Internships Bring IVC and Alvaka Networks Together for Student Success Student Success Profile

February 24, 2022

As Irvine Valley College student Mohammad Daher learned, an internship can be much more than just a semester spent working at a business. It can be a life-changing experience.

Mohammad, who goes by the nickname Mo, was a business student at IVC when he was one of three students selected in fall 2019 for an internship at Alvaka Networks, an Irvine business that helps companies manage and secure their information technology infrastructure.

Mo worked with Kristian Cruz, who is in charge of market development at Alvaka, on a variety of marketing tasks ranging from social media and blog posts to inputting data on potential customers. When his paid internship ended prematurely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alvaka employed him part-time until he graduated from IVC in May 2020.

Now a student at the University of California at Irvine, Mo says Cruz and Alvaka CEO Oli Thordarson have continued to mentor him in his career.

“That internship was my first segue into the real world, and getting a real job,” Mo says. “IVC and Alvaka shaped me significantly.”

Thordarson said his company also benefited from having the interns. He remembers a horrible internship when he was a college student in which he only did the mind-numbing work of sticking mailing labels on envelopes. He wanted more for the interns he hired.

“For the interns we’ve gotten, I’ve always looked to challenge them and have them learn something,” he says. “We give them true responsibilities and teach them and nurture them.”

Cruz said IVC interviewed students seeking to be interns and only sent the top candidates so the selection process was easier for her company. IVC also paid the interns, eliminating logistical and legal issues for Alvaka.

“They really spent a lot of time and effort,” she says of the college. “They tried to get a good pool of candidates for us.”

Thordarson says that having pre-selected interns who were paid by the college made the program a success.

“That was pretty groundbreaking,” he says. “That was cutting edge, a never-before-done approach that I’d never seen.”

In many fields, an internship can be a key component leading to a job. Mike Salviani, who teaches computer networking and cybersecurity at IVC, said employers are looking to hire people who can show they have experience with computers.

“Getting any kind of experience on a resume, whether it’s an unpaid internship or volunteering, is really valuable,” he says.

Salviani says computer networking is a field that now has negative unemployment, meaning more job openings exist than there are qualified people to fill them. “If you can get qualified, you can get a decent-paying job in the field,” he says.

Although the program in which IVC paid for student internships is currently on hold, Salviani said companies still contact the college seeking interns and those opportunities are passed on to students. Companies that have had internship programs with IVC include the Los Angeles Lakers, Saddleback Memorial Hospital, and United Parcel Service, among many others.

Mo, the IVC graduate, looks back fondly on his internship as part of his goal to excel in college and prepare himself for a career.

As a child of parents who immigrated from Jordan and never attended college, Mo valued his education. He was a good student in high school but pushed himself to do his best in college – part of the reason he had a 4.0 grade-point average at IVC.

“I knew I had more potential,” he says. “When I went to IVC, I matured more. I knew I could do better.”

When Mo graduates from UC Irvine this June, he will begin working for a leading financial consulting firm in San Francisco. He said his experience at Alvaka Networks helped shape the type of work environment he wants to have.

“You need to be surrounded by people who are full of life and energy,” he says. “A job should be fulfilling and fun.”