Massive changes have happened to our lives in the past year, most notable is how virtual our world is due to the pandemic. Previously you would have meetings in a room and battle over who booked what room, now all you need to do is click ‘new Zoom/Teams meeting’ and done. No fuss about physical space. For students, classes have gone from auditoriums to their own four walls at home. During university, a big part of professional and academic development is internships. In the past, a lot of companies provided in-office opportunities instead of virtual. Being in the office and seeing how people work is such an integral part of an internship and one of the main reasons to spend some time with a specific company.
In October 2019 preparations began to accommodate three students from the University of Glasgow at the Colt office in Frankfurt for June 2020. As an alumna, I was going to be one of the hosts of the Global Ambassador Programme that the university runs. However, COVID-19 proved to have a much bigger impact than anyone anticipated. Subsequently, the internship was cancelled. In May 2020, I was approached by the university again. Seeing that COVID-19 was here to stay for at least a little while, we tried working on a solution. Seeing how everything else in the working world had gone virtual we decided to give a virtual internship a try.
With only a month’s preparation time, and my plan to involve as many colleagues and departments as possible, it was a real challenge. But thankfully collaborating proved easy, and within three weeks I managed to put together an agenda with different focal points on the industry and self-development. My thinking behind the agenda was “what would they have seen in the office that they could still see online?”.
The agenda was therefore full of sessions. Some were with myself talking about crucial transferable skills, such as verbal and nonverbal communication. There were also sessions about LinkedIn and its importance in the professional world, as well as meetings with colleagues from across the globe who talked about their professional life. The students were welcome to ask questions and their interest was evident as the staggering majority of the sessions ran until the last second.
In the end, the internship was a complete success with the students learning as much as possible, the university as well as Colt trying out a new format of internships, and paved the way for future collaboration. Another internship was requested and is taking place this week with a new agenda tailored to the students’ degrees and interests.
What are the lessons learned here? Collaboration, communication and connectivity have played the most crucial role over the past year and in setting up this event. Communication tools such as Zoom and Teams have made it possible to connect Glasgow and Frankfurt and marked the beginning of a new partnership. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, being able to give interns the chance to educate and upskill themselves has been an insightful experience, not only for the students but also for everyone involved in the sessions. It showed once again that connectivity truly does matter.
Alexandra Damianlieva, Sales Assistant Indirect Channel DACH