Zebra is known for being innovative, pioneering, and downright creative in everything we do. So, it should come as no surprise our Early Careers team managed to develop and host a (potentially award-winning) virtual internship program on a whim last year right as the first wave of the global pandemic was peaking in the U.S. This herd charges ahead, no matter what!
Twelve months later (and stronger), we’re once again ready to open our doors – well, our laptops – to over 100 U.S. college students for what promises to be a memorable summer internship.
Here to talk about last year’s learnings, why we decided to stay virtual this year, and the opportunities these college students will have for “hands-on” professional training over the next 12 weeks are Deanna Molinelli, Early Careers Talent Acquisition Partner, and Zoe Gordon, Early Careers Program Manager.
Your Edge Blog Team: When Zebra’s 101 summer interns log in today, what should they expect? I know the remote work and learning concept is still very new to many, especially from an internship perspective.
Deanna: While we will be remote this summer, we are confident Zebra’s collaborative culture and the wide array of engaging events we have planned will provide our incoming interns with an exceptional experience! Zebra interns can expect to have dynamic project work, mentorship, and lots of interaction with Zebra Nation, all from the comfort of their homes. The good news? We have become pros at working in the virtual space, and our managers are excited to offer a robust summer experience to our incoming intern cohort, even if they aren’t able to come into the office.
Your Edge Blog Team: Zoe, you spearheaded Zebra’s first-ever virtual internship program last year, and by all accounts it was a home run. Zebra was even just nominated for Way Up’s Top 100 Internships, which is further proof you figured out the formula for success. But were there any key learnings you leveraged to improve the experience for this summer’s intern class?
Zoe: Absolutely! Through our virtual internship program last summer, we came to truly understand the importance of connectivity. In an environment where most of us are working from home, it can be easy to get disconnected from your colleagues and lose the feeling of being part of a central culture. It can be even more challenging for a new class of interns who have never met their managers, their mentors, and their peers in person. While we hosted numerous events last summer to connect our intern population with the rest of Zebra Nation, this year, we are increasing that even more! New this summer, Zebra interns in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Czech Republic, Malaysia, and Singapore will come together to celebrate National Intern Day (a U.S. event we are taking global!). We are also looking forward to connecting our virtual interns together through numerous learning and development sessions, social events, and collaborative project work. We believe we have an amazing (virtual) summer program ahead!
Your Edge Blog Team: We know Zebra decided to stick with the virtual format this year because many offices are still closed, and there are still “safe work” precautions in place across the company – and the country. But do you see value in offering virtual internships long term? Or is the goal to eventually return to a more traditional in-person learning experience?
Deanna: The shift to remote work has shown us there are both pros and cons to virtual internships. This year, Zebra hired students from 65 different universities across 20 different states. Without the ability to offer remote work to bright and talented students across America, we may have lost out on some great talent! Moreover, one of the largest pros of a virtual internship is our ability to create a strong culture of collaboration amongst our internship population through virtual events. Unlike an in-person position, location is not as limiting in a virtual environment.
On the contrary, there are a long list of advantages to an in-person program. Many of our interns may miss out on the critical hands-on experience one gains through physically working with our products, engaging in lab work, and observing their manager/mentor/peers.
I absolutely think there are benefits to both virtual internships and in-person internships! While only the future can tell what internships will look like in the years to come, I can absolutely see there being a time and place for both virtual and in-person opportunities.
Your Edge Blog Team: As Early Career team leads, you’ve both had the opportunity to work with young professionals as they transitioned from their internships into full-time roles. Is that usually a pretty seamless experience? Or do you see common challenges arise that today’s interns can better prepare for in some way?
Zoe: For the most part, yes. We currently have a 30% conversion rate for interns who are eligible for a full-time offer. We also have seen a lot of interns return year after year and commit to intern multiple summers in a row, which is super exciting! The only real challenge we see is if hiring managers like multiple interns. Deciding on who to offer a full-time role can be difficult. Zebra sees so many intelligent and resourceful interns each summer!
Your Edge Blog Team: What can high school or college students do to stand out when applying for internships?
Deanna: I know it sounds basic (and has probably been said 100 times) but having either a peer or mentor look over your resume goes such a long way. Having a resume that reads well and is easy to follow goes such a long way and really reflects your professionalism on paper when you are not there to explain things yourself. Also, any experience you can gain from taking certain courses or groups/clubs you can join pertaining to your major can help you stand out. There are also plenty of certifications out there to help you get started in your major/field. I think LinkedIn is always a very good resource, as well. Even if you find someone who works for the company but may not oversee the recruiting process, they can always pass your information along to whomever does. Plus, finding someone who works for the company via LinkedIn shows your interest and diligence and could also increase your chances of locking down your future internship!
Your Edge Blog Team: Does that same advice apply to interns who are hoping to secure full-time roles upon graduation? Or is there something else – or something more – they should be doing to strengthen their resume and be competitive in today’s market?
Deanna: It’s critical for interns who are looking to secure full-time roles to do their research and ask the right questions. Look at the organization and all the positions available and see what you are truly interested in. Many people think you have to be an engineer to work at a company like Zebra, but there are so many different roles and career paths available within our company, there really are opportunities for everyone in the legal or finance fields to marketing, sales, logistics and even program management. Research and knowledge are power. I also think it’s good to get a sense of your market value ahead of time to negotiate a salary range for yourself. I know it’s difficult to “brag” or ask for more in terms of compensation or bonuses. Knowing yourself and the market is critical. As far as a resume booster, it’s always good to show your manager you will go the distance in broadening your knowledge. For example, completing a certification, an online course or joining some of our own internal Zebra Groups can help you understand different aspects of the company!
Your Edge Blog Team: In that same vein, what should college students do to maximize an internship so it can turn into long-term career opportunity, whether at Zebra or another company?
Zoe: I would say one of the best things college students can do is participate in extracurricular activities and job fairs. This is such a good way to make a great impression with your future company. There have been plenty of times we have gone to job fairs and – off the top of our heads – remembered a good candidate’s name. Looking professional and putting your best foot forward is always a good way to make a lasting impression!
If you’d like to learn more about Zebra’s internship program – or you’d like to sign up for alerts regarding career opportunities – visit our website.
Also, if you’d like to see Zebra added to Way Up’s Top 100 Internship list, be sure to cast your vote here before July 29, 2021 at 12:00 AM PT.