Pratik Tolani is a CU Boulder graduate who is currently gaining experience while on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). ISSS reached out to Pratik to ask about the type of training he is doing and how post-completion OPT has helped him gain practical training in his major field of study (Mechanical Engineering). ISSS is excited to spotlight Pratik’s experience and advice for other F-1 students who might be planning to apply for Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT.
Pratik is working as a Technical Analyst at Calico Energy which creates successful energy management programs and effective IT solutions for utilities and their partners. When asked about the type of projects Pratik is working on, he said, “I am working closely with team members who manage multiple utility programs like learning the details of the Demand Response program integrations and interactions with the grid. Additionally, I am working with the team on reporting and visualizations using RStudio (a data analysis tool) to analyze and improve program functionality and outcomes. My duties directly utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from my coursework and degree in renewable energy.”
Before applying for OPT, Pratik wishes he knew about the power of networking. Pratik says that he gained a lot from informational Interviews, networking on LinkedIn, conferences, and guidance from professionals in his field as opposed to just online applications as they are screened by applicant tracking systems. Pratik encourages students to instead aim for the unadvertised hidden jobs.
When seeking OPT authorization and applying for his current position, Pratik stated, “It was definitely smoother than I expected. I applied for positions online and emailed professionals from the company. I also set up an informational interview call with the company's CEO to get the gist of the company (always have thoughtful and unique questions ready for any interview). After the call with the CEO, I had interviews with 2-3 employees from the company to check for cultural/skill fit that eventually led to an offer letter.” ISSS wants to remind students that the Career Services Office at CU Boulder is a valuable connection for students in their career pursuits.
Pratik’s advice to a student applying for OPT is, “Research your industry as there are certain websites that are more effective for getting a job and focus on those. I will not deny the difficulty we face as international students, but it's all worth it in the end.” ISSS is here to help support each of our F-1 students who wish to pursue OPT. Students can and should take advantage of ISSS resources, workshops, and advising opportunities to understand the application process, reporting requirements, and status maintenance requirements associated with an OPT authorization.
Pratik wants others who are applying for OPT to, “Strive for progress not perfection. Always challenge yourself for you will be surprised by what you can achieve through sheer determination and hard work.” Furthermore, Pratik reminds students that OPT is a very good chance to gain practical experience through interaction with industry leaders and experts in your field. Make the most of it!
F-1 students are eligible to apply for post-completion OPT after they have completed all degree requirements or after completion of all coursework (excluding thesis or dissertation credits). The first day that F-1 students can apply for OPT is 90 days before the last day of enrollment in the final semester. The last day F-1 students can apply is 60 days after the last day of enrollment.
ISSS is proud of our students who are engaging in practical training. If you’d like to be featured in our OPT Spotlight Series in the future, please fill out this survey.