Meet our virtual interns
What do you do when a global pandemic threatens your summer internships? Move them over to the virtual world of course! Here's the story of our 2020 virtual interns.
While many others cancelled their internships this year, we decided to go for a virtual approach. So, let’s meet some of this year’s interns and see what they think of this new way of approaching an internship, what they’ll be doing and what they’re expecting of us.
Before starting, each intern was given a list of projects to choose from, varying from theoretical work looking at how Equinor could become an 100% digital workplace or the effect of Covid-19 on the energy business to more hands-on technical work and development.
“The big question this spring was whether or not our internships were cancelled. I was really surprised and glad when I got the email that they were still on.”
Michael is an engineering and ICT student at NTNU, and chose a project working with testing the Azure Internet of Things platform.
“Playing around with gadgets, getting them connected to each other and the internet and seeing what they can do sounds really interesting. I’ve played around with IoT for fun at home, but never with an actual goal in mind,” he says.
The first week, Michael and his four teammates have taken part in introduction webinars and talks, as well as the first meetings with their mentors. They have also been sent Raspberry Pi’s to start working.
“Our mentor seems as interested and excited as us, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the team better. And I’m excited to see what the end product looks like, and if we’ll be able to make working prototypes,” Michael says.
In 2020, we welcomed 235 virtual interns to Equinor.
Internships aren’t just about getting to work in a company, it’s also about getting to know the people who work there. Which can be a challenge when everything happens virtually.
“When I first learned that the internship would be virtual, I was wondering what it would be like to not have an office to go to and meet colleagues in person. But it’s my first ever internship so I’m also not quite sure what I’ll be missing out on,” Sylvi Huynh smiles.
Sylvi is a third-year MSc student in computer science and is working on a project to create a web-app to use in Lean value stream mapping.
“It looks like we’ll be working quite a bit in front end, which I’m not very experienced in. But I’m excited to learn something new and hopefully get some new input from my teammates. Everyone’s from different programs and studies, so I think I’ll be able to learn a lot from them.”
She says that it seems like there’s a plan to make up for not being in the office and that she’ll get a feel of what it’s like to work in Equinor - even from home.
“I’m especially looking forward to learning more about what Equinor IT does and contributes to,” she adds.
Virtual internship quick facts
- From June 15 to July 31
- Interns work from home and in teams
- Each team receives a mentor to help them
- 20+ different projects and tasks to choose from
- Each team will create a report or product to present
- Weekly learning and social sessions on Teams
Taking responsibility from the start
Naturally, learning something new is far up on the list for any intern. And this year’s cases will give them ample opportunity. Ola Alstad, a 4th year mechanical engineering student focusing on robotics, will be working with web-augmented reality.
Here, the teams are faced with three cases; to enhance existing 3D models, explore how they can better give a sense of scale to models, and see how AR can interact with robots.
“I wanted to work with AR because it seems interesting and something I think there’ll be more of in the future. Even though I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to solve every challenge, I have faith that we’ll get there in the end,” Ola laughs.
The team all have in common that their studies focus on robotics. They’ll also get to put their time-management skills to a test, since they’re responsible for the progress and direction the work takes.
“I think it’s great that we get this amount of responsibility from the start. We get to decide the direction, but if we’re completely stuck then our mentor isn’t far away and always ready to help.”
Like most of us, he was uncertain what the year would look like as the Covid-19 pandemic grew in magnitude.
“While I’d prefer being in an office, I’m glad that they didn’t just cancel the internship. The biggest issue working from home might be overcoming the barrier of contacting people if you have any questions, which can be higher when you’re working remote,” Ola says.
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Customers lining up
You’ve probably picked up on this already, but the challenges we brought for the interns to solve are quite varied. And some intern teams even have eager customers awaiting for the products to be finished and released.
One of them is the WebViz Dash-component aiming to help when designing web plugins that model subsurface data.
“We’ve been told there’s already people waiting for the component we’re building. It’s super motivating to know that we’re working on something that’s going to bring actual value.”
“Our mentors gave us pointers on what ways to do it, but they also said that if we discover another way we’re encouraged to suggest it,” Erling adds.
Erling is one of three people working on that specific component, but the entire WebViz project has 11 interns in total. He’s just finished his third year of his MSc in computer science and was already used to working remotely with fellow coders.
“I think being in IT we have the least to lose from a virtual internship, since most of the work happens digitally anyway. I feel motivated to get to work, and expect to learn a lot this summer given the challenges our projects are giving us,” Erling says.
Creating an interactive program
When people started working from home in March we realized we had to figure out what to do with our interns.
“We started talking about if we should cancel this year’s internship, like many other companies have, or find a way to work around the situation. But we quickly decided to work around the problem and find a solution,” Tina Birgitte Hognestad says.
Tina is the project leader for this year’s internship programme, and tells us that while everything is online this summer there’s also a variety of learning and social web-based sessions available. At the end of the internship, every team will be presenting their report or finished product.
“I think we’ve been able to put together a programme that’s interactive, even though everything’s remote. We’re really proud to be able to offer internships to as many students as we do each year, and really glad we decided to give it a virtual go this year.”
Tina Birgitte Hognestad.
Summing up the virtual summer
Summer came and went - and so did our interns. But what was it actually like to be part of our first ever virtual internship?
