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By Heather Stith

The spread of COVID-19 forced everyone to reset their Summer 2020 expectations. I spoke with hc1’s five summer interns and Talent Acquisition Manager Keegan Jiles about the lessons they learned from this unusual internship season.

The biggest difference this year for the interns, and the rest of the hc1 staff, is that we all were (and still are) working from home instead of the office. Although the hc1 culture was evident in the banter during Google Meet department meetings and in Slack channel memes and photos, the usual in-office hc1 camaraderie was a casualty of COVID-19. Comparing last year’s experience to this year’s, returning intern Jake Baker missed things like hanging out working with others in the hc1 warehouse or talking about non-work stuff while grabbing lunch from food trucks in the office park. Product marketing intern Bonnie Bostic noted, “I wasn’t able to develop relationships with as many hc1 employees as I may have had the situation been normal.” 

TechPoint Xtern Daniel Knopf, who worked from his home in New York instead of living in downtown Indianapolis for the summer, said that although there were not many opportunities to make personal connections, he felt the learning experience was similar to how it would have been otherwise.  First-time intern Alissa Honingford agreed with Daniel’s assessment, “For me, it was still a great learning experience.”

Key to that learning experience was the fact that each intern had their own hc1 mentor/manager who met with them daily to discuss progress.  Keegan felt it was important for the interns to know they could come to him or the mentors with concerns and questions and for the mentors to have regular one-on-one meetings with the interns for feedback. 

At the beginning of the summer, Alissa was “introduced to a bunch of things I’d never heard of before.” By the end of July, she was able to apply her new knowledge with minimal input from her mentor to build a user interface to simplify hc1’s development work with Amazon EventBridge rules. Jake also focused on front-end work, building a user interface for work hc1 is doing with the FHIR electronic health record standard. “I’d never really worked with UIs before, but I really enjoyed it. And it’s meant to replace a tool that I had to work a lot with last year, that I did not like using, so I kind of saw a direct application for it, which was nice.” Bonnie’s favorite project was a graphic displaying the problems that hc1 customers face that will be used in future product marketing efforts.

Daniel and Ryan Klinedinst, also an Xtern,  both expanded existing skills. Daniel was able to see a code project through from start to finish plus do parallelization, which he had never done before. Ryan was productive right away, completing several small projects for the software engineering team before moving on to the data engineering team to work on a lab test matching model. He found that project to be the biggest challenge and also the most interesting concept to work on. All of the technology interns commented that going through the process of putting code into production was a valuable learning experience.

I asked the interns what else they learned or found surprising about the professional environment as opposed to an academic one. “A lot of meetings—that surprised me,” Daniel said with a smile. “How everything ties in, how all the teams work together, was something I found pretty interesting,” Ryan said. Bonnie discovered that work, can actually be incredibly motivating and inspiring. I found myself wanting to complete each new project.”

What did this year’s crop of interns take away from their 2020 summer experience? “I personally had no idea that there was an Indiana tech scene at all before the Xtern program,” Daniel said. “I’d never considered coming anywhere in the Midwest to do technology, but I say that now with the Xtern program and all, it’s definitely something that’s on my radar.” Alissa said, “This summer will help me choose classes that I’m actually interested in, rather than kind of going random. I can actually understand what I’m trying to choose and where I want to go with them.” For Ryan, who has a dual-track major in software engineering and machine intelligence, “Getting both experiences during the internship with the dev team and the data team was definitely super helpful for me. Before this, I was more leaning toward data science-type careers, and I think this definitely solidified, more or less, my interest in that.” 

“The point of an internship is so you can get a dope job, right?” Keegan said. Before the interns’ last day, he helped them write recruiter-ready resumes. “You’ve got to be able to help me read between the lines. Talk about your technologies. Don’t be so humble about it. You cannot assume that I [as the recruiter] know what you’re trying to say. So here’s how you take everything you did this summer and make it sexy,” he said. “That’s something that’s unique with hc1 is really setting them up for success after they finish their internship.” Keegan’s goal for every hc1 intern was “You’ve got to know what you did, and you’ve got to know what people care about that you did.” 

To learn more about hc1 opportunities, visit our Careers page.

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