals. She chose to go because she knew she wanted the internship, and two weeks later, she traveled from Irvine to Oracle headquarters in Silicon Valley’s Redwood City.
A LAST-MINUTE NAVIGATION SNAFU
During the two weeks, Vu says she worked hard to prepare for her interview by researching Oracle’s current initiatives. When the time came for the final interview, Vu hit an unexpected obstacle when the building in which she was supposed to be interviewing didn’t show up on her GPS directions. After several calls, Vu says she managed to get in touch with the alumnus to relay a message to the hiring manager putting her 30 minutes late to meet with the team. Luckily, they were understanding as it was a frequent mishap with first-time visitors.
The interview involved meeting with three analysts, the hiring manager, and the managing director, and Vu says that the team used the interview to not only evaluate if she would be a good fit at Oracle but also what her longer-term plans were.
“The overall ambiance was very friendly and consisted of mostly behavioral questions and talk of my resume and my goals in the future,” Vu says. “I could tell from the conversation that the company heavily prioritized culture-fit as some analysts even asked me some non-work-related questions such as ‘what is your favorite superhero’ just to see how I would think on my feet and to gauge my personality.”
A few days after her on-site interview, Vu says she heard back from an Oracle recruiter and quickly left class to answer the call.
“I remember the day I received the internship like it was just yesterday because it was probably one of the happiest moments in my life,” Vu beams. “I have a list of milestones that I keep on my phone, and I have this day recorded as one of my proudest moments.”
THE SILICON VALLEY EXPERIENCE — PROVIDED MEALS, COMPANY GYMS, AND ALL
Between June and September of last year, Vu interned at the Oracle headquarters, commuting about 40 minutes each way from her parent’s home and earning $21 an hour. Her days usually began at 8 a.m. with a cup of tea and a look at her emails and spreadsheets.
“As a Finance and Operations intern at Oracle, my day to day activities included a mix of supply chain as well as financial evaluation,” Vu says. “Throughout my internship, I had one big, on-going project that required me to use Excel to create KPI’s for my team but I also had weekly tasks such as creating procurement reports and assisting with the financial close.”
Outside of work, Vu says she had the opportunity to experience the various perks that came with being an Oracle intern. The on-campus gym not only meant that employees could squeeze in a quick workout anytime they needed to reenergize, but the gym also offered a variety of workout classes such as yoga, cycling, and dance. On top of the regular workout equipment, Vu says another perk that really excited her was a full-sized gymnasium where she got to play volleyball with her coworkers every Tuesday. Vu was part of her high school volleyball team and says the experience was a precious opportunity to bond with her Oracle team outside of the office setting and made her look forward to Tuesdays.
Similar to many other Silicon Valley firms, working at Oracle also came with meals. The Oracle headquarters has five cafeterias, one in each of the main buildings. Each of the cafeterias had a different theme, and Vu says her favorite was the Italian themed cafeteria with the build-your-own pasta bar.
As a company that understands many of its employees commute from elsewhere, Vu says that Oracle has a partnership with Booster, an app-based service that delivers and pumps gas in office parking lots.
“I never had to go to a gas station once during my time at Oracle because the Booster truck would come by every day and fill up gas to any employee who ordered it — often at a discounted price compared to other gas stations,” she says.
PRESENTING TO THE VP OF MANUFACTURING
With all the benefits of being an Oracle employee, there were also days where Vu says stress levels were high. While Silicon Valley comes with perks, it also comes with a super-competitive environment. That day came for her when she had to present her intern project to the vice president of manufacturing at Oracle. As part of her project, she proposed cost-saving opportunities that had the potential of saving Oracle almost $7,000 in shipping costs. She says that while school presentations involved just receiving a few critiques and a grade, she learned that things at Oracle were much more complicated. There were follow-up questions to the follow-up questions, and Vu says it was vital to have a thorough understanding of her presentation to address management concerns.
“I learned that the best way to approach presentations is to think of a list of questions that management might ask and have a sort of appendix ready with additional data to answer them,” she says.
To help her cope with all the expectations of being a part of Oracle, Vu says the organization had an impressive mentorship program where her boss and the analysts she worked under were both supportive and empowering. She added that they were always there to answer any questions she had and even allowed her to shadow them on their work. Yet, when the situation was appropriate, Vu says they pushed her to discover answers for herself and gave her the autonomy to approach the project in ways she deemed best.
NEXT UP: DELOITTE
Vu says one of the most important lessons she learned at the Merage School that contributed to the success of her internship was the ability to learn concepts independently and utilize available resources to find the answers she needed. Because one of the perks of working at Oracle is that all employees have free access to LinkedIn Learning, Vu says she often used the platform as well as Google to improve her Excel skills and get her work done faster and better.
This summer, Vu will be working as an Advisory Intern in Deloitte’s San Jose office. Vu says she is ready for the new challenges and learning experiences that will come with the job. In five years, Vu says she hopes to be a management or tech consultant at a consulting firm or a product manager in a tech company.
And from someone who remains thankful for her roots at a humble fast-food joint, Vu says her biggest advice to anyone embarking on their professional career is to join organizations with people who have the same career interests as yourself and ask them about their experience.
“Mentorship is key to getting to where you want to be,” Vu says, “and receiving a referral from someone is so much stronger than any cold email and application during the recruitment process.”