Long-Term Advantages of a Virtual, Summer Internship
July 30, 2020
As a senior in college, I expected my last semester of school to be memorable but couldn’t have predicted just how unforgettable it would be. Taking a full course load of 21 credit hours, I welcomed spring break as a refreshing interim amidst my last few months of class. Then, COVID-19 hit, and the World Health Organization declared the event to be a pandemic.
I received notice of an extended spring break while professors scrambled to revise the course curriculum and prepare to teach remotely for the rest of the semester. While this sudden change of plans wasn’t how I envisioned the conclusion of my senior year, I proceeded to take my final exams online and attend a virtual graduation ceremony. With my summer plans in question and great uncertainty of what the next few months would bring, I was ecstatic to learn that I would be able to complete my summer internship with Clarabridge in a virtual capacity. All was not lost!
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau
At that point, I was well-accustomed with virtual platforms such as Zoom and GoToMeeting, but I had to figure out how to prove myself, adapt to the professional world and mesh with the company culture all while being completely remote.
Back in February, I completed my interview at Clarabridge HQ, where I gained a glimpse of the vibrant, buzzing office and met everyone on the Talent and Culture team. I was certain the internship would be fun, fast paced, and engaging. Despite the challenges of a virtual internship, I was determined to learn the ins and outs of Talent and Culture team’s role within the company while immersing myself in the culture that I fell in love with in February.
During the first week of the internship, I met virtually with the team every day and worked on numerous assignments. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised to find that the company had seamlessly pivoted to embrace remote operations. Relief! With all the tools and support my team offered, I knew I could succeed if I put in the effort.
Of all my tasks, the most challenging one was drafting the weekly update emails sent out to the entire company. No pressure, right? Although terrified, I quickly gained an appreciation for researching the weekly topic, which drew me closer to the company culture and helped me understand how to communicate with employees in a way that resonates. Over time, I became better acquainted with the people in the company and the culture they had built. I soon learned to view writing the company-wide email as an opportunity to enhance the employee experience with a helpful, informative update instead of as a high-pressure task that warranted my initial fears.
The last few weeks of my internship have prompted me to reflect on the initial goals I set for myself at the beginning of the experience. I learned so much about the importance of the Talent and Culture team as it navigated through a challenging and unprecedented time. The team welcomed my ideas and empowered me to help create programs to drive structure, support employees and ensure their voices remain heard in the midst of uncertainty and change. I am proud of how I successfully contributed to the team and learned to work in a corporate HR team. In the end, I achieved my initial goals as an intern in a role that centers around in-person relationship building without ever shaking a hand or sitting at a conference table. Shall I say hindsight is… 2020?
For one of my main projects, I created a robust summer camp for employees’ children that was packed full of educational activities to help kids stay busy while their parents worked from home. The educational and STEM-based activities were designed so that children could enjoy them with little guidance and so that parents could focus on work and other tasks. I also helped to brainstorm, create and develop a Diversity and Inclusion Program at Clarabridge. Being a part of this project was invaluable and helped me better understand how the time, energy and thought that goes into creating such programs can have a large and lasting impact on the company.
During the entirety of my internship I hoped that we would eventually make our way back into the office. Although that day never came, this experience has been incredibly rewarding. I learned so much from the daily team meetings, the multiple company-wide seminars and even the weekly intern meetings.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.” -Abraham Lincoln
My advice for future interns and recent grads who are nervous to enter the professional world in a virtual setting is to trust that your academic skills will translate to your role and prepare you to continue growing. Engage with your team and your managers every day, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others in the company. No matter how many Slack messages you must send or meetings you must attend to learn, just do it!
It’s been incredibly rewarding for me to witness how the Talent and Culture team works at a global company and have the opportunity to provide programmatic recommendations. To the current employees at Clarabridge, thank you for fostering an environment in which interns like myself can increase our knowledge and gain professional experience. Everyone’s guidance and approachability made this internship inviting from day one, and I learned that when a company has a strong culture, it doesn’t matter if an internship is completed through a computer screen.
Whitlee Matheny is an Intern with the Talent & Culture team at Clarabridge. She is a recent graduate of George Mason University and a Fauquier County native. During her time at Clarabridge she discovered her niche for recruiting. While entering the professional world during the midst of a global pandemic wasn’t easy, Clarabridge made her transition comfortable and informative. She has now gained valuable skills to apply to her future positions in talent acquisition or other HR roles.