What Does COVID-19 Mean For Internships?

What Does COVID-19 Mean For Internships?

The COVID landscape presented many challenges for students and would-be interns. Many programs were postponed or cancelled outright. Nokia’s Naperville, IL internship program, however, was able to proceed with the use of social distancing and remote and onsite learning technology.

This year, the program hosted 44 college interns in various business groups. I sat down with Mike Kinnavy, Head of Global 5G R&D at Nokia, who also leads the Naperville office and internship program. We discussed his own experience as an intern and Nokia’s commitment to educating our future workforce.

Here are some of the highlights of that interview:

Jill Griffin: Could you tell me about your background and how you became involved in Nokia’s Internship program?

Mike Kinnavy: I began as an AT&T Bell Labs intern in 1998 and it afforded me a great opportunity to dive into telecommunications technology. Fast forward to my current employment at Nokia in the small cells sector, where I was able to grow the division into half billion-dollar business for the company. Subsequently at the end of 2018, I was asked to revamp Nokia’s 5G R&D development worldwide. It has been the hardest job I have ever had and one of the most rewarding. In 2019, my team was responsible for helping Nokia to commercially deploy 5G mmWave with numerous customers.

Griffin: What is your role in the internship program?

Kinnavy: I serve as the internship program sponsor, and I am proud of the program we’ve built and the great team onsite in Naperville that supports it. Together, with some of our other teams, we identify what the intern needs might be and how they will align with Nokia’s initiatives during the time that they are with us.

Griffin: How do the internships work to support the students’ college academics?

Kinnavy: After Nokia’s internship program, we’ve seen many interns find jobs that they want. They get to research and learn about our cutting-edge technology. Much of our work is aligned with their educations and gives them real-world experience in their field of study. We often see the interns discover their niche after completing our program.

Griffin: What majors are the interns working towards?

Kinnavy: They hail from a variety of backgrounds, studying Electrical Engineering, Cognitive Science, Design, Patent Law, and more. We also have 26 different colleges represented, including DePaul University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, Purdue University, the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Southern California, and many others.

Griffin: What feedback do the interns give you during and after the program?

Kinnavy: It has been overwhelmingly positive. They receive a high level of engagement from fellow employees and mentorship from managers and co-workers. The interns are so excited to talk to people who have been working in these technologies for many years and who are still passionate about what they are doing at Nokia.

We have a hiring track with interns returning to full time employment with Nokia, either rejoining the same group they interned with or seeking out new areas in the company that match their interests and skills.

Griffin: What has the COVID environment been like for the interns? How has the company worked to keep interns and employees safe during this time?

Kinnavy: We led them through COVID safety and extensive training mandatory for Nokia’s culture through our Nokia University. We did have some interns who worked onsite and some who worked completely from home. We are happy to report that we have had zero cases in our Naperville location, which I believe to be the result of the safety measures we have taken.

Griffin: What is the future for the Nokia internship program?

Kinnavy: We will continue to operate our internship program during the summer to give students real-world experience in R&D, productization, commercial deployments, and more. During the school year, we run our co-op program where students can take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to work in their field of study. Some of our 2020 summer interns will continue with our co-op program.

Nokia has a large presence in the U.S. with more than 10,500 U.S. based employees and six R&D sites, including Nokia Bell Labs. Our internship program is part of our commitment to helping students from diverse backgrounds learn about career opportunities in the technology sector and get excited about how they can contribute to the technology that keeps us all connected.

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