Making an Impact from the Kitchen Table
PROVO, Utah – Oct 12, 2020 – When M’Kenna Breckenridge, a senior in the strategy program at BYU Marriott School of Business, first got an internship offer from CVS Health, she didn’t anticipate that she’d be completing that internship at her kitchen table. For Breckenridge and dozens of other BYU Marriott second-year strategy students, an unanticipated change brought growth and unique skills that they will carry into their future careers.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many employers were forced to rethink the way that they structured internship programs. Most in-person internships transitioned online. Students who had planned to work in cities around the country instead worked from their own homes.
Tanner Ferguson, a student from Meridian, Idaho, experienced some of these adjustments for his internship, also at CVS Health. “The clients I worked with were in the eastern standard time zone, so I had to adjust my daily schedule as if I were living in that area of the United States, even though I was living in Utah at the time,” he says. “I also had to learn how to be personable and communicate effectively with colleagues and clients using video conferencing software and other technology.”
Even though students completed their internships in nontraditional ways, employers still found ways to ensure that those students had positive experiences. “EY usually takes all of their interns to a comedy show, so they hired a comedian for a private virtual show this year. The comedian asked us to give him the most random topics we could think of and he would freestyle rap in real time, incorporating anything we threw at him,” says Rhea Walters, a student from Draper, Utah, who interned with EY-Parthenon.
While some employers created virtual events, others prioritized virtual networking. Austin Henline, from Logan, Utah, completed an internship with LinkedIn. “In my twelve weeks at the company, I had 126 thirty-minute informational interviews with LinkedIn employees, ranging from VPs and managers to fellow interns,” he says. “These experiences helped me to make the most of the internship and learn a lot about the company.”
While meeting new people in coffee chats, meetings, or virtual events, students took advantage of opportunities to learn from professionals already working in areas that interested them. Tyler Squire, a student from Lehi, Utah, learned from his coworkers in his internship with the American Bankers Association. “Every day I met with the brightest minds in the banking industry and asked them questions about anything banking related,” he says. “From mortgages to IRAs, everything was free game, and every one was eager to teach me. I was always anxious to hear what they had to say.”
Working in their respective roles also helped students learn how to be better employees. “I've learned a lot about the importance of communication and visibility,” says Isaac Lyon, a student from Mesa, Arizona, who interned with Boston Consulting Group. “One of the hardest parts of remote work is not being able to demonstrate that you’re working hard and creating output. Unless you show your managers and co-workers what you’re doing, it’s easy to fall off the radar. I’d like to carry what I’ve learned in this internship about constant, clear communication into future roles.”
Students learned to adapt to the changing world around them and shared their insights with their coworkers and bosses. “Everyone is figuring out the virtual world. Whether you've worked for ten years or ten weeks, everyone is a novice in this new environment. I learned to not be afraid to voice my opinion and share insights,” says Breckenridge, a student from Springfield, Missouri.
In addition to learning new skills, students provided meaningful contributions to the organizations they worked for. “When I gave my final report presentation to my supervisors and executives, seeing how excited they were about the impact of my project made me feel that my work added real value for the company,” says Ben Murphy, from Rocklin, California, who interned for Ford Motor Company.
Though these students did not complete their internships in the way they had anticipated, they saw unexpected blessings that came from their unique experience. “My wife needed to stay in Utah to work, and I would have needed to travel to Michigan for the summer. The opportunity to stay together over the summer was a blessing,” says Murphy. “We have all been part of an extreme circumstance that is causing everyone to adapt and build new routines. I’m hopeful that these new ways of doing things will lead to developing new resources, capabilities, and technologies that will ultimately serve to improve society.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kenna Pierce