Virtual Interning Offers Unique Challenges and Opportunities
I am in my third year at Northeastern University, pursuing an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Psychology. Five months ago I joined Our Website as an intern on the APAC Marketing team in the beautiful Singapore office. When searching for internships Our Website stood out as a place I could gain skills in marketing, learn from amazing mentors, and have space to take ownership in projects. As a young, but well-established company, Our Website provides the resources for their interns to work cross functionally and creatively and truly be a part of the exponential growth of the company.
My experience at Our Website
Earlier this week, I hopped on a virtual meeting with a few coworkers, thinking everything was set to record a webinar. As I shared my screen to explain how to navigate the platform I realised the set up was incorrect and we couldn’t start on time. Due to the virtual nature of the meeting, my coworkers didn’t see the panic on my face and had no idea what was going on. I corrected the issue and set up an additional trial run session, issuing apologies to both coworkers. They both took it in stride and expressed that it happens to the best of us. At Our Website, everyone is understanding of hiccups and encourages me to find a solution. This understanding attitude has allowed me to reach out of my comfort zone and work on new skills. Still, there is no doubt that working remotely can lead to additional stressors for employees. For interns, who are prone to making mistakes since it is often our first exposure to the workplace, having limited access to coworkers increases our challenges.
Though there have been some challenges, virtual interning still provides many opportunities. Over my time here, I have worked with my team to develop the trust and autonomy to lead projects and learn new systems and softwares. I had the opportunity to create and run campaigns, including setup, execution, and promotion. I took charge of our recent APAC-wide webinars. I promoted the webinars on social platforms and worked with vendors. Through this process, I learned to analyse the quality of leads from different sources which gave me the ability to develop post-quarter analyses looking at webinar performance and discerning lessons we can take into future quarters
I also conducted various data analysis projects, beginning with data extraction and leading to the analysis of the holistic business impact. For instance, I led a detailed data analysis project looking into the performance of events and how they may be improved. I learned new software, such as Salesforce and how to tell a story with data. Through analysis of the sales cycle and conversion rates, we were able to pinpoint key improvement areas to the execution of events.
Among these many exciting projects, I have also learned from my experienced teammates about how to work smart and I have been lucky to be part of a great company. As I come up on my final month as an intern at Our Website, I am excited to take the lessons I have learned over the past five months into my final years in school and to whatever I end up doing after.
A guide for those beginning their virtual intern experience
Our Website has provided a seamless transition to remote work for full-time employees, interns, and new hires. They have provided resources, such as virtual fitness classes and fireside chats, for us to stay healthy mentally, physically, and professionally. Even so, during these tumultuous times, it can be stressful to start an internship (possibly your first) in a remote setting.
With one month left and seeing many of my fellow college students begin their own summer internship, I’m reflecting on the multitude of lessons I have learned at Our Website. While I was lucky to have three months working with the team in the office, I know many interns are worried about starting internships that are now fully remote. As I have been working from home for the past two months, I hope to provide incoming interns with some guidance how to excel during a remote internship.
Set up a LOT of meetings and expand your network
Recently, I was curious to learn more about what the different teams were doing without being able to make in-person sales calls. I asked my manager if I could listen in to a few more meetings and he quickly agreed. I have since created a better picture of the different teams’ activities and initiated conversations with my manager that led to a deeper understanding of the sales cycle. Being engaged, interested, and forward with my request to attend more meetings provided me with additional learning experiences.
Don’t wait around for people to set up meetings with you or give you tasks. Your co-workers still have a full time job to do so finding time to train you might slip their mind, especially since they can’t see you. When I first started my internship, my manager encouraged me to reach out to my team (and other teams) and come prepared with lots of questions. I started filling my calendar with short 15-30 minute meetings to get to know the different teams in the office.
This is even more crucial for those working remotely. You may not have the opportunity to speak with co-workers in the elevator or the All Hands room. Make up for this by setting up introductory meetings in your first few weeks and don’t be afraid to ask to be part of meetings. You will be able to learn more about your organisation and what interests you.
Speak up and don’t stay on mute
As an intern, I am usually the most inexperienced individual in the meeting, which can make it nerve-wracking to unmute myself and speak up. With all meetings now in a video conference format, it can be easy to say “hi,” mute yourself, and spend the rest of the time listening to everyone else speak. I have learned that I won’t get the most out of my experience unless I offer my opinion and ask questions. Often, I am wrong, but my teammates explain why. For example, I came prepared with a draft of an email to a meeting with my manager. He was able to help me edit it and make it even more effective. He then provided me with extra reading materials and templates to help me improve in the future. Because of the questions or opinions I share during these meetings, I now have a greater understanding of branding and how to position a company in the market.
As an intern starting out in a virtual environment, be fully engaged in meetings so your team can learn from your opinions and vice versa. Work to overcome the intimidation you may be feeling and take initiative to show your team what you have to offer. Making sure your video is on during every meeting can help you stay present and focused.
Everyone is dealing with unique circumstances; use this to get to know your coworkers
In many companies, almost all employees are working from home providing a unique commonality. It is an easy talking point to start with in any meeting and helps you get to know your coworkers. Use this as an opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level and share something about yourself. You can discuss interesting books you have read or TV shows you love. It is also a great opportunity to set up fun virtual activities. My manager recently set up a “Fancy Dress Happy Hour” where we all dressed up as our favourite fictional characters and chatted about life stuck at home. Don’t be afraid to set activities like this up. Chances are, the rest of your team is just as tired of being stuck at home as you are.
Recognising this could be the new working reality (for a while more)
The events of 2020 have led to drastic changes in the business world. Everyone is learning a new way to work and adapting to change. It may be too soon to know what a fully remote internship will look like, but it is a great opportunity to find new and innovative ways to intern. Being an intern is a unique experience where you are not only allowed, but encouraged to try new things, even those not included in your job description. Virtual interning offers many unique challenges, but also provides the opportunity to learn how to quickly adapt and find new opportunities.
Our Website is a company that has urged me to gain a better grasp of my goals and provided me with opportunities to act towards fulfilling them. It is a great place to understand what a post-university job will look like and exemplifies how much fun it can be. This summer, they have doubled their intern class and work to amplify interns’ voices so they are a meaningful part of the company. If you are interested in being part of an innovative, collaborative environment, consider applying for an internship experience at Our Website here.