2020 marks the fourth year of Fluent’s Summer Internship Program. While we typically invite our interns into our NYC headquarters for a summer of hands-on learning, our approach to the program was a bit different this year. In the early planning stages, Evyn Chaffin, Senior Manager on the People Team and head of the internship program, had to address the challenges of coordinating a virtual internship experience amidst a pandemic.
The questions were abundant – Can we even hold the program this year? What will the experience be like for the interns? Their managers? How can we modify the program to help us better manage the remote experience?
In spite of all the uncertainty, one thing was sure – summer 2020 would present the unique opportunity to test the limits of creativity and connection.
“This year, in the middle of a pandemic, Evyn had to evaluate if we would be able to run the program, and if so, what changes needed to be made. To ensure our interns felt welcomed and onboarded with access to the right people, information, and tools, Evyn connected with all managers to ensure they understood this year would require an additional commitment to train and develop our interns while also making them feel connected.”– Patrick Sweeney, Head of People
Tips for Starting a Remote Internship Program
Managing the Fluent Internship Program since its inception in 2017, Evyn explains her process for driving collaboration and a sense of community during Fluent’s first iteration of its virtual program.
Launching the Program
In June we welcomed twelve students from colleges across the country for our first ten-week remote internship program. We crafted a robust two-week onboarding program that included best practices for using Zoom and navigating a remote work environment. At the end of this two-week period, we distributed a survey among the interns to help us gather real-time feedback and identify areas for improvement. For example, based on requests for a more collaborative workspace, we created Zoom “hangouts” so that the interns could work independently on their own projects while still video chatting with another.
Creating a Sense of Community
Each summer, we make every effort we can to fold the interns into our culture. This year, we needed to get creative with our approach to fostering a sense of community among the interns and within their individual teams. On a company-wide level, working from home has pushed us to find new ways to keep our employees engaged. After having already launched weekly meditation sessions and Rumble workout classes for the broader colleague-base, extending these benefits to our interns was a natural next step in making them feel part of the larger Fluent community.
Supporting Professional Growth
We’ve also created specific initiatives for our interns to help aid in their personal and professional development. Weekly virtual sessions provide the interns with an opportunity to connect with senior leaders over Zoom, helping to make our executive team even more accessible than they would normally be in the office. In addition, we’ve partnered with CareerArc to offer resume review services and mock-interview practice for up to 6 months after the end of the internship program. In this way, we hope to prepare our interns for the next steps in their career journey beyond Fluent.
Stories & Advice from Our Interns
The program would not have been such a huge success without the hard work and cooperation of our amazing interns. Below, our 2020 Intern Class shares their stories, advice, and proudest accomplishments from the summer.
What was the biggest challenge of being a remote intern?
Giulia Rammairone | Customer Support Intern | Fordham University
One challenge I experienced in the beginning of my remote internship was to learn the complexity of Fluent’s business model without ever meeting any of their employees in person. I was able to overcome this obstacle by doing ample research on the performance marketing industry as well as Fluent’s owned and operated sites to learn how they leverage solutions to drive customer acquisition throughout various channels. Being eager to learn everything I could in such a short time, I often reached out to my colleagues to set up time to review any questions I may have had.
Proudest Accomplishment: I am most proud of the network I have built at Fluent. Although our internship was conducted remotely, I have made so many valuable connections with people I can hardly believe I have never met in person. It is so rewarding to know I am ending an internship with a group of people I can look up to and rely on in the upcoming stages of my career as a young professional.
Chhavi Kumar | Data Science Intern | Stevens Institute of Technology
As a remote intern, the initial few weeks were challenging. Understanding Fluent’s business model and my team’s role within it, comprehending the data I had to work with, and understanding my team’s expectations of me all at the same was overwhelming. I felt I was almost always running short on time. As soon as I had this realization, I started putting in extra effort to help me get a head start for the next week. After practicing for a couple of weeks, I was soon on par with my daily tasks, and by the end of first month I was wheeling through assignments on schedule while enjoying the work I was doing.
Proudest accomplishment: As a Data Science Intern, I was asked to build a segmentation model to provide internal stakeholders with an understanding of the consumers completing offers, their attributes, and how those attributes interact and influence consumer behavior. As a student coming from an Information Systems major, with just a few relevant courses and academic projects, I applied for this role out of sheer passion and interest in the Data Science field. As I worked towards my deliverable for the internship, I really enjoyed working with data, choosing the course of the analysis, and making decisions independently – all factors that helped to reinforce my decision to choose career in this field. I am very proud of my entire journey as a Data Science intern as well as the end-product that I delivered. The model may not be the best of the best, but I have definitely put my heart and soul into building it.
Elizabeth Fanshel | Product Intern | University of Illinois
Being on the product team, my role is traditionally very person-facing. I am a very outgoing, social person so the role is well suited to me. Learning to adjust to sitting at home alone has been interesting. I have had to learn to adapt to that via Zoom. There are a lot of daily meetings and opportunities for collaboration. I try to be extra involved. For every meeting I’m invited to, I am in, ready to contribute and participate, even if that means actively listening. Product is a whole new language to me and learning through listening has been the biggest benefit.
Proudest Accomplishment: My proudest accomplishment is my work on the survey arm of Fluent’s new customer platform. It will be great to be able to point to something tangible and say, “I did that.”
What is one thing that surprised you most about the remote internship experience?
Grace Cresser | Messaging Intern | Bentley University
Something that surprised me about working remotely was how quickly I was able to connect with the people I was working with, even though I have never met them in person before. It’s crazy to think that I’ve never met anyone on my team or any of the vendors we work with on a weekly basis, and yet I feel as if I know them so well. I think that Zoom has made it easier to meet other people face-to-face and the virtual team events have helped me to connect with the other Fluent employees.
