It’s the unofficial summer of virtual internships — we’re celebrating the successes and sharing the struggles that come with it. Be on the lookout for a blog post about virtual internships every Friday!
Author Bio: I am a rising senior at IUPUI. I am majoring in Finance and International Studies and minoring in Economics and Philanthropic Studies. I am currently a project manager and business analyst for the TechPoint S.O.S. (Summer Opportunities for Students) Challenge, where I am working with a team to develop a website to help parents and students with elementary education.
My summer, like many students’ around the nation, has not worked out as I expected. For several months I excitedly planned to intern with a corporate funds service in Indianapolis as a loan agent, but everything changed when the pandemic hit. I scrambled to find new opportunities and felt the pressure of needing to build a resume with valuable experience before I search for full-time positions in the fall. Questions filled my thoughts, but everything changed when I heard about the TechPoint S.O.S. Challenge.
A few bright minds in the Indianapolis community decided to host a challenge for college students who had lost their internships for the summer. The TechPoint team split more than 500 college students into teams of five-to-seven people and assigned teams to one of 10 subject areas. Teams then began work to develop a new technology to address issues that COVID-19 has created in their given subject area. My team is working diligently to provide solutions for schools and colleges. Specifically, we are making a platform to help elementary students in their learning endeavors. The kicker – we only have five weeks to do it.
When I first began the S.O.S. Challenge, I was quite concerned that it would be difficult to handle the virtual aspect of the experience. I was placed on a team with four other students, who all attended different universities, and three professionals I had never met. Three of our team members live in different time zones, and one of those students lives on the other side of the planet in Azerbaijan. However, my team has shown great dedication and flexibility to prioritize our three weekly meetings, making communication much easier than expected. Just like many other businesses around the world, we have made great use of video conferences, direct messages, and email. My team has shown me just how easy it can be to work remotely while being productive with others.
I am having a blast supporting my team as a project manager. In this role I get to set team meetings, create agendas, ask questions on behalf of the team, and provide cheesy weekly quotes to encourage my team toward greatness. I also work with one other student on business analysis. Together, we are creating a business model, financial model, marketing plan, and product-to-market plan for our new platform. The remaining team members are coding a prototype of our platform. All of our work is being supported by coaches assigned directly to our team who have business and coding experience.
Don’t forget, the program is called the S.O.S Challenge for a reason. No, we are not stranded on a tropical island, but we are competing against other teams to produce the best ideas and solutions. At the end of the five-week challenge each team’s idea will be judged against other ideas from the same subject category. One team from each category will win and receive an additional stipend. Additionally, the public will also get a chance to weigh in on the contest by voting on their favorite solution. Lastly, the challenge will culminate with the best three teams presenting their ideas to Governor Eric Holcomb.
As I write this post, we are beginning week four of the challenge. I have learned so many things and enjoyed my experience greatly. I can promise I never thought I’d be spending my summer solving some of our state’s most pressing issues or developing a website, but here I am. My short time in the TechPoint S.O.S. Challenge has connected me to so many students and professionals in Indiana, given me ideas about new career paths after graduation, and challenged me in new ways as a business student and young professional. It may not be what I had in mind back in March, but it’s obvious to me that this experience will be invaluable.