Sannam S4 kicked off its 2020 Internship Program on May 11. Typically, all internships with the company have been paid and in-person, based out of Sannam S4’s various locations around the globe. In Washington DC, for example, the company’s office is only blocks from the White House and offers a unique experience for interns to live and work in the US Capital. Those in-person experiences have been put on hold and hours and pay needed to be cut in order to keep the program afloat amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but the opportunity to learn and gain exposure to a global company continues under a virtual framework with a couple of immediate benefits to both the company and the students that the typical model may not have provided.
The first benefit has been the expanded pool of applicants. With geographic location no longer a criteria for acceptance in the program, instead of recruiting only in the DC metro area, we expanded our search further and targeted other geographies where Sannam S4 has a presence, like North Carolina and New York. We also expanded our initial internship program size from two to six, giving more students more opportunities. As a result, six interns located across four different states participated in the program. This geographic diversity brings in new perspectives and also a wider talent pool to choose from.
Second, the virtual internship has forced us, as a company, to focus more squarely on projects that will add value to the intern’s resume. In the past, many projects tended to be assigned in an as-needed manner. Those day-to-day interactions in the office no longer happen and while they created a platform for collaboration and opportunity, they should not be a substitute for deliberate project planning and delegation. When the ad hoc work becomes the internship, the value of running and leading different initiatives and projects can be lost. While some projects may still be assigned on-the-fly, the intern program is now managed more purposefully to maximize value for all participants.
In under a month, we had adjusted to the new normal and learned that the following items can help students be successful in a virtual internship program.
- Recognize and communicate the challenging situation in order to create a sense of team and togetherness.
- Demonstrate the importance of providing valuable experience that aligns with the interns’ growth aspirations.
- Identify an Internship Program Sponsor who will guide the interns through the virtual internship journey and lead weekly meetings.
- Help establish a set work week by scheduling regular meetings led by the Internship Program Sponsor, including a group meeting to create a team-driven environment and a one-on-one check-in session to gauge the interns’ interests, project progress and bandwidth as well as provide regular feedback.
- Identify specific projects, particularly long terms ones, as well as Project Sponsors to lead the intern through these projects. A briefing session should be conducted to address any initial questions and set expectations for each project.
- Provide context about the company so interns can see how the projects they work on fit within the larger framework and objectives of the organization.
- Encourage interns to trust their judgement when executing projects and set 30 percent and 80 percent check-in marks to address any questions and guide the work product.
- Emphasize the importance of mentorship to the Internship Program Sponsor and Project Sponsors. Some of the most valuable experience interns can gain is through exposure to different leaders and their styles and approaches to working within a professional setting.
- Connect as often and as meaningfully as possible. Incorporating interns into company-wide initiatives and communication makes for a more engaging internship that can reflect the company’s culture despite the lack of an in-person experience.
- Offer training and learning and development opportunities. Sannam S4 offers a number of training modules and programs to support the professional development of its staff and these programs are extended to the interns as well.
During the course of the internship, projects were assigned based on interests and capabilities to ensure interns could make the most of the experience without being overextended. Weekly check-ins with the Program Sponsor made sure this continued to be the case. Aside from scheduled meetings, interns set their own schedules, allowing flexible use of their time and avoiding instances of desk warming.
Emphasis was placed on engagement in several forms: sessions were set up with various Sannam S4 employees to give insight into career development and different facets of the company, and participation in training modules was encouraged and, in some cases, required. Additionally, interns were encouraged to give feedback, ask questions, and make suggestions throughout the internship.
In some ways, virtual internships are dramatically different than the in-person programs Sannam S4 has offered in the past, but they do afford unique opportunities by removing physical distance from the equation. There are significant benefits with regard to the available talent pool and the structure of the program itself. Added diversity and a refocusing of program priorities can result in a more meaningful experience for the interns while leveraging that experience for the company.
The summer session was a positive learning experience for conducting and participating in a virtual internship and 4 of the interns are continuing with Sannam S4 this fall.
“My experience as an intern at Sannam S4 has been like no other internship I have experienced. Working under multiple project sponsors has given me the opportunity to have a bird’s eye view of the variety of interesting projects that are currently being run here at Sannam S4.
Another very exciting opportunity is to be a part of back-to-back meetings with key stakeholders in each project, including the CEO himself. These meetings have given me a very different perspective and outlook on the organization’s leadership.”
-Vasisht Guru Prasad | University of Rochester | NY, USA
Research and Operations Intern
“Despite being remote, everyone at Sannam S4 does such a good job of communicating regularly via email and video calls that it doesn’t feel like we’re as distant as we actually are.
The writing and editing projects I’m working on would be completed online even if I was working from a desk in an office rather than my desk at home, so the virtual experience hasn’t slowed me down. In fact, I actually prefer it; working remotely has given me a lot of flexibility with regard to my hours.”
-Brittany Lippincott | SUNY Morrisville | NY, USA
Events and Communication Intern
“Sannam S4 is uniquely suited for offering an internship in this way. I believe the online format has strengths as well as pitfalls; this program has been able to amplify the former and dodge the latter.
I have received nothing but exceptional treatment from my superiors, who are all very quick to respond to emails as well as keen to share their knowledge on tough projects.”
-Daniel Liguori | Vanderbilt University | MA, USA
Research and Operations Intern
“I would like to thank Sannam S4 for providing me with this exciting internship opportunity. It was an excellent learning experience and it allowed me to confirm my interest in pursuing a career as a data analyst.
The reports that I worked on were truly insightful. I thank Sannam S4 for showing confidence in my abilities.
I extend my gratitude and appreciation to the entire team of Sannam S4. It was great to see the teamwork and togetherness. Sannam S4 has amazing leadership and wonderful work culture. I’d be delighted to work for Sannam S4 again if given an opportunity.
-Shubham Malhotra | Delhi | India