Innovations in Internships: Cultivating the Next Generation of Talent

By Michelle Bryan, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Chief Administrative Officer

With the discovery of water on Mars, astronaut Scott Kelly spending a year on the International Space Station and #BeAnAstronaut trending on Twitter, it’s safe to say that space is cool again. Of course, here at Intelsat, space has always been cool. The question has been how to make it an attractive enough industry for the incredible young STEM talent coming out of colleges and universities these days – which is why I was particularly impressed by our recent summer intern program.

Like many companies, Intelsat has had an intern program for many years. In fact, over the last five years, more than 100 young professionals have come through our offices in internships across every area of our business – from flight dynamics to accounting, from risk management to information technology. In that time, 18 of those young professionals have parlayed their experiences into full-time staff positions.

This summer, we tried something different with our internship program. We took a group of five of our 18 summer interns and formed an “innovation team.” These individuals were from different backgrounds: an engineering major (as expected), but also an English major, an international business major, a physics/communications major and one majoring in applied economics. Instead of placing them in a department with a single manager overseeing their work, we gave them a single assignment. We tasked the team with creating something new for Intelsat. Something not already in the marketplace.

We set them up in one of our collaborative workspaces, which we call “the wedge,” and gave them white boards, smart boards, laptops and access to advisors. We immersed them in our business, sending them (along with all of our summer interns) to tour a teleport, to visit a satellite manufacturer and to listen in on presentations about our technology.

At the end of the summer, they presented the results of their work to a team of management and staff. I won’t go into detail because their proposal (or a version of it) is something that we very well may undertake. I will go so far as to say that they developed a way for business owners in remote regions to be able to easily access satellite services.

Their fresh ideas got me thinking that what we really need is a refresh in our whole industry, and not just at Intelsat. I am in awe of our more seasoned talent here – we have these very experienced, excellent engineers and professionals – some of the most experienced in the industry. But we have to think about refreshing our workforce to make sure that, over the next ten to 15 years, we have the best new minds coming in behind them. Our “innovation intern” program is one way we’re looking to do this. Another is by expanding our internship program in partnership with local universities to have year-round technical engineering internships.

It is exciting to see the next generation at work at Intelsat and to hear from them how much they enjoy our culture, work environment and vision as well as learning from such accomplished professionals. There is something else that’s quite remarkable about bringing in these professionals just starting out in their careers to work with our seasoned staff: our employees start to teach, to impart what they know. And that definitely makes space cool again.

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