“How Summer Internship Programs are Adapting During a Global Pandemic: Merck” was featured on LinkedIn in May 2020.
The story goes something like this: the year was 1962 and John F. Kennedy was greeting members of the staff at NASA when he met a janitor, carrying a broom. The President shook the janitor’s hand and asked him what he was doing. The janitor replied, “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
If you’re smart and lucky, then someday you’ll get the chance to work toward something that will change the world. That change may be massive in scale, as it was for Maurice Hilleman and his team when they developed the measles vaccine, saving the lives of millions over a span of decades. Or a simpler act, doing something that means the world for one person, like the case of the delivery person bringing a life-saving medication to a patient’s front door.
The COVID-19 pandemic can sharpen our understanding of our place in the order of things. Relatively simple things like wearing a mask, washing our hands, and keeping a safe social distance are suddenly of enormous consequence. By doing these things you and I can have an exponential impact on public health. We can literally save lives.
With a bit of critical thinking, we can apply this mindset to our work. At Merck, our mission is, “To discover, develop and provide innovative products and services that save and improve lives around the world.” The uninitiated may think this is the province of scientists and doctors, and they most certainly play a critical role, but so too do the engineers who design and build laboratories and facilities to manufacture products at scale. So do the workers on the line, who have continued to work throughout the pandemic to ensure uninterrupted supply. So do the custodial teams who keep our workplaces clean and sterile. So do the people in sales and marketing, who are working remotely to find new and creative ways to connect with consumers and providers. And yes, so do our interns and co-ops.
How Merck Has Evolved During This Time
At Merck, we are committed to their experience. Our managers have displayed remarkable flexibility in shifting experiences that were to be hands-on and in-person to those that will be interactive and virtual. We’ve worked with them to develop a virtual curriculum: more than forty hours of content ranging from an in-depth exploration of the drug discovery process to a session on professional branding through social media. The curriculum will be brought to life through live sessions with divisional leads and a globally broadcast conversation with our CEO, Ken Frazier. And the Next-Gen Network, our generationally-focused employee business resource group, has shifted their celebrated mentor’s program online. This, in part, to help the interns recognize that they are a part of something bigger. That the work they do matters and contributes to our mission to save and improve lives the world over.
Each year these talented individuals bring their fresh perspectives to our community. This year, they will work remotely as so many of us are, but with the right mindset, their impact can be exponential. Indeed, their work may help change the world.