Beyond the Office: How We Made the 2020 Beyonders Program Virtual
15 SEPTEMBER 2020
LOS ANGELES, CA
SAMIRA MODARESSI, Beyond Limits
Beyond Limits developed the Beyonders internship program in 2018, an immersive experience for undergraduate and graduate students that seeks to help them discover their beyond. The success and value of this program are undeniable, with consistent year-over-year class growth. However, as the coronavirus pandemic heightened near the start of the internship, we were left wondering how the program would evolve and survive in a very different working world.
As many employers were caught off guard during the onset of the pandemic, Beyond Limits also faced new challenges as stay-at-home mandates took effect throughout California. Navigating a virtual internship was something Beyond Limits hadn’t necessarily considered before. It was difficult to imagine how we could replicate the various facets of our in-office culture in this new normal. While it was stressful for the weeks and days leading up to the program’s start, we couldn’t have been more thrilled with the results.
Leading Up to the Internship
Prior to our new stay-at-home reality, the Beyond Limits Recruiting team worked diligently on hiring interns for a variety of positions in Software Engineering, Data Science, Product Strategy, and other departments. We also took this opportunity to expand the reach and scope of the program by recruiting international interns that would spend the summer in Los Angeles during the 10-week program. However, as COVID-19 swept the nation in March, we were unsure of what exactly to do with that portion of the program. We felt a responsibility to let our potential interns know there was a possibility that we would be unable to host them for the summer.
Simultaneously, countless undergraduate and graduate students across the nation had their internship offers rescinded by many corporations. Internship opportunities were decreasing, blocking young professionals from having the hands-on experience of developing and refining their skills for future careers. Beyond Limits leadership felt a responsibility to provide opportunities for future professionals to experience working on real projects and delivering results. To our core, Beyond Limits thrives off the diverse perspectives of our employees, including the fresh ideas of interns.
Once the rest of our Beyond Limits team adjusted to working remotely and understood that this would be the new normal for a long time, we started discussing how we could continue with the Beyonders program this year. It was less a matter of if we could implement a successful virtual internship and more about figuring out how we could demonstrate Beyond Limits’ inherently fun and collaborative environment to our interns. Once we had a plan set in motion, we then proceeded with recruitment efforts and locked in 19 summer interns for the 2020 program.
How We Adapted
In moving forward with a virtual internship, we wanted to make the program as similar to an in-person experience as we possibly could. We did this with a range of new and reoccurring, initiatives to make the Beyonders feel like they were genuinely a part of the company.
Every year we pair interns with executive and employee mentors who guide the Beyonders through their projects, their work within the program itself, and their professional journeys. This initiative helped contribute to the development of our Beyonders and allowed them to interact with many members of the Beyond Limits team. Additionally, we added “Welcome Buddies” this year to enhance the onboarding experience and mitigate any unforeseen issues that may arise in the virtual setting. We paired interns with various employees whom the Beyonders could turn to and ask any questions they may not feel comfortable asking a manager or mentor. Both of these experiences provided interns with opportunities to interact with different company professionals, both inside and outside of his or her assigned department.
Professional development sits at the core of Beyond Limits’ values, and we felt it was imperative to continue nurturing that principle with our Beyonders via a variety of virtual events. We wanted to provide the opportunity for Beyonders to interact with several executives in the company that could share their distinguished career experiences, alongside their advice for best practices in the field as well. We hosted Lunch & Learn sessions, where various C-level executives spoke candidly to the Beyonders about their own professional backgrounds and training. Learning & Development meetings were also leveraged to help the Beyonders adapt to the virtual work environment with practical information, such as how to best handle presentations on Zoom.
We also launched “Game Lunch” where all Beyond Limits employees could come together once a week to interact and play different games, like trivia. A time filled with countless laughs, Beyonders experienced the energetic and dynamic culture that we enjoy within our in-office environment. The Recruiting team recognized that it was important for the interns to also connect with one another, as a class of Beyonders that were going through similar experiences and may need a sounding board for their ideas. For this reason, we created “Couch Time,” where our Beyonders also had the opportunity to connect once a week. This initiative replicated a popular in-office intern experience where Beyonders would gather at the Kiva and share their experiences from the week.
What We Accomplished
Although many organizations were forced to cancel their internship programs, Beyond Limits felt that it was more important than ever to offer students an experience that would help them further develop their skills during this critical time, albeit in a virtual setting. In fact, we ended up taking this opportunity to expand the program internationally, bringing on an internship cohort that consists of a diverse group of students from various schools all over the world. Not only did we seamlessly convert the entire program into a virtual setting, but our Beyonders were able to accomplish a great deal over the course of their experience. From preparing solutions that optimize our products to migrating data in our new accounting software. We couldn’t be more proud of the success of our Beyonders 2020 virtual internship.