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City Scholars Partners with DRW to Create Tech Opportunities for U of I Students

The Grainger College of Engineering’s City Scholars program connects University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students with various tech opportunities in Chicago. Through a continued partnership with DRW, students at UIUC have found internships at DRW and some have even gone on to work with DRW full-time in a variety of roles at the firm. Learn more about the program, the application process and what an internship at DRW looks like through the eyes of our City Scholars Program Director, Brenna Conway, and DRW Senior Software Engineer, Gareth R.

What is City Scholars and what does the program entail?

Brenna: City Scholars is a partnership between the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering and Tech companies in Chicago that is designed to increase Chicago’s tech talent pipeline. Our goal is to show students the great opportunities that are available to them in Chicago’s growing tech world and encourage them to build lifelong careers in this industry as well as here in Chicago. Juniors and seniors at Grainger Engineering compete for semester-long internships unique to the program at participating companies. City Scholars students spend the semester living, working and studying in Chicago; this setting is a big change from their typical semester in Champaign-Urbana. Students maintain their full academic course-load while working 20 hours per week at the paid internship. To make this possible, some professors from University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering travel to Chicago each week and others offer special online sections just for City Scholars students.

What is the goal for students entering the program?

Brenna: Chicago has so many opportunities for students to not only find a role in the tech industry, but to also connect and engage with other students, leaders and companies. Our hope is that, through this program, students are able to find new opportunities in their related tech field, network, and start and grow their career in Chicago.

How has this program evolved over the years?

Brenna: The program began in Spring 2018 and has since provided over 250 internships to students at over 35 companies, with new companies joining the program each semester. Year after year, City Scholars has created opportunities to bring different engineering classes to Chicago and opportunities to connect Illinois students with the civic and cultural institutions that drive the city of Chicago.

How many years has DRW been involved with the program?

Gareth: DRW has been involved in the City Scholars program since its inception and in the spring semester of 2018, we hosted our first City Scholars interns. Four interns joined us that first semester, and DRW is proud to be one of the longest standing partners of the City Scholars program, hosting interns every semester since the beginning. The program brings so much value to the students, the mentors and both DRW and City Scholars as a whole!

Why is a partnership with DRW important?

Brenna: DRW was a founding partner for the City Scholars program and remains an excellent example of the students’ successes. This partnership has provided 17 students the opportunity to intern at DRW and has led many to full-time opportunities at the company. Additionally, DRW regularly hosts the entire cohort for technical presentations and office tours, which are an excellent learning experience and a highlight of the semester for students. DRW’s use of the City Scholars program to build a lasting talent pipeline for Grainger Engineering students is just what we hoped for Chicago companies.

Gareth: We recruit from all over the country and even the world, but the City Scholars program gives us premium access to talented individuals that we may even end up converting into full-time employees here in Chicago.

What teams and projects are students part of while interning with DRW?

Gareth: Interns join the Market Data team within our Research Infrastructure department. We work really hard to onboard our interns into the team the same as any full-time hire. Through these efforts, our interns work on the same projects as the rest of the team, making a real and lasting impact on the firm. A typical project involves writing a decoder for a new source of market data. In addition to the software engineering experience, interns also get to learn about electronic financial markets and how they work. Additionally, interns are given exposure to other desks within the firm, and we have even had interns return as full-time employees on other teams within DRW.

How does a student enter the program? How many students take part in the program each semester?

Brenna: City Scholars is a very competitive program. Top students first apply to the program and are reviewed by their academic department to determine eligibility. Only those that meet program standards are approved as candidates and are given the opportunity to meet all companies offering internships in a given semester. It’s important that each company has the opportunity to review all of the candidates to determine which students would be a best fit for their team. After nearly six weeks of interviewing with participating companies, City Scholars uses a matching process much like the medical residency matching to place students with the company that is a mutual best fit. Student participant numbers vary based on available positions at our partner companies, but typically around 25 students are selected in the fall semester and 45 in the spring.

If you are interested in an internship with DRW through City Scholars, head to the City Scholars website to learn more and apply. Additionally, be sure to check out DRW’s campus page to view DRW's upcoming events.