By: Morgan Zanke
This summer I had the privilege of working for PepsiCo as a Marketing/Sales Intern where I gained valuable sales experience as well the opportunity to experience many aspects of PepsiCo–its products, distribution, culture and commitment to its customers during a national crisis.
I accepted the presumably in-person job offer in October of 2019 but by the time May 2020 rolled around, I started to panic. I had been hearing horror stories of my peer’s summer internships being canceled and I was fortunate enough to be working for a company that decided to make their internship virtual. My goal going into this job was to overachieve in order to obtain a permanent position at the end of my summer. Well, how was I to do this in a virtual internship?
By the end of my internship I was offered a full-time position, worked one on one with the Global COO of Marketing, and ranked second out of 678 teams competing in an innovative strategy competition hosted for the PepsiCo interns nationally. I, along with another student, designed a complete advertising and Public Relations strategy that would keep PepsiCo’s products relevant in an industry suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had to be innovative in our planning processes and it made my partner and I venture out of our comfort zones to find solutions to a plethora of new challenges. Our main goals were to be inclusive in our ideas and to find solutions that benefit our clients, our consumers, and our company all in one.
In virtual internships/jobs it is more difficult to create a lasting impression. (Levy, 2020) One thing that the professional world has learned through the pandemic is the convenience of virtual work structures and the ability that it has to be permanent even after the pandemic. Companies have seen an increase in productivity with their virtual workers more than ever before. According to a FlexJobs’ survey, “95% of respondents say that their productivity has been higher or the same working from home, and 51% report being more productive when working remotely.” (Courtney, 2020) There will even be job titles emerging past the pandemic such as Virtual Team Leads and Head of Remote Work. (Kang, 2020)
Here are the key things that led me to my success during a virtual internship.
Take on new challenges without being asked
It is easy to be lazier and get sidetracked when working from home. In fact, I found that at times my supervisors would question me about my use of time during the first week. They were almost expecting me to slack off and I began to notice this. I started looking for things to do in my downtime that would help productivity or create convenience for my team. In doing so, I felt that my coworkers started including me more and they started viewing me as a valuable employee.
Schedule as many virtual face-to-face meetings as possible
Once I proved my worth and gained trust from my team, they did not request virtual meetings or emails. I found it important to schedule weekly meetings with them so that I was getting included within my team and recognized for my work. You don’t want to waste their time, so even if it is just a five-minute progress report at the end of the week, it will show them your progress and remind them of your role.
Connect with employees outside of your immediate department
One thing I found super beneficial during my time as a summer intern was the connections I had with people within PepsiCo that were not directly within my department. One of my favorite parts was working with several amazing mentors from different areas of the company who taught me about their experiences, offered me advice, and educated me about diversity within PepsiCo through internal communities. I connected with managers and employees in the advertising and public relations world of PepsiCo and created lasting connections with them that could help me succeed later in the company.
If you act like you are a part of the team, they will treat you as such
It isn’t an easy task getting to know others though sporadic Zoom calls throughout a week. It is easy for a team that has a history of working together to ignore the chance to get to know the intern. Don’t let this happen. Put yourself out there and involve yourself in your team. Offer solutions, engage in calls, ask questions, and just let them get to know you and the work you are contributing to their jobs.
I cannot speak enough on the positive impact PepsiCo has had on me and the key lessons I learned from working in a virtual environment. I am beyond grateful for the skills that I learned and the opportunities for growth the company has provided me with. I hope that the lessons that I have learned throughout my experience can help others thrive in their virtual job experiences.
Courtney, E. (2021, February 08). Remote work Statistics: Navigating the new Normal (2021): FlexJobs. Retrieved from https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/remote-work-statistics/
Kang, A. (2020, October 12). Future of work. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/09/future-of-work-pandemic/?arc404=true
Levy, A. (2020, May 11). Working from home is here to stay, even when the economy reopens. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/11/work-from-home-is-here-to-stay-after-coronavirus.html