College students across the U.S. were ready for good times in the sun as spring break was about to kick off this year. But warnings about the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted their lives before any toes could reach the sand.
Students’ normal summer activities – music festivals, family backyard BBQs, evenings out with friends – weren’t safely possible anymore.
At Abbott, we quickly worked to alter plans and provide students the opportunity for at least one summer tradition – their internships, which are key building blocks for professional experience in a well-rounded college curriculum.
Despite the challenges brought by COVID-19, we knew our interns would persevere and have successful virtual summers with us.
The Abbott Internship Experience
Our summer internship program is a unique chance for students to work on life-changing healthcare products that lets them use their classroom learning in the real world and gives them ownership of meaningful projects.
What we found this summer was that, even in a virtual world, our interns embraced remote work, taking advantage of all the “new normal” opportunities we offered them.
Instead of in-person meetings or dropping by a more experienced STEM colleague’s desk, our interns held virtual networking sessions, created groups within our intern app, and scheduled web conferences with their teams. Their priorities were learning and understanding how our products are made and brought to market.
Supply chain intern Madeline Carr worked on a project to comply with our vascular devices with European Union regulations and Kaela Evans, a quality engineering intern, worked on testing equipment for product quality measures. Projects like these didn't make remote work a barrier.
Britany Osterman worked with industrial engineers to develop a more efficient way to use a supplier innovation scorecard.
"This experience helped me realize why I wanted to be an industrial engineer and why I wanted to work at Abbott," Osterman said. "I got to work with a diverse team. I got to work on innovative projects and there were always opportunities for learning and endless opportunities to take on projects that create change."
Building strong mentor and senior leader connections gave our interns perspective on how our products help people around the world and provided a long view of what a career in healthcare could bring.
Mentorship took on a new meaning. For the first time, our interns and executives were experiencing a unique challenge together. "What's the best lighting for a video conference?" and "Can you hear me now or am I still on mute?" were common challenges interns and executives faced together.
Our teams working directly with our interns in all areas of our business gave them the extra support they needed to feel confident.
"It's easy to see the pride people have for their work and their desire to be connected," said Jessica Asuncion, an environmental, health, and safety intern. "Despite being remote, I still felt welcomed and appreciated. Regardless of who you are at Abbott, someone's ready to support you."
Osterman began her internship experience at Abbott as a high school student. This year as a college intern she felt nervous at the program’s start and at one point unsure of how to complete her project. But she asked for help and learned new skills from her team in the process.
"When I reached out to my team, they welcomed me with open arms," she said. "I was able to meet women leaders at Abbott and learn about their career paths and backgrounds."
Why Students Keep Coming Back
Our interns receive real-world experiences that prepare them for the healthcare STEM jobs of the future. But they also benefit from making professional relationships and having a chance to make a difference in people's lives, which motivates them to come back to build a career with us.
Janhvi Dubey started with the high school internship program and through that, realized she wanted to pursue biomedical engineering. The high school internship program focuses on bringing more women and people from diverse backgrounds into STEM fields. She was inspired by the program's focus on giving back and returned for additional summer internships through college.
"I was networking, bringing value to my team, growing unexplored skill sets, and defining who I was as a person," she said. "The act of giving and helping — as others give and help you — was my biggest takeaway that summer. And it stuck with me the four years I returned to Abbott."
Michael Brennan, a finance intern in the electrophysiology and heart failure operations team, said he felt proud to work for the company.
"We are seeing firsthand how important healthcare and having a positive impact on the world is," he said. "That is why I'm proud to work for Abbott, who pioneers and innovates to make products that truly change people's lives."
The balance of remote and in-person internship experiences may shift in the future, but that doesn't diminish the impact interns can have or the learning opportunities available. Being able to thrive in a remote working environment is a strong skill for a student to gain early in his or her career. Internships are a vital part of college students' education and successfully completing this summer’s program is a testament to their adaptability, grit, and strength.
The Abbott Internship Program is No. 1 in Vault's 2021 Best Healthcare Internships. It also ranks No. 1 in this year's Best Internships for Engineering and Best Internships for Data Analytics. Abbott's Internship Program is No. 12 overall in Vault's 100 Best Internships for 2021.
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