A virtual internship under lockdown

Omar Bhula, an economics student at the University of Exeter Business School, is currently on a work placement experience at Finastra. He works in the global services portfolio team, organising and creating sales collateral. This involves interacting with a wide range of people and departments from across the business to put together the right sales material for them.

The lockdown started halfway through Omar’s internship. He'd had six months in the office at Finastra, getting to know everybody and the working culture. Since lockdown, he’s been working from home. ‘I’m dealing with the challenge of remote working that we all are, learning to structure my day and maintain distant relationships,’ he says. Even after the coronavirus pandemic subsides, it’s likely that the numbers of employers and employees working from home will increase – the pandemic has highlighted its environmental and work/life benefits. Omar agrees: ‘I didn’t expect I’d get to develop remote working skills but this experience is something that could be useful for future roles, as workplaces become more agile.’ We asked Omar to give us his advice for remote internships.

‘Having a dedicated workspace where you can focus and sticking to a routine are essential for homeworking,’ he says. ‘Keeping in contact with people initially felt quite challenging early on. Setting up a time at the start of the week with my manager to go over the week’s goals has helped to keep that contact. Virtual catch-up meetings with people to replace the coffee catch-ups I might have had in the office have also been useful for keeping up with colleagues.’

Furthermore, taking part in Finastra's virtual social events and activities has been great for breaking up the week. ‘We’ve had weekly quizzes with different themes, an improv comedy show, and a mindfulness session to help us have fun together and adapt to new ways of working and living.’ Omar stresses that maintaining interaction with colleagues is important.

Here are Omar’s Dos and Don’ts for anyone starting an internship, virtual or otherwise:

Do

  • Take notes. You will be given lots of information in that first week, so keep notes to remember it all.
  • Make the most out of the people you will meet: utilise their knowledge and remember their names!
  • Ask questions. Everything will be new, so don’t hesitate to ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  • Go to bed on time. At university it’s easy to get into a personal routine where you might sleep in the morning and do your work at night, but it is important to get into the same routine as the rest of the working world.
  • Prioritise. You may get several tasks, each one demanding priority. Always ask what the deadline is for each task. Can’t make the deadline? Say so early. Don’t say you can do something, then not deliver it.
  • Check your work before you hand it in. Careless mistakes can lead to a poor impression.
  • Speed up. Businesses move fast.
  • Prepare for meetings. Try to second guess what you might be asked. Think ahead.
  • Speak up. The company will value your perspective. If you have an idea, share it.

Don’t:

  • Assume you know how to do a task just because you’ve done it before at college. Where you’re working will have a particular way of doing things, so you’ll want to stick to protocol.
  • Begin a task until you’re clear about what is required. This is particularly the case if you are working with a team. It might be tempting to think everybody understands what needs to be done, but you do have to make sure you’re all on the same page.
  • Think of work as an extension of university. You can’t mess about. Expectations of behaviour and performance are higher. Deliver work to a high standard on time.
  • Assume your manager understands what you’re up to. Be accountable and transparent.
  • Waste time. If you have no work to do ask for more. Use this opportunity to impress.
  • Be late.