Like many others, as COVID-19 continued to unfold, we at Kittelson were faced with the decision of canceling our internship program or reimagining it to make it work for the unique circumstances of Summer 2020. After much dialogue and planning, we launched our first-ever virtual internship program on June 15 with a brand new curriculum built around interactive trainings, tech sessions, meet and greets, and project live streams.

One of our 2020 interns is Sruthi Ashraf, who is pursuing her doctorate in transportation engineering at Texas A&M University. Here, Sruthi shares a bit about her virtual internship experience from a midway point in the program.

When 2020 began, I was dreaming about a Californian summer, hikes at Yosemite, and above all else, my long-awaited internship with Kittelson and attending the Intern Jamboree that traditionally concludes Kittelson’s summer internship program.

But, the world changed over my spring break. As a PhD Candidate, I was anxious about how I would continue finishing my research and still pursue the internship.

Even though an in-person internship (and my Californian summer) was unable to happen this year, Kittelson’s internship coordination team worked tirelessly to implement their program virtually. We’re midway through the program now, and here are some reflections on how it’s going.

I feel fortunate to be a part of this program from the comfort of my home. It’s been fun trying new virtual backgrounds during meetings, speaking without unmuting, and being clumsy while screen sharing. Despite all preparations, I’ve had my fair share of technology challenges while accessing company resources during onboarding, but Kittelson’s IT and HR teams as well as my mentor, Anusha Munusuru, have walked me through the procedures patiently.

Even though I am missing the experience of in-person work interactions, internship program organizers Jennifer Musselman, Caitlin Mildner and Mark Heisinger have kept us engaged through a thoughtful plan.

  • Tech sessions have familiarized us with specific topics in the transportation engineering and planning domain; I’ve especially enjoyed the sessions on bike station design, autonomous vehicles, data collection, GIS and signals.
  • Live stream/job shadow sessions with employees have shed light into everyday life of a transportation engineer/planner/designer. In these job shadows so far, we’ve gotten a chance to peek into microsimulation modelling, trip assignment procedure, scoping and budgeting and take part in discussions with clients on plan work sessions.
  • Meet and greets have showcased to me how much every member of Kittelson values the organization and its core values. The staff I’ve talked to have been happy to talk about their career and keen to hear about our interests. Some of them went the extra mile by contacting us based on our alma mater or the career interests we mentioned in our profile.
  • Training sessions and group assignments on roundabouts (Zach Bugg), transit planning (Veronica McBeth and Elizabeth Gordon) and safety (Matt Braughton and Erin Ferguson) have given us opportunities to evaluate real-life problems and generate solutions for it. These sessions promote interactions among us interns and to help us get to know each other better.
  • There have been other activities that have added value, some of which I didn’t expect. In light of recent events, Kittelson has conducted sessions promoting dialogues on racial equity, and we as interns have gotten the chance to attend many of these sessions as well as regional meetings. We’ve also gotten to meet CEO Brandon Nevers, learn about the business side of consulting with CFO Larry Van Dyke, and hear the history of Kittelson from its leaders, demonstrating to me how transparent, service-oriented and entrepreneurial the company is.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other interns during the team work sessions and by setting up individual/group meet-ups. This week, we’re preparing slides together for a safety training presentation, and awaiting the mega virtual intern mixer night.

This summer internship experience is showing me the immense amount of dedication and commitment the staff at Kittelson provide to their work and to us as interns, and all of us interns are proud to be a part of this wonderful collective effort.

We look forward to continuing to learn and adapt in the remaining weeks of our internship program, and we’ll post more updates along the way. You can read more about the program here, and meet the rest of our 2020 interns here!