Landing an internship is exciting. Starting one remotely, during a pandemic? Also exciting, and much more insightful than you might think.
As my manager, Lee, puts it, 'Those quick, informal chats after a meeting is where a lot of the real work happens'.
Navigating a virtual environment can pose some challenges because things like emails and other general procedures stay the same, but the all-important human aspect changes completely. Meetings are virtual, collaboration is different, and things require a lot more scheduling than normal. As my manager, Lee, puts it, “Those quick, informal chats after a meeting is where a lot of the real work happens”.
Digesting the contents of the meeting and discussing those pressing afterthoughts generates so many great ideas. That part of work isn’t lost, it just takes the form of 1-on-1 meetings or a quick message.
Working at Xcel Energy as a demand response intern has been such a valuable and exciting experience. I can see my data analysis skills growing, and I feel I get to know the industry better each day, through projects, webinars and events, but most importantly the conversations I have. The space for those informal chats still exists, it’s just handled differently. Aside from the more technical skills I’m developing, I think the most important one is developing the skill to work remotely. I think this is an area where many people are learning as they go and trying to figure out what works. I can recall one of my first tasks being updating the onboarding documents after going through that process myself.
What works for me? Keeping organized notes, almost like a journal.
I have different tabs for different purposes, including one where I jot down thoughts immediately, and another where I organize them. This helps with turning those post-meeting thoughts into something more comprehensible. I’m completely confident sharing things with my team because I’m not trying to remember all my jumbled thoughts after our last meeting; I have it all written down and organized.
As an extrovert, someone who is energized by the presence of others, it can be daunting to start a new position remotely, where people appear as “talking heads” on a screen. For all intents and purposes, they are “there”, but it’s easy to feel disconnected sometimes. It’s quite a task to get to know new people virtually, but just as important as those post-meeting chats are the pre-meeting chats. Checking in, talking about weekend plans, what everyone’s doing to stay sane during this time, exciting developments in the industry, etc. It’s those conversations that are good reminders of their presence, from which an extrovert can be energized.
Despite its potential challenges, a remote internship provides opportunities to grow in new and exciting ways and learn about yourself, the way you work, and how you communicate and form relationships. In a way it forces you to be introspective and can be a step outside of your comfort zone.
-Derrick Bilal Snelling ‘21