During a typical spring, we’re gearing up for on-site summer internships at New Relic. Internships offer an opportunity for students to acquire valuable professional experience, and we benefit by helping to grow our talent pipeline. This year, in light of the difficult circumstances surrounding COVID-19, many companies that typically offer summer internships have announced cancellations.

A couple of months ago, we began to see articles from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and others that many corganizations planned to cancel up to half of this summer’s internships. According to one poll, companies are revoking up to 70% of offers to interns for summer 2020. We also learned that the stay-at-home order would likely last into the summer, so we decided to adapt our internship model.

A revised remote internship model

Beginning May 18 and June 22, we’re kicking off our remote summer internship program. This year, 28 interns throughout the United States, and one in Japan, will participate in 12-week remote internships through New Relic’s Phoenix, San Francisco, and Portland offices.

We’ll ship computers to interns for use over the summer. Interns will also receive a $150 stipend to help pay for Wi-Fi or set up their home office.

Reporting to the Go-to-Market, General and Administrative, and Product organizations, this year’s interns will learn a great deal, meet some dynamic leaders, and become subject matter experts on our remote-working apps like BlueJeans and Slack.

As in the past, interns will attend roundtable discussions with executives, although this time it'll all be remote. They will also take part in small group check-ins, and engage in cross-functional training. We believe that interns should get a holistic view of New Relic. They will gain exposure to many departments and functions, including sales, marketing, engineering, and analytics, that together drive companywide innovation.

We've learned some valuable lessons as we've adapted our internship program to meet the demands of our current working environment. We'd like to share some of our takeaways for companies considering how to best manage their internship programs amid COVID-19.

No. 1: Communication is key

While we would have preferred to host internships on-site, this year’s student interns have been very optimistic about the opportunity to work remotely, especially since many organizations have canceled. We filled a couple of our last-minute internship roles with students who had planned to participate in other canceled programs.

Ongoing communication with interns—over email, and in a private LinkedIn group—has been helpful as we gear up for the program kickoff. Also, we called participants to ensure they are comfortable with the program and answer any questions.

My advice to other organizations that are considering remote internship programs is to communicate or even over-communicate with your interns. If you have doubts about whether you should connect more with your interns, you probably should.

No. 2: Prepare accordingly

Lately, I have been doing my homework in advance of our hiring manager training sessions. I’ve read benchmark studies and participated in a couple of panels to learn and share as much as I can about how to help remote internships succeed. For example, an Ivy Research Council study on best practices helped me understand what interns and managers might be stressed about as they begin participating in a new internship model.

As we move forward with the internship program, we are looking at ways to support interns with varied needs. We understand that interns are students, not seasoned professionals. Students may be in settings where they need to set up and pay for Wi-Fi for the first time. They may lack a quiet workplace. And they may face additional challenges associated with their living environments with multiple roommates or siblings.

No. 3: Maintain engagement

It may be challenging, but we are continuing to strive for a high level of internship engagement, and we’re hopeful that the New Relic culture shines through. We may need to get creative by participating in virtual escape rooms, and finding other ways for interns to interact.

Some colleges and universities require internships for graduation, so we’re pleased that we're able to help students fulfill their academic requirements. And, we’re dedicated to developing the talent needed to build a more perfect internet.

Interested in an internship at New Relic? Be sure to check out the New Relic careers page, and stay tuned for our fall internship recruitment.