You must be curious on how the summer went? Did it live up to their expectations? Was the virtual internship a success after all? Let's head down the internet highway and check in on some of our interns again, to find out! First one up: Sylvi Huynh.
“Summer really flew by quickly. It’s been challenging and I’ve learned a lot but we also had a lot of fun,” Sylvi smiles.
Together with her teammates, she’s been working on creating a web-app to use in Lean value stream mapping. But there’s a plot twist: none of them had any prior experience with web development.
“In the beginning we spent quite some time on just learning new tech and languages. But we quickly began coding and it was really exciting to see all the progress we made. We got a lot of responsibility right from the start which was very motivating.”
Sylvi had her very first internship ever this year, and was worried a virtual internship might end up feeling lonely. Turns out, it ended up being the opposite! The full team had daily meetings and Sylvi and her closest collaborator Håkon were never far apart.
“Early on we decided to have a Teams call going for the entire day, to simulate sitting next to each other. Then, we could just talk or ask questions when we wanted. It was almost like sitting together,” she smiles.
The Value Stream Mapping team were disciplined and handled the virtual work day well. They were open and eager to learn new tools and technology, possessed good communication skills as well as good leadership skills. The prototype VSM tool they delivered will play an important role in our upcoming continuous improvement work. We are impressed with their delivery. “
Elisabeth Siem, Lean Value Stream Mapping (VSM) mentor
An augmentation to the project
Ola Alstad spent the first part of the summer working with AR, but a couple of weeks in he was asked to join another project - the “Equinor Subsea Shuttle” prototype. Ola had been spotted on LinkedIn By Øystein B. Utbjøe, who saw that he had experience working on underwater drones. Ola and the rest of the team got to work on improving web-visualization for the drone.
They wanted to challenge themselves by using a different stack than they already knew, but at the same time they had to find one that wasn’t too challenging to use. After all, they had to get a product finished.
“We knew what we wanted to do, but all of the steps in getting there were entirely up to us. We were given a lot of freedom and responsibility, but since we had experience it wasn’t as intimidating."
They, like Sylvi’s team, had daily Teams calls to simulate an office landscape - making it easy to just ask questions when they popped up. Ola explains that as virtual interns in IT they weren’t lacking the tools to get the job done, but that they were missing out on everything that comes a long with working in an office.
“But if it’s like this next year as well it might be good to be in the offices for at least a part of the time if possible. It would mean we could meet other people and learn what they’re doing more easily,” Ola says.
Ola wasn’t the only intern to switch to the “Equinor Subsea Shuttle” prototype project this summer. He was joined by Michael Hoyer, who was also picked up from LinkedIn.
“Getting asked to join this project out of the blue was definitely a highlight of my summer. It was fun to see that there were people eager to see who we were as interns and saw an opportunity for us,” Michael explains.
When he first got the message that this year's internships would be virtual, he was happy to have an internship but also eager to see what it would be like.
“I was a little worried how relevant our tasks would be, what working from home and working in these teams would be like, but the internship exceeded my expectations. I’m really glad that I got this opportunity.”
While they had to do a lot of the work on their own, they weren’t left alone to sail the seas autonomously - like the drone is scheduled to do. Michael explains that the mentors they were working with were never far away, which gave them a sense of belonging to a team.
“We were very fortunate with our mentors, but organizing an internship like this is very reliant on good mentors. I heard of some teams who didn’t have as much follow-up from their mentors as us, which can make work a lot harder,” Michael says.
“The team I mentored did exceptional work and faced every challenge head on. Even though they have a lot to learn still, they possess a skill crucial to working in IT: learning on their own. I wouldn’t have any issues bringing them along as part of a team later on.”
Ole Martin Gjersvik, Azure IoT and Equinor Subsea Shuttle-prototype mentor
Perfectly sized teams
“This gave us real user feedback and even more insight in what functionality our end-users would need. It was really exciting to take this feedback, apply it to the component and see it being used later on,” Erling says.
Most intern teams were quite small and Erling explains that his team of three were a perfect size.
“We worked great together and really got to know each other, even though we only met virtually” he says.
And they really did contribute. Even before they began their work there were already people waiting for the upgraded component to be available.
"It was impressive to see the digital skill sets the students brought with them this summer. Mentoring has also been a great learning experience for us mentors as we had to work virtually and develop our own agile skill set. It has been a real pleasure to mentor the next generation co-workers this summer!"
Thorjan Knudsvik, Value Stream Mapping mentor
Not just a small cog
One of the last things they did was to restructure the repository and phase out the existing component.
“Now we know that what we made is already being used. It really feels like we’ve contributed to something important instead of just being a small cog in a big machine.”
“Our mentors were giving us hints on possible tools to use and how to do things, but we’ve been allowed to do things the way we wanted. Getting this level of trust was really motivating,” he adds.
“I got to spend the summer working with exactly what I wanted, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’m really pleased with what we created, even though I did miss being in an office at times,” Erling smiles.
We’ve definitely missed having our interns next to us this summer, but hopefully we’ll be able to welcome them back soon. Until then, stay safe and take care!
"The interns came with a variety of backgrounds (not just in Teams!) and it was very interesting to see what they came up with. They had a very steep learning curve since it was all new tech, but they handled it very well and made great progress during the summer."
Nicholas Dalhaug, Lost Circulation Material-teams and Morphometric databases-teams mentor
Tina Birgitte Hognestad