Going Virtual Can't Hold Back MITRE's 2020 Interns

By Kay M. Upham

2020 Summer Interns

Eastern Nazarene College student Shante Slender is returning to MITRE for a second internship this summer. She may not be on campus for some time, though.

COVID-19 has changed where and how many Americans do their jobs. Teleworking is now the new normal for millions. Can MITRE do the same with students' summer internships?

Yes. All of our nearly 500 summer interns will be working remotely.

Why? Because—regardless of whether the students are at home or in our offices—we can develop students' ability to meet both our and the nation’s future workforce needs. The connections may be virtual, but the results will be real.

"MITRE is well positioned to provide talented students an enriching and fun virtual summer experience," says Nicole Gilmore, MITRE's director of leadership and management development. "Our team is committed to supporting hiring managers, while also finding innovative ways for our interns to discover, create, and lead, despite the challenging times we're in."

Cultivating student talent is a long-term investment in the future. "We know that many students will start and grow meaningful careers as a result of their summer experiences," says Angie Morris, MITRE's manager of student programs.

Teleworking Internships

We're making it happen using combination of communications, logistics planning, and ingenuity.

"After the first stay-at-home orders were released, we quickly swung into action and made numerous changes to accommodate the switch from having interns in our offices to having them work remotely," Morris says. "We've revised our equipment distribution, orientations, and work management processes. Plus, we're communicating more frequently with managers and interns.”

What hasn't changed is our focus on hiring interns to work directly with MITRE staff. Our goal is to match interns with colleagues who have deep technical and subject matter expertise in the student's area of study and in other high-demand STEM fields. This also gives interns exposure to the myriad of challenges across MITRE’s programs and sponsors.

Equally important is providing interns with an in-depth view of how our work impacts the wellbeing and safety of all Americans.

Honing High-Demand Skills

Gaining knowledge from our staff is crucial. However, we also recognize the importance of  interns interacting with each other. That’s why we're launching two new voluntary initiatives.

This year, interns can participate in MITRE's Learning Tracks program. It gives students the opportunity to  learn more about three critical technical skill areas: artificial intelligence, positioning/navigation/timing systems, and cyber warfare.

For each track, the curriculum has three distinct segments. In the first section, interns attend presentations by MITRE experts working in the three fields. The second phase prioritizes hands-on learning and training. In the final segment, the interns complete a project challenge and present their work.

Another new initiative is "The Intern 25." Taelor Moyer and Kelcey Crawford—two of our early career full-time technical staff—planned and will lead eight weekly virtual meet-ups. Participation is voluntary, but it provides  another opportunity for interns to get to know each other, meet more MITRE staff, join speaker events, and have fun.

Moyer, a former intern herself, says,  "Our goal is to host a series of 25-minute virtual sessions to get interns more familiar with MITRE’s values while also highlighting some of the incredible opportunities here."

Connecting in a Virtual Community

Despite COVID-19's significant impact on their academic plans, our interns are showing resilience and enthusiasm for the upcoming summer. "They're online already and coming up with ways to engage and connect with each other," Morris says.

As one student recently posted on our intern Slack channel, "We were all lucky enough to be chosen for a reason. Let’s show our ability to adapt and overcome!"

Another student said, "We will get through this and be better, more adaptable engineers, developers, students from it."

We're glad to hear it. Because being agile, responsive, and ready to tackle new challenges is part of MITRE's DNA.