COVID-19 Doesn't Stop Win:Win of Summer Internships

By Madison Wickett | International Affairs and Modern Languages senior, Georgia Institute of Technology
Jul 28, 2020 12:00 PM ET
Summary: 

By Michele Robinson-Pontbriand | Director Corporate Social Responsibility

I have always valued the work and outside perspective that university interns bring into Keysight, and especially enjoy exposing tomorrow’s leaders to the role environmental sustainability, social impact and ethical governance can play in their future work. Truth be told, I always learn something new by engaging with interns too! This year was no different.

Due to COVID-19, Keysight moved to remote-only summer internships for the first time. While this posed challenges from a managerial perspective, there was concern about the impact this change would have on the quality of intern work, as well as their ability to fully benefit from it. However, even with its challenges, I can confidently say that it was still a win:win opportunity for both Keysight and our summer interns.

For example, I had the honor of bringing Madison Wickett — an International Affairs and Modern Languages student from Georgia Institute of Technology — into Keysight as my corporate social responsibility (CSR) summer intern. While she originally was slated to sit next to me at the Keysight offices in Colorado Springs, CO, she ended up working remotely from Michigan. My initial concerns about work quality with a remote intern went right out the window as I recognized how efficient her online communications and independent work capabilities were. In addition, it seems she also benefited from this internship, even having some unique experiences that she can take with her into future job roles.

To understand the intern experience in this unique COVID-19 summer, I asked Madison to pen a blog post about her time with us to share with others. Below is what she wrote. I am so thankful for the learnings from this summer’s interns and being able to maintain that company/intern win:win, and won’t hesitate to consider future remote internships if needed! Have a read …

Blog

By Madison Wickett | International Affairs and Modern Languages senior, Georgia Institute of Technology

When I first interviewed for Keysight in late February, COVID-19 was not yet the imposing force on our lives that it is today. It had just reached the United States and even as it spread in early March, some speculated that it would not extend as far as it has. Before the lockdowns, mass shift to work-from-home, and my haphazard online classes as a college student, I imagined myself moving to Colorado Springs for the summer and gaining my first experience in the corporate world as a CSR intern. In my final weeks at Keysight, unexpectedly stationed in suburban Michigan rather than Colorado, I reflect on how COVID-19 has shaped this experience as a new employee in a new sector, industry, and field.

For as much as I worried about the challenges of remote work and building connections virtually, I did not anticipate how much of my internship would stay the same or how many unique experiences I would be fortunate enough to have due to this change in circumstances.

Connecting with Strangers Virtually

While many of us love to disable our video cameras during large meetings, I’ve come to appreciate that it really is an important way to connect with others, especially those you haven’t met in person before. Prior to my first day, I had never seen my manager’s face outside of a stock photo on the Keysight website. All of our interviews had been over the phone, and I wasn’t sure if that trend would continue once my internship began. Would I be able to build a professional relationship with someone if I never saw them face to face? Luckily, we used video in all our meetings, and I benefitted from facial cues to communicate and connect with my manager.

I still struggled with meeting other interns, however. Instead of socializing at and after work, we were logging on to weekly WebEx events. There was some camaraderie in seeing other interns on video in the same situation as me – working from their childhood bedrooms in the middle of a pandemic. Playing trivia with a small team acted as the closest true social interaction I experienced at Keysight. Bonding and teambuilding remotely will continue to be a challenge during COVID-19, but it can best be handled by emphasizing small group connections within teams and coworkers.

Different Location, Same Workflow

Working in an independent, global, and nontechnical role made my transition to remote work fairly easy. I didn’t require any special equipment outside of a laptop, I wasn’t missing out on standups or talking through problems with coworkers. The further I got into my internship, the more I realized that not much had changed due to being remote. Day to day, the only thing that really would have been different is that I would be commuting to an office, wearing nicer clothes, and having my check-ins with my manager in-person.

Many of my projects required working with other functions such as investor relations, sourcing, customer compliance, legal, and the Sustainability, Safety & Security teams. Due to Keysight’s global nature, these positions were spread across the map from California to Malaysia and beyond. Working with these partners required careful scheduling, patience, and some late nights. Even though I added an extra time zone compared to my manager in Colorado Springs, I would’ve handled these obstacles even if my internship had been on-site.

Unexpected Upsides of Working Remotely

In spite of all the change and obstacles, the pandemic afforded me some opportunities that I would not have had as an on-site intern, particularly educational opportunities. Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) – a nonprofit organization focused on sustainable business strategies, of which Keysight is a member – moved their summer meetings to a virtual format, allowing me to attend at no cost. These webinars broadened my understanding of CSR and how companies can engage with social and environmental justice. Due to the pandemic, my learning extended beyond Keysight’s understanding of CSR and gave me a more diverse perspective on how to approach environmental, social, and governance issues.

Gaining experience in a remote work environment also gave me valuable skills as I head into my final year of college. More and more companies are embracing remote work, and even more so after the success of this mass work-from-home experiment. Productive communication through online messaging and virtual meetings will remain a key component of successful remote teams – as well as teams spread across the country or world.

As an international studies student intending to join the global workforce, Keysight gave me crucial experience in the future of work that will be an asset for many years to come.