Virtual Internship, Real Experience: Amid Pandemic, Interns Dive into NVIDIA’s Online Workplace

With summer internships disrupted by a pandemic, NVIDIA’s bringing more than 500 university students into a workforce that’s gone virtual.
by Brian Caulfield

NVIDIA’s always been known for an internship program like no other.

Now, with internships across the world on hold amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, we’re continuing to welcome interns in a way few other companies can.

“Of everyone in my group of friends, I’m the only one who still has an internship this summer; all of theirs fell through” says John Mulliken (pictured, above), an undergraduate at Loyola Marymount, in Los Angeles, who will join NVIDIA’s consumer marketing team this summer.

Teams across the company — from research to software development to marketing — have already begun working with the first of the more than 500 university students and summer hires arriving at NVIDIA over the summer.

They’ll participate in a virtual program that’s been put together in just a few short weeks at a time when companies around the world are canceling and postponing internships.

A survey of students by College Reaction showed half of those responding reporting their summer internships had been disrupted — and half of those had already been canceled.

Future Leaders

But Jennifer Armor, who leads NVIDIA’s internship program as part of the company’s college recruiting team, sees no other choice but to move forward.

“These are our future leaders,” she said. “We need to do what we can as a company that’s doing well, and part of that is continuing to invest in our people.”

NVIDIA isn’t alone. Certain other Silicon Valley companies — Apple, Facebook, Google — are moving forward with internships even as they’ve closed their offices and asked employees to work from home.

An Elite Group

Pablo Cargnelutti is among the many NVIDIA interns who are pursuing advanced degrees.

NVIDIA’s internships have become some of the most widely sought out in the technology industry — with NVIDIA’s college recruiting team making contact with more than 10,000 candidates over the past year.

Many interns, like Pablo Cargnelutti, an incoming intern who is pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Central Florida in computer science, already have years of work experience.

More than a third of NVIDIA’s interns are pursuing Ph.D.s, and another third pursuing master’s degrees from universities around the globe. Like them, Cargnelutti sees internships as “crucial” for building a career.

And NVIDIA’s internship program has a strong word of mouth reputation in the AI and machine learning field. It was a close friend of his, Cargnelutti says, an NVIDIA intern last year, who urged him to apply.

Real Work, Real-World Experience

NVIDIA’s interns are embedded into teams across the company, even leading projects that are presented at our annual GPU Technology Conference.

But while NVIDIA relies on interns, our interns also rely on us. Many count on the pay from their internship to help fund college, Armor says.

Some even rely on NVIDIA — which provides a housing stipend and help with finding housing in Silicon Valley — for a place to live over the summer, she reported.

“Some have been kicked out of the dorms, others are from overseas, they have nowhere else to go,” Armor said.

Building a Virtual Internship Program

So in early March — even before widespread social distancing measures were mandated — NVIDIA’s university recruiting team got to work.

Members of the team checked in with every intern’s manager

They then lined up support from teams across the company to help build a new kind of internship program — one that would help build community, virtually.

NVIDIA’s IT team — already scrambling to meet a surge in demand for support as employees around the world began working from home as early as January — stepped up in a big way, Armor reports.

They quickly configured and shipped out whatever interns needed — from laptops to powerful workstations — and ensured they had access, virtually, to whatever tools they needed, from arcane development tools, to access to NVIDIA’s supercomputer to corporate Slack and Webex accounts.

With the virtual infrastructure in place, employees across the company pitched in.

NVIDIA interns have always gotten access to leaders across the company. In this photo, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang addresses last year’s NVIDIA interns, an event which will take place virtually this year.

Key leaders from across the company — including NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang and chief scientist Bill Dally — will participate in a twice weekly speaker series.

Others are signing up to mentor interns through intimate virtual coffee events.

The university recruiting team has arranged virtual happy hours — complete with live DJs — to help interns get to know one another.

Interns sheltering in place will also be treated to a cooking demonstration from NVIDIA’s dining staff.

Virtual or not, NVIDIA’s university recruiting team plans to take the lessons learned over the months to come to make NVIDIA’s internship program stronger than ever.

It will certainly make a lasting difference in the careers of those who participate.

“You have three steps forward on everyone who hasn’t gotten an internship,” Mulliken says. “You know what it’s like to work —virtually or in person — with a great team.”