Proudest Accomplishment: I’m most proud of being able to learn about SMS marketing and apply it to my own tests which yielded positive results. At the beginning of the internship I was not very knowledgeable about how promotional text messages are sent, the work that goes into sending these messages, and how to find out if these messages are successful. Thanks to my manager and my team I was able to learn about the SMS process and how to measure results. After doing market research and profitability reports I implemented my own SMS tests, which ended up earning more revenue than some of the previous messages. I’m proud that I was able to learn about a concept that was new to me and then implement my own successful tests based on what I learned.
Jessica Barbaria | Legal Intern | Boston College
I was pleasantly surprised by how busy I was as a remote intern. I was worried that with the interns out of sight, we would also be out of mind and wouldn’t get much work assigned to us as a result. Instead, the legal team was proactive in making sure I was included in everything they were working on – even if it was just to listen in on meetings – and gave me plenty of work to do.
Proudest Accomplishment: My favorite project during the internship involved researching international data privacy laws. I started working on this early in the internship, and it helped provide some context for everything the legal team does at Fluent. Through my research I was able to gain a more complete understanding of the regulatory environment Fluent operates in and see how the legal team supports the Fluent business in making informed strategic decisions.
Jordan Richman | Business Analytics Intern | Indiana University – Bloomington
Independence surprised me the most about the remote internship experience. I thought being spoon-fed was the best way to learn but working independently has proven to be very important. This remote internship has taught me to make my own decisions and do things on my own.
Proudest Accomplishment: I’m most proud of creating a generalized MVC analysis that can be used in different scenarios to streamline the overall process. In order to do this, I had to take a class to learn Power BI, essentially teaching myself how to use the tool. In turn, I ultimately created a Power BI template for Fluent with instructions and a data dictionary that they can use in the future to make the process faster.
How did Fluent help you to feel connected to your team and the company at large while interning from home?
Kaela Kilfoil | Mobile Account Management Intern | Fordham University
Even though this internship has been remote, I have felt really connected to Fluent and my team. Working things out over frequent Zoom calls and quick and efficient team communication has been key to my overall internship success.
Proudest Accomplishment: My greatest accomplishment throughout this internship has been creating video content for The Smart Wallet (TSW) to test within an article for the first time. Change can be scary, especially trying out video on a site that focuses solely on written article content. I am so happy my TSW team allowed me to run with this idea and test it on the site!
Lucas Pavlounis | Compliance Intern | Connecticut College
As interns, we will be remembered for our participation in Fluent’s first and only remote summer program. With that is a natural expectation that interpersonal communication would be less intimate and more difficult to practice. However, Fluent has done a remarkable job of integrating new hires and keeping them in the loop by hosting team and company-wide Zoom calls such as the monthly Town Hall and DEI meetings. With varying themes, these meetings helped to familiarize and reinforce company culture across departments.
Proudest Accomplishment: I base the success of my efforts on the realization of goals and the extent of company and community impact. In both ways, I have overcome numerous obstacles to achieve positive change here at Fluent.
Michaela VanDerVelden | Creative Intern | Elon University
Fluent provides its employees with a variety of ways to feel connected during these uncertain times. On top of team Zoom calls and daily check-ins, there are weekly Lunch & Learn seasons on a variety of topics ranging from sleep schedules to finances. There is also Slack’s Donut feature which matches Fluent employees and interns with a new coworker to chat with over coffee every week.
Proudest Accomplishment: My summer at Fluent has been one of many achievements. However, I believe my proudest accomplishment is the growth I have made. Fluent has given me the confidence to take risks, reach out to other employees, and truly run with my creative ideas. Seeing my designs go live on Fluent’s owned and operated websites is truly a rewarding experience.
What is one piece of advice you’d pass along to someone considering pursuing a remote internship?
Rachel Lutovsky | Social Media Intern | Washington State University
I’d advise anyone considering a remote internship to stay moving throughout the day! Moving your workspace around your home, working outside, or going for a walk during lunch can keep you feeling creative, motivated, and fresh.
Proudest Accomplishment: My proudest accomplishment is having created a social media video ad that broke company records for profitability! I’m beyond grateful for the Media Buying team who has given me so much creative freedom and encouraged me to take great risks that have led to great success.
Tamim Sangrar | Mobile Apps Intern| University of Arizona
Try to connect with your team. Do not just talk about work – try and have fun with your team and engage them.
Proudest Accomplishment: My manager entrusted me with building an entire new mobile game from scratch. As of now, the game’s structure and design are ready and it’s already in development. Developing the game from concept to development has been my proudest accomplishment during my internship.
Vidhi Shah | Data Engineer Intern | Rochester Institute of Technology
It is important to find time to connect with peers. In an office environment, you get to interact with colleagues every day, but this is a challenge when it comes to a remote internship. In order to compensate for this, consider requesting a standing video meeting or a phone call to get to know people in different functions. I would also recommend connecting with peers and other professionals on LinkedIn to help build connections within the desired industry.
Proudest Accomplishment: In my Data Engineering internship, the team started migrating the data from a relational database to a Data Lake environment, which involved learning multiple components of AWS such as Glue, Athena, and S3. Mastering the concepts, having this as an add-on technology under my belt, and implementing it in their landscape was my proudest accomplishment. I also designed and architected an automated process for Fluent’s MVC audience which is now being leveraged by the larger Analytics team and in turn, the business as a whole.
Interested in joining the Fluent team? Check out our open positions here!