Covid-19 and Internships in Tech
May 16, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has led some companies to suspend their internship programs.
In May 2019, I started working at a local startup as an engineering intern. I built new features, fixed bugs, and even developed integrations for the company product. After summer, I continued the internship part-time into the following school year. I’d work remote on Monday and stop by the office on Tuesday and Thursday–about 10 hours of work per week. When the Covid-19 outbreak reached Colorado in early March, the company began moving completely online. Suddenly, I couldn’t just look over my shoulder to speak with someone and I was asking for code help through virtual conferencing.
After about two weeks, the company decided to end internships early due to the pandemic. I knew this was a possibility. That didn’t make me less anxious. After sending resumes and cover letters to so many organizations, completing coding challenges, and going through multiple interview screens, I had secured a summer 2020 internship with another company a few months earlier. I was afraid of losing that opportunity as well.
I’m not alone.
While some firms like Google and Microsoft will continue internships remotely, many organizations have, understandably, rescinded internships and even employment offers. The National Institute of Health, Yelp, Funding Circle, and Glassdoor have already cancelled their internship programs. More companies may follow suit as time passes.
Internships provide students with valuable experience, allow them to explore careers, and provide networking opportunities. Some students may even rely on summer employment to finance their academic goals or support themselves. Others will be entering a competitive job market when numerous potential employers have suspended hiring. Disruptions from Covid-19 will affect many individuals, among whom are people I see every day.
Natalie Garret is an Information Science PhD student who helps run CU Boulder’s Ethics in Computing Fellowship. Garret also works with Silicon Flatirons’s Startup Summer program which helps local startup interns create their own companies. According to Natalie, only five of fifty student participants retain internships. This year, Startup Summer opened applications to students interested in entrepreneurship even if they will not be interning this summer.
Are you a student who’s lost an internship because of Covid-19? Here’s a list of ideas you might consider:
Explore other internships.
Some companies have committed to their internship programs despite the pandemic and may still be hiring. This Github repo lists various companies’ hiring statuses and active internship positions.
Ask faculty about research.
Reach out to professors and labs to inquire about research projects. They might still be accepting student researchers.
Join programs like Startup Summer.
These programs can provide great learning and networking opportunities. I participated in Startup Summer in 2019 and our startup team continued after the program ended. We went on to win second place in CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge pitch contest. The experience let me develop my technical skills while making new friends and learning about entrepreneurship.
Get involved with the community/open source projects.
Improve your coding abilities while contributing to a meaningful cause. You might end up patching a bug for software you use everyday or making change with a positive impact on society. Right now, many initiatives are fighting to support the community during the Covid-19 crisis. They might just need your help.
Start a project of your own.
Build a web app, game, or a portfolio site. An arsenal of neat pet projects and a well-built portfolio site can help showcase your abilities and work. It can also be very fun.
Learn a new skill.
Many college courses revolve around a few specific programming languages. However, different technologies are used for different applications. Consider learning a new programming language to build something cool!
Take time to focus on hobbies.
Write a novel, draw, or even bake. Hobbies can be a great avenue for both learning and enjoyment. Remember to take care of yourself during these hard times.
To fellow students out there: I’m cheering you on!