Getting Sponsored to Work in America: Meet Sneha Koka

Sneha Koka, an international student who earned a masterís at NJIT, is working for the Associated Press, which is sponsoring her so that she can work longer in America.

Many international students come to America with the hope of getting a degree, a job and a sponsor.  If they find an employer to sponsor them, international students can work in America for at least three years.

Most international students can work in America for 29 months as part of their practical training. After that time, though, without a sponsor, they must return home. American firms generally pay better than their developing-world counterparts. And the experience the international students get working in America is esteemed by foreign companies. Most international students, therefore, yearn to find a sponsor.  

And that’s precisely the good fortune that befell Sneha Koka, a recent NJIT graduate whose employer, the Associated Press (AP), is sponsoring her for H-1B visa status. Sneha works as a business analyst at the AP, an American news agency cooperatively owned by newspapers, radio and TV stations. 

Sneha came to American from India to do a master’s degree at NJIT in Internet Engineering.  She graduated in May of 2010, but while she was still a student she attended an NJIT Career Fair.  Recruiters from the AP were at the fair, interviewed her, and hired her to work as an intern. She did so well on the internship that AP twice extended it. Then, after she graduated, the AP hired her full time to work as a business analyst. Now, they are so happy with her work that they are sponsoring her for the coveted visa status.

In this interview, Sneha discusses her job, her sponsorship and how her decision to attend NJIT placed her on an avenue to success.  She also says international students considering coming to NJIT can write to her for advice (See her email address at the end of this interview).

Can you discuss your job at the Associated Press?
I work as a business analyst in Technology Solutions at the AP. My role is to collect and analyze the requirements and the overall vision of a project. And then I transfer this knowledge in a manner best understood by developers and programmers. I gather requirements through meetings, interviews and requirement workshops that involve interacting with the business owners and stakeholders. That gives me a thorough understanding of what they need in terms of system functionality, user-interface, etc. I then translate this knowledge into technical requirements (use-case diagrams, work-flow models, etc.) for developers.

What do you like best about your job?
Being a business analyst involves constant interaction with both business and technology, which helps me to understand the best of both fields.  I also must stay knowledgeable of the current technology standards to understand a project's vision and the purpose of a requirement. This allows me to constantly keep in touch with the latest technology and media news.

Many international students yearn to come to America for a master’s degree and then to work in the U.S.  How did you achieve that goal? 
In terms of finding a job, I started searching for job when I was a master’s student at NJIT.  I attended the NJIT Career Fair, which my company, the Associated Press, participates in. The AP offers summer internships to students who meet the required expectations. I spoke to an AP recruiter, who handed me a brochure and suggested I apply online for its summer Technology Internship Program. After several interviews, in person and on the phone, I was offered an internship in the AP’s Technology Solutions department. I did well in the internship and was offered two internship extensions. Then, after I graduated I was offered a full-time position. I have been here now for four months.

Did NJIT help you in other ways to find a job?
The Career Development Center at NJIT helped me with every aspect of my job search. Advisers at the Center helped me with my resume, interviewing skills and with the paperwork for my visa.  The Center also sponsors the Career Fair, which as I mentioned is where I got my AP internship. The Center is a great resource for students who are look for internships or jobs.

Will the AP sponsor you to work longer in America?
Yes, the AP is sponsoring my H1-B visa, which I’m very happy about. This means I can work in the US for three years, which may be extendable to six years.  At the AP, H1-B sponsorship is provided only if a full-time job offer is made, and that is contingent upon available openings and the employee’s performance.  My job is very fulfilling and it feels good to know that my superiors appreciate my work.  I hope to soon contribute to the technological growth of the AP, which is a great news agency.  

Why do so many international students want to work in America? If you return to India, will it help you to have American work experience?
Yes it will. Many major companies have off-shore offices in India, but most of them are still based in and have their headquarters in the U.S. So it’s much better for us to get experience working in the corporate headquarters, where the technology and the business methods are advanced.  And the industrial exposure at such a level will give us an edge when we return to work for companies based in India.

Where is your office and where do you live?
The AP office is on 33rd Street, in mid-town Manhattan. I live in Harrison, N.J., just a half-hour train ride away from my office. I live in the same apartment I had while I was at NJIT, because other than being located near to NJIT, Harrison has all necessary amenities close by and the familiarity of the neighborhood greatly helped me settle down easily.  I have two roommates who like me came from India to study at NJIT. It’s a very comfortable living arrangement. 

When you were in India looking for graduate schools, you were attracted to NJIT because of the academic choices it offered. Can you explain that?
Yes, NJIT offers a lot of different majors. I, for instance, studied Internet Engineering, a unique major I’ve never seen offered at universities, both in India and abroad. At most Indian universities, the majors don’t have that flexibility. And with the courses offered at NJIT, students can pick electives and structure their majors to their interests.  So international students should look at a school’s curriculum and majors to see how flexible they are.

What other advice do you have for students in India or other countries who are considering coming to NJIT for a degree and perhaps a job in America?
The two most misleading points that most Indian students coming abroad fall prey to are these: one, a school’s rankings/reputation, and two the availability of Research/Teaching Assistant positions in a school’s departments. I would strongly recommend that students keep in mind that the location of the university plays a major role in determining whether graduates will find good jobs. NJIT is an east-coast school close to Manhattan and to Jersey City, N.J., a financial center on the Jersey side of NYC. This means that NJIT students and graduates are in close proximity to thousands of major companies.

NJIT’s location, you say, is a benefit to students culturally.  How so?
NJIT’s location helps students grow and become cosmopolitan.  The campus is an interesting location – it is situated in Newark, a short subway ride away from New York City, the world’s most important city. And city life allows NJIT students to grow socially and culturally. To compete in today’s job market it helps to be worldly and cosmopolitan.  Employer’s want that in employees.

Can international students who are considering coming to NJIT contact you directly for advice?
As an NJIT graduate and fellow international student, I would love to offer any kind of guidance and support that would help students through their career-building days. You can contact me on Facebook or directly by email: 

(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)