College, Internships, and Career Experiences: Heidi Cousineau

by Stasia Lopez / Sep 15, 2014 /
Stasia Lopez's picture

With all the possibilities and interests one person has, choosing a major can be challenging. Add in the search for an internship and that can be even more stressful. Heidi Cousineau, a soon to be December 2014 graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, will be earning a degree in Economics with a minor in Mathematics. This past summer, Heidi interned for VISA in Wilmington, Delaware! Read her interview below to learn more about her experience working for one of the most well-known companies in the world as well as a story that illustrates one of perseverance and dedication:


College, Internships, and Career Experiences: Heidi Cousineau


How did you choose your major? How did you choose the college that you chose to attend?

Choosing my major was definitely not an easy feat for me. I came to Pitt as an engineering student but quickly realized that it was not the career path that was best for me, so I did a lot of switching in order to find out that economics more suited my interests. Choosing a college and a major is extremely stressful and challenging for a lot of people, but the really awesome thing is that you aren’t expected to know what major you 100% want to be when you enter as a freshman. There is a lot of room for changing and switching and so many people available to help guide you in the right path.


How did you find your internship? What resources did you use? Was your internship for credit/not for-credit/ paid or unpaid?

Finding an internship is extremely challenging, as they are limited and extremely competitive in selection, especially in business where I wanted to be. I had no idea which company I wanted to intern for, but rather knew I wanted to intern with a Fortune 500 company. Though it might not be the best method for many people, I simply printed out a list of the top 500 companies and applied one by one until I hit around 200-300 applications. Though this might seem really unnecessary, it actually can be necessary in some situations, especially given the competitive nature of these companies. I was fortunate enough to land a paid internship with an extremely successful and innovative company, and I definitely credit that to the hard work I put into the application process.


What inspired you to consider VISA for an internship? How did you hear about it?

Visa is a company that almost everyone knows, uses, and has an association with in some method, whether indirect or direct. I chose Visa over the other offers because it seemed like the best fit for me to grow in my interest in business and also because I knew it was going to provide so many amazing opportunities that I would not be able to get anywhere else. It was the best decision I have made for my career thus far by a long shot.


What were the tasks and projects that you had to complete in your VISA internship and what skills did you gain? Please discuss your employer’s expectations of you.

I was lucky in that I was given a lot of responsibility right off the bat. I worked on the merchant sales team, so I supported the account executives who were responsible for the relationship between Visa and merchants (i.e., Dunkin Donuts, Macy’s, etc.). This entailed research projects, data analysis, and also independent projects assigned by my manager. I learned a lot about so many different facets of business: sales, communication, and quantitative analysis to name a few.  My employer and I developed a great relationship and although her expectations were high, she was my advocate and friend which really helped me grow as an intern in the company.


Do you feel that you grew your network while interning? If so, how?

I absolutely feel I was able to network while in my internship. The headquarters for Visa is located in California, so I really utilized LinkedIn as a way to connect with the people that I indirectly and directly worked with and might not have had the opportunity to meet. Everyone on the team wanted to see me excel, so I was able to meet a lot of different people who helped me grow.


Did anything surprise you about interning? Did interning inspire you academically, vocationally, or in any other way? Did it confirm that you chose the right major and the right field?  Can you discuss any challenges that you had from your internship?

Interning was great for me because it gave me a whole new perspective on the corporate world. I learned that I want to be in the payments industry and that I wanted to work for that company. It confirmed my love for math and analytics while also introducing me to sales and communication within the corporate world. Without this internship, I probably would still be unsure of my career goals, so it was tremendously beneficial to my vocational building as a whole.


Can you share with us a memory from your internship experience as a take-away?

My favorite memory was getting to fly to San Francisco, California my first day on the job. It just so happened that the team meeting was the week I started, so they flew me across the country and it was an amazing experience. I got to meet so many people, experience working in a whole new way, and got a lot of motivation to work hard so that I too could be living out there someday with the rest of the team.


Any advice for students thinking about interning?

The best piece of advice I could give is to be aggressive when applying and not to give up. It might be weeks or months before you hear back, but the best thing you can do is follow-up with the companies and make sure you keep applying until you find something that is right for you. Interning will give you a great way to build your resume, gain great skills, and to learn about what you want out of a career, so it is an important thing to try at least once in your college career.


What is up next for you? Anything you’d like to add/share?

Right now I am in my last semester of college, which I am sure is going to fly by. I hope to move out to California after I graduate in December and, regardless of where I am headed career wise, I know I have a huge network of support gained through the internship that will guide me in the right direction. Best of luck to everyone in their intern search and if you ever have questions or want some advice or guidance, I would be more than happy to help guide you in your search or give you a different perspective. Email: Cousineau.heidi[at]




Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.


Photo courtesy and copyright Heidi Cousineau