Navigating the virtual world as an intern


As the world around us has changed to a primarily virtual space, making connections and genuine friendships are more important than ever. They say that “friends are the family you get to choose for yourself,” and this year the Intern Academy has adhered to this sentiment as they’ve tried to weave interconnectedness into the program and the firm through Intern Families. These families consist of around 10 – 12 interns with 2 cohort leaders serving as Family Leaders. Luke S., who was one of the family leaders in the Intern Academy, elaborates on how the families were formed: “Family assignments were based on time zone and assigned to provide a mix of different genders, backgrounds, schools, business tracks, and original internship location. Family assignments were also utilized for our Business Challenge Summit where each family was split into two separate Business Challenge Summit groups and assigned different problem statements that span across the firm for each team to provide suggested solutions to.”

Creating a Supportive Work Environment

Although the initial switch from an in-person internship to a virtual one may have been cause for some hesitation, many of the interns and cohort leaders, including seasoned cohort leader and IT Project Manager Andrew V., have seen real positives that have resulted from this new online interaction: “The big positive or big advantage with that is I think prior when we didn’t have a virtual internship, it was very siloed in a sense of not the departments, but siloed in a sense of location. With intern families, it broke down all those roadblocks, all those barriers if you will, and now I’m seeing interns meant for the Austin location become really, really close friends with interns say, in Westlake or in Denver or vice versa.”

Not only were the interns able to reach out and make connections virtually that they wouldn’t have been able to make in-person, but many of the interns say the families have been able to give them a peace of mind and sense of security when it comes to communicating and reaching out for help. Priyank S., a Digital Services Intern, describes how this played out for him: “I feel much more de-stressed, you know? After talking to everyone because it’s like, even with the intern families and with the other interns – I think this was genius. When we did the Business Summit Challenge, we cut the intern family in half, so I really got to know that half of the family and now, we kind of talk every day like ‘Hey, good morning? How’s your day going?’ And I think that’s great, right? Just that open flow of conversation that has been created through these intern families, which is great.”

Challenging Yourself to Grow

With just 9 short weeks to take in every bit of Schwab culture and learn the most about their specific departments as they could, the interns had some key lessons on what they took away from their time at Schwab. Caitlyn L., who is part of the Digital Services team, mentioned how she was, “surprised by the encouragement to go and seek knowledge for yourself because Schwab wants to empower you, rather than walk you through every single thing. I think that was really cool and a good lesson to learn as well as trying to think from a perspective outside your own, whether it’s from another intern’s perspective or a client’s perspective. I think those are all very valuable things that isn’t taught very much in a workplace, especially to someone coming out of college like myself where you’re not in that environment.”

In addition, many of the interns described how grateful they were for the Intern Families and for the Internship Academy’s dedication to creating connection in a virtual environment: “I was sad to hear that it wasn’t in person, but also on the flip side, I was so thankful that Schwab was able to take us at all, especially since we’re temporary and you really don’t know how people are going to act working from home. They still did great with onboarding, they sent us all our materials, they offered the stipend, which was so helpful, and I know a lot of other interns agreed. That was lifesaving. So I think they treated us really well and really respectfully and I think everyone understood they had limitations and struggles. We’re all just trying to get through this together. I mean overall I’m really happy with how it turned out and onboarding went really smoothly.” – Mackenzie B., Marketing Analyst Intern.

Unleashing the Power of Teamwork

Alec Parkin, Class of 2015 Intern Alum and 2020 cohort leader shares, “I think for us it wasn’t just enough to say ‘We’re going to keep you as an intern this summer. We’re going to continue to do the program.’ That wasn’t enough to just show that we care. We wanted to really show that we care and how do we do that at Schwab? How do we do that as an intern program? We start thinking, we start brainstorming, that’s what we do as individuals who are all trying to deliver and see through client’s eyes here at Schwab, right? We’re always trying to think of what impact we can make, how can we improve, and how can we truly show that we care and I think that’s what we did this summer. You know, it shows that we care that we kept the program, but we’re going to also tinker with the program and create some new creative ideas to get everybody involved from home.”

Overall, the Intern Academy and Intern Families this year has shown the capability of successfully connecting with our co-workers and clients no matter the space we’re in. As we go forward in the virtual environment at Schwab and beyond, let the Intern Families remind us of the power of togetherness and to embrace change. No matter if we’re working side-by-side in the office or pinging each other from our bedrooms at home, Unleashing Your Potential is always possible with family and friends at our side.

If you’re ready to take the next step in unleashing your own potential, click here to learn more about our intern program.