The SWE editorial board is launching a new Q&A column — “Ask Alice” — and we want to hear your questions. If you’re a collegian or young professional seeking advice on a personal or professional issue, please submit your question to this google doc.
We will answer these on a rolling basis, so be on the lookout for an upcoming “Ask Alice” in the Voices and Views section of SWE Magazine.
Below is a sample of the type of timely and practical advice and perspective we will offer.
My summer internship has been cancelled. Now what?
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many companies have cancelled internships for the summer of 2020. This can feel like an unfortunate setback, as many students look forward to their summer internships to gain engineering experience, earn money, and grow their professional network to advance their career and education. Depending on what aspect of your summer internship, we at the SWE Editorial Board have some ideas on how to make the most of your stay-at-home summer.
If you were looking forward to your summer so you could improve your technical engineering skills, you can engage in some citizen science. You can work independently at home on a research project that will up your technical skills. Reaching out to an industry contact over LinkedIn, or a Professor at your university to supervise you remotely can be a way to turn the time you have at home into a great learning experience.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for more hands-on experience, consider volunteering as a front-line worker in the health care, social work, or agricultural sectors. Engineers are found in many different fields because of their problem-solving capabilities, and interdisciplinary life experience is becoming a more valued professional asset. Step out of your comfort zone, learn, and do good at the same time.
If you needed your summer internship to help pay for school, consider remote work options. Most engineering degrees give you an introduction to computer programming and statistics, so picking up web development or data science contracts online is possible if that is in your skillset. Alternatively, online tutoring can help you make money and also reinforce your fundamental technical knowledge at the same time.
If you were most looking forward to widening your professional network, this might actually be a more open time to do that. Many professional conferences that were previously out of reach for students due to travel and budget constraints are now taking place online at reduced rates, or for free. Further, professional organizations, lobbying groups, or think tanks may have outreach work, or volunteering you can do remotely.
Of course, these options are not available to everyone as working from home requires internet connectivity, which can be hard to rely on in certain situations. Consider reaching out to a community space, your university, or even a local business and see if they would be ok if you work there (while respecting social distancing measures).
Good luck, and make lemonade!