Some of the swag that Zebra's 2020 summer interns received.
By Monica Kielawa | May 27, 2020

Zebra’s Summer Interns Kick Off Immersive 12-Week Experience…via the Internet

Nearly 100 college students logged on yesterday to experience what it’s like to #WFH full time as lawyers, sales professionals, engineers and more. Find out more about the program Zebra is curating to virtually empower their career growth.

Zebras are no strangers to remote team collaboration. In fact, a significant number of employees teleworked on a regular basis before COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were enacted. Even those of us who were going into the office would work “alongside” colleagues in other cities, countries and even continents every day. As a global company with physically dispersed teams, it's rare that everyone is in the same place at the same time. So, we tend to consider ourselves “virtual work” veterans!

That is why we felt confident doing something that we’ve never done before as a company: we invited 98 college students to spend the summer with Zebra in a full-time #WFH status, integrated with our marketing, legal, finance, human resources, sales, IT, engineering and supply chain teams!

Most of our interns just “reported” in for their first official day of work with Zebra yesterday, so only time will tell if this adapted model will prove effective enough to become the standard for future intern classes. But we’re confident that we will be able to offer these young professionals a highly immersive, real-world, career-developing experience in a safe, physically distant way.

How On-the-Job Training Works in an Online-Only World

Since this is the first time that Zebra’s internship program is going completely virtual, we want to ensure that we are giving participants everything they need to be successful – starting with access to Zebra teams and systems.

Over the past couple of weeks, we shipped computing equipment to each intern’s home so that they could enjoy a full #WFH setup.

A Zebra Summer 2020 intern shows her #WFH setup

Of course, they also received a welcome box filled with Zebra swag. (The Zippys are loving their new homes!) We also set the interns up with Microsoft Teams so that they can collaborate with their managers and teammates “face to face” and enrolled them in the Zebra Education Network (ZEN) so that they can take advantage of the platform’s many different professional development courses.

Some of the swag that Zebra's 2020 summer interns received.

Despite this, some have wondered if it’s really possible to offer the hands-on experience critical to certain career fields without having the interns on site. For example, how will engineering interns be able to apply and improve upon their physical skill sets? Will they get the opportunity to tinker with products? And will supply chain interns be able to truly understand the depth and complexity of a warehouse setting or product inspections without being there in person to witness operations? These are very valid questions.

While some project work may have to flex, managers have been innovative in curating work that their interns can successfully work on from home. For example, we are shifting engineering interns who would traditionally have lab-based jobs to more research-based project work. Additionally, some managers are shipping equipment, such as Zebra products, directly to the interns for them to work on at home. (That is how much trust and confidence we have in the skills of our interns!)

In other cases, managers are utilizing a Microsoft Team’s site to crowd source interns for certain projects. For example, if a marketing team member has an assignment that an intern can easily support, marketing intern managers are notified and interns who have the bandwidth to support the extra work are given the opportunity to collaborate on the project.

Don’t Worry…Our Interns Will Still Get Plenty of Opportunities to Socialize Too

Each week, our Early Careers team will conduct team-building events with the entire intern class to facilitate idea sharing and networking. These events will include breakout collaboration sessions, innovation challenges and project showcases. They also “gathered” together for group orientation yesterday and will take part in an Inclusion and Diversity presentation later this summer.

Zebra believes if you work hard, you also deserve to play hard, so there will be plenty of game nights, mocktail hours and other social networking events hosted via Zoom throughout the summer so that the interns can mix and mingle in a more “casual” setting. (As if it gets any more casual than working in athletic gear or pajamas from your cozy couch.)

At the end of the day, our goal is to ensure that our interns get to experience the key pillars of Zebra’s highly successful internship program whether huddled around their laptops in a conference room or their living rooms.

Stay tuned into Your Edge for updates throughout the summer from the interns themselves. We’ll ask them to share their thoughts on what it’s like to be part of the first Zebra virtual intern class and the #WFHtips that proved most beneficial to their telework experience.

Zippy the Zebra relaxes on an intern's patio
Inside Zebra Nation,
Monica Kielawa
Monica Kielawa

Monica Kielawa is currently the Early Careers Program Manager, North America Talent Acquisition at Zebra Technologies where she is responsible for leading, developing and building creative and robust University Relations programming for Zebra in the United States.

During her almost three years with Zebra, Monica has worked on multiple cross organizational key strategic projects related to Talent Attraction, Employee Value Proposition, Recruitment Marketing, and Inclusion & Diversity.

In her free time, Monica mentors first generation students by guiding them into selecting their future universities, adapting to life on campus and positioning themselves for the workforce after graduation. She also volunteers and spreads awareness for Chiari Malformation #chiaristrong. 

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