Working anywhere in the time of COVID-19 has been challenging. Learning to work in an industry as part of an internship program is even more challenging. Our teams at The Climate Corporation and Bayer have not been in the office since March. For our interns that started in the summer of 2020, their unique experience meant they might not get a chance to meet their teams face to face, or experience the dynamics of in-person interactions within the workplace.
Brianna Dawkins, graduate student at Missouri State University, is the Summer Communications Intern with The Climate Corporation. Levi Kermes, junior at University of Minnesota, is a Summer Sales Intern with the South Dakota DEKALB Asgrow sales team.
Brianna Dawkins (BD): Obviously, this year has been unique for our internships. We have had to learn how to adapt to the digital barriers that previous interns might not have encountered. Personally, I expected to be working in the office with the Communications team and meeting everyone else in St. Louis, but I’ve still had a great experience getting connected with different teams. How has this experience been different than what you originally thought it would be?
Levi Kermes (LK): When I interviewed for this role and was told the job description, it was completely different than what I’m doing right now. COVID completely changed my internship. I was supposed to be out in Aberdeen, South Dakota this Summer working with the South Dakota DEKALB Asgrow Sales team assisting them with checking on test plots, going on calls and talking to farmers. I had received my company truck, and three days before I was supposed to leave Minnesota and drive out to South Dakota, they told me I was going to be shifting to an online format for this summer. It was a big change and something I had to be flexible and adapt to. My mentor told me to look for the opportunity in everything. I’m from a family farm and was able to help my dad on the farm being here at home base while working on the computer and helping my Field Sales Representative team. I was dealt a different hand of cards and I rolled with it.
For many of us who work from home, having proper equipment to ensure we can get our work done is critical - for Levi, while he wasn’t able to enjoy a brand new farm experience, he had a built-in farm experience at hand.
BD: Something I’ve had the opportunity to work on is coordinating a virtual farmer panel as a way for us to connect with farmers without being able to be there with them in person. Being in the agricultural industry, I really have a heart for farmers, and talking with them about their year has been really enjoyable for me. Without everything being virtual, who knows if I would have gotten the chance to work on a global project like this? Have there been benefits coming from the left turn in what you expected?
LK: Creating virtual plot tours was one of my projects, and was really fun. I would receive video clips from my team and then record audio clips on the iPad® device, and then compose the videos. I also assisted with the Bayer Plus and Climate FieldView™ teams, helping keep track of their goals and finding answers to their questions. Conducting a local testimonial project was also a big part of my time. It allowed me to feel like I was doing something worthwhile and valuable from my dining room table here in Minnesota. That was a cool experience.
BD: For me, I’ve been able to see how this industry works outside of classroom studies and strengthen my professionalism, writing and public speaking skills. I now have a clear direction of where I want to be as an advocate for farmers and representing the “why” of the rural lifestyle. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned while working virtually?
My virtual communications team (me, top center), pictured here in the only way we’ve met during the pandemic, have been very supportive in providing opportunities to “get out there” while staying in.
LK: Being with a company like Bayer, it’s important to be flexible, roll with the punches and do what needs to be done and what is asked of you. I was fully prepared to move out to South Dakota, but when I knew the pandemic wouldn't allow for relocation and an in-person experience, I had to show I was flexible and could be effective as a remote intern.
BD: I’m right there with you. I’m definitely a people person and I feel like creating in-person connections is one of my strengths. This has forced me to work on the other skills that weren’t as strong. My advice for future interns either online or in-person would be that internships are your time to shine, but also the time to learn from your mistakes, fail and grow from all of it. You and I are probably not unique in having experiences that prove that internships really do strengthen you in unexpected ways. Do you have any advice for future interns?
LK: My number one advice would be to work hard and remember that you’re not only in this internship to learn and benefit you, but you’re also there for the company. They are putting time and effort into you, so make sure that you try your hardest to fulfill the role. In the future they could hire you, and that’s the point of the internship: to build your career. Have a good work ethic and be prepared for any situation that’s thrown at you. They’re testing you, but it’s a fun test!