Given the restrictions posed by COVID-19, it is no surprise that Western Union’s 2021 Summer Internship Program continued virtually, similar to last year. Although a virtual program no doubt has its challenges, we are proud to have the largest and most diverse group of interns in our program this year – something that may not have been possible if we proceeded with an in-person session.
This year, #WUHQ has 20 interns based all over the United States. These interns—completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees locally—come from all different cultures and countries. As an intern, I get an early opportunity to hone the skills necessary to succeed as an emerging professional. Additionally, I am continuously surprised by the company’s unique ability to connect people around the globe. Working with this wide range of people has allowed me to learn from perspectives other than mine, and share my unique point of view with others. In this way, both the intern and company benefit from the influx of new ideas, viewpoints and people.
To get more insights, I asked some Western Union Leaders to share their perspectives on the organization’s internship program.
Why do you think a program like this is important for the company?
“Leaders learn a lot from Interns; they bring different perspectives, ways of working, and ideas. From a talent perspective, we’ve got to continue understanding what the future talent brings and what we have to do to attract that talent. Secondly, we want to continue to build a value proposition for people coming to the workforce to look at Western Union as the place they want to be. We want to create that brand in the marketplace, and the best way to do that is through our internships that continually grow and expand. The last few internship programs have been so successful – our Interns do great work, not busy work. The leaders must come up with a value proposition for the interns – it has to be real, and it has to contribute to the company. That’s why it’s truly valuable.”
– Richard Williams, Chief People Officer
Here is what our Talent Acquisition Program Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, Yolanda Larkin, had to say:
“Western Union just celebrated its 170-year anniversary, and it hasn’t been around that long by chance. We like to stay fresh and agile, so learning from interns helps us progress and grow. It is great to have that fresh perspective as well as build our pipeline of future leaders.”
What are the challenges and benefits of a virtual Internship program?
“A big challenge is the lack of in-person interaction and relationship-building opportunities. It’s a little harder virtually because nonverbal communication is huge, so not being in person is certainly challenging. You no longer have the chance to meet people in the hallway or by the water cooler. However, being virtual opens more opportunities for more interns. Previously, we have only been able to get interns from Colorado, but with a virtual model, we are opening opportunities for students from all over the country, and that is a huge benefit.”
How do you envision the Internship Program in the future?
“I’d love to be able to see a hybrid platform that encompasses the pros of both a virtual and in-person workplace. I see us doing a fall internship and a summer program, which helps continue building the pipeline for future leaders at Western Union. We don’t have a formalized early careers program, so I would love for our Internship program to become that pipeline and funnel. I definitely see us working to grow our program with two hybrid sessions and build that pipeline for early careers.”
While talking to leaders and peers, I am beginning to understand the importance of the program as it pertains to what I can give and what I can get. For my internship with the Employer Brand Team, I am helping conduct a company-wide social media audit, creating social campaigns and content for the next calendar year, and executing various day-to-day projects for my hiring manager, team, and other high-level executives. This is not just busywork. Instead, it is work that is genuinely creating impact for the company—in this case, to help strengthen our brand and attract quality talent. We are several weeks into the program, and as I get deeper into my projects, I’m thrilled knowing that the work will have true significance within the organization.
Despite working remotely, I have found endless opportunities to meet and connect with others. Through our individual focus areas and group work, the interns are constantly in contact with executives, managers, and employees from all business functions. There are many events for networking with other Western Union employees and fellow interns, such as a virtual escape room. Interns are also accountable like any other employee, and there is an expectation of being organized and proactive in collaborating with others to execute our deliverables. This creates an essential balance between structure and responsibility that I have noticed and appreciated throughout my internship so far.
Western Union does a great job giving their interns guidance and opportunity, but as with anything, we only get what we put into it. So, my message to any future intern is simple: Take initiative, network, and absorb all the information around you. If you have an excellent opportunity to kickstart your career with an internship, don’t waste even a moment.
All and all, the future of Western Union and its Internship program is in great hands. I’m excited to continue working with the Employer Brand team throughout the summer, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and work alongside such a diverse group of employees.
To all Western Union Internship leaders and mentors – Thank you for inspiring the other interns and me to be future leaders!
To all future Western Union interns – Prepare for a great experience and let us always strive to leave the organization even better than when we arrived!