Chronicles of a COVID-19 Intern

Ciara Johnson has been working remotely during the ongoing pandemic. Here’s how she’s been able to stay productive and create valuable connections.

Chronicles of a COVID-19 Intern

Like most Americans, Ciara Johnson’s summer isn’t panning quite out how she imagined it would when she accepted her internship with Roche Diagnostics in the fall.

The Chicago-native had plans to temporarily relocate to Indianapolis and participate in Indyfluence, a program that immerses interns in the Circle City and all it has to offer, while sneaking in a few volunteer hours here and there, too. While the program isn’t required, Roche highly recommends that its interns participate and Ciara was definitely looking forward to the new experiences it could offer her.

Then, you know, COVID-19 hit.

She was fortunate enough to be able to work at her internship remotely and still participate in a slightly modified version of Indyfluence.

We chatted with Ciara to hear more about what it’s been like working remotely compared to last summer in the office (when she also interned for Roche), how she stays focused while working from home, and what she likes to do after a long work week.

What’s it like doing Indyfluence online?

I would say it brings the same level of opportunity and experience that we would get in-person, personally, for me. It’s really nice to be able to do it in the comfort of my own home, staying safe during the pandemic. I would have loved to experience Indyfluence in person. Not being from Indianapolis, it was really awesome to see all these different opportunities that Indianapolis has to offer.

What’s your favorite thing that Indyfluence introduced you to last summer?

I love Indianapolis! Even though I am from Chicago, I’ve really enjoyed Indy as a whole. With that being said, one thing that my experience with Indyfluence showed me is the Broad Ripple area. There’s a popcorn shop called Just Pop In! that was one of my favorite places to go after work sometimes.

Tell me a little bit more about the virtual events you’ve participated in this summer.

So far, I have attended several virtual Indyfluence events including the welcome event, Lead Indy, Ally4All training, and the Indy Chamber’s Town Hall Webinar. I had the unique opportunity to participate in the IndyFluence Ally4All training and the Indy Chamber’s Town Hall Webinar as I was the Zoom admin for Ally4All and attended as one of the panelists for Indy Chamber’s Town Hall Webinar.

Do you see yourself joining the Indy community once you graduate?

Throughout my experiences last summer and this summer with Indyfluence, I’ve really been able to experience and immerse myself in Indianapolis culture. I’ve been able to experience the nightlife, volunteer opportunities, and again, I’ve even been able to get professional relationships through Indyfluence. I place a lot of emphasis on community and experiencing Indyfluence has shown me that strong sense of community that Indianapolis has.

What does your day-to-day look like?

No day looks the same. With diversity and inclusion, especially right now, there’s always a new project to work on, new and arising info to learn and to share with others. I’m always working on new projects and trainings that can produce a positive impact on the Roche community. The goal for myself and for my supervisors as the DNI intern is to leave an impact on Roche diversity and inclusion—that produces a more positive and equitable workplace for everyone.

Any plans yet for after you graduate in May 2021?

I am trying to figure that out! This summer, I’ve used this time and these experiences, these very vast arrays of experiences, to really figure out what it is that I’d like to do with my degree and with my career. I would definitely say thinking about where I see myself in the future, that I see myself being a leader at a company like Roche. I do plan on getting my MBA, just not quite sure as to when that will happen. The future is definitely something that I have to think about. I’m just really enjoying my time now and just figuring that out from there.

What advice do you have for others that have found themselves working remotely?

Even though you’re at home, utilize all of the time that you have at the internship, and really try to treat your internship virtually, as if you were in-person. When I say that, I mean find a place that you feel comfortable that you can use as your office space. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that you don’t know, whether they’re interns or whether they’re full-time employees at the company you’re working at. Honestly, being virtual might not be as scary as meeting someone in person.

How do you stay focused and avoid distractions while working from home?

Working from home has definitely been a challenge since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but I have found ways to be focused and productive during this time. One of those is keeping a goal journal. Each week I have a set of goals I would like to achieve. I use each day to work on those goals and re-visit the goal journal at the end of the week to track my progress. I also use a system to work for one hour with a five-minute break.

What’s your favorite way to relax after a LONG WORK WEEK?

My favorite way to relax after a 40-hour workweek is going for a long run on Saturday. I usually go to my local forest preserve to make sure I am socially distancing myself. I’ve always enjoyed running and I find it’s a great way to clear my mind.

How do you maintain relationships with your coworkers while you work from home?

Maintaining relationships with coworkers has been essential for me since we are all working from a virtual environment. I maintain relationships by ensuring that I make time to have coffee chats, lunch, and update meetings with other interns and my supervisors. I even find that because I am intentionally setting time aside for these connections, I am building some of the best professional relationships I have ever had the opportunity to create.

Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.