May 21, 2020 -- Mallory Barrett had her life turned upside down by the coronavirus. Forced to leave the University of Michigan where she studies mechanical engineering, Barrett returned to her parents’ home to finish her junior year online after the school cancelled classes in March. Since then, she’s tracked every day on a chalkboard calendar in her kitchen, a constant reminder of the surreal weeks now behind her.
But these days, Barrett is looking ahead. On June 15, she and 297 others across the U.S. will begin virtual summer internships at Medtronic. Many global companies cancelled their internships or cut them short. Not Medtronic. The company recognizes those early in their career need meaningful experiences, and so is bucking that trend.
By transitioning 100% of its summer internship placements into virtual assignments, Medtronic preserved the 10-week program and honored its commitment to guide, advance and support this next generation of company leaders.
“Summer interns and early career professionals are tomorrow’s innovators,” said Patty McPhee, Vice President of Global Talent and Leadership Development, Medtronic. “We want them to be part of our exciting future.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases increased around the globe, Medtronic realized it would have to rethink the traditional summer internship program, which caters to the nation’s top engineering and technology students. Many of the facilities where interns typically work were closed to non-essential employees as Medtronic implemented work-from-home requirements.
A team of the company’s top problem solvers transformed the summer experiences, work projects and networking opportunities essential to a great intern experience. By early May, hiring managers had created virtual roles for every intern.
“The science and technical community really responded to make sure our interns could have a rich and meaningful experience this summer,” said Mike Hess, Vice President for Technology and Innovation, Medtronic. “With some of the more hands-on jobs that might otherwise be based in a lab, it required us to get creative. But this company is filled with innovative thinkers and we rose to the challenge.”
For some interns filling engineering positions, the company is shipping hardware to their homes so they can still conduct research. Some interns might also get to work with the company’s virtual reality platforms, which can replicate surgical procedures.
Interns also will get to virtually interact with Medtronic leaders and senior technical staff throughout the summer. They will also be encouraged to meet each other online and develop their own professional networks. In addition to their online work, interns are tentatively scheduled to spend one week at a Medtronic location in August if the company reopens offices.
“It was a huge relief to find out I still had this internship,” said Hanna Skuladottir, a mechanical engineering and political science major from the University of Colorado, Boulder. “Some of my friends had theirs cancelled. Some still don’t know what they might be doing this summer.”
Each year, the company carefully selects interns from some of the country’s top universities to fill important roles in engineering, marketing, finance, and operations. Medtronic benefits from their fresh perspectives and big ideas that contribute to important areas like data science, robotics, and research and development. College career placement officials say companies that continue with summer internship programs this year will be well-positioned in future job markets.
By developing a virtual internship, Medtronic is proving that it is a resilient, innovative company. Those are very attractive qualities, particularly for our engineers.Dylan Mark, Assistant Director for Internship Development, University of Colorado
“By developing a virtual internship, Medtronic is proving that it is a resilient, innovative company,” said Dylan Mark, Assistant Director for Internship Development at the University of Colorado. “Those are very attractive qualities, particularly for our engineers.”
Skuladottir is returning this summer for her second internship with Medtronic. This year, she’ll be working with the company’s Restorative Therapies Group on several quality management projects.
“I know a virtual internship will be somewhat of an adjustment compared to last year, but I’m really optimistic,” she said. “For me, it’s really about making those professional connections and learning all that I can from the people on my team.”
For Barrett, the internship is an opportunity to gain hands-on engineering experience, even in a remote setting. Recently, a package from Medtronic arrived at her home containing an iPadTM and a device to conduct material bending tests.
She was thrilled.
“I am already thinking about how I can convert my basement into a lab,” she said. “I can’t wait to get started.”