Determined to foster the future of tech and ecommerce, eBay pushed forward with a virtual internship experience this summer to help shape the next generation of talent. We’re launching our Intern Spotlight Series and featuring interviews with the latest class of eBay interns to hear about how their virtual experience made an impact on their future careers in business, tech and marketing.
A current MBA student at the University of Texas at Austin, Lena Kim joined eBay this summer as a marketing and strategy intern in the North America Marketplace Business Unit. Lena was familiar with eBay, since she’d used the platform to pay her way through college, and she admired how eBay empowered individuals and small businesses, helping lend a hand to their success.
But joining eBay during a pandemic meant that her internship would be all virtual, an experience she was game to try, despite a few hesitations.
Her work this summer was to add raw data into a tool that allows eBay to understand customer problems in greater detail and gave Lena insight into future career options. More importantly perhaps, Lena found her experience to be filled with meaningful connections with other interns; challenges that pushed her professional growth; chances to lend her voice to meetings and workstreams; and genuine relationship building across the company. Indeed, her internship experience overall ended up exceeding expectations.
The eBay News team recently chatted with Lena about her experience learning through the screen.
What aspects of the virtual internship resonated the most with you?
As someone who firmly believes that I am better “in-person,” I was hugely skeptical of my ability to make authentic, genuine and lasting connections through a virtual internship. I was wrong.
In a sense, the constant connectivity through Slack messages, Zoom meetings, virtual intern events and webinars introduced me to more people thanI think I could possibly have met in person. Since we all had access to each other, it was incredibly easy to grow friendships and get to know each other over the summer.
As gushy as this may sound, I know that I walked away from this internship with more than a few newfound close friends. I’m currently working on calendar planning for a few of my newest “eBay family” members to come visit me in Austin once the corona-crazy is over.
Any pleasant surprises once you started your internship?
The amount of ownership I had at eBay. My original thinking was that in the best-case scenario of a virtual internship, I would have some facetime with other eBay employees outside of my team.
But from day one, it was clear to me that the expectations my direct manager and team had for me were no different than the high expectations they had for each other. My opinions, work and questions were heard, nurtured and even challenged every day. I was pushed, in a wonderful way, to be the best possible version of myself. Being an intern in person would not have produced results better than a virtual one did.
How will your experience this summer support you in your career?
While my deliverables were very clearly outlined, how I went about reaching those goals was entirely up to me. Learning how to identify the problem and gaps and then realizing how and who to ask for help and information from was a gold nugget of experience throughout my internship. I loved the fact that I was given not only ownership of my deliverables but also complete autonomy in creating the process of reaching those goals.
I found that eBay was one of those rare companies where you will thrive and succeed by being your true authentic self. So often, we find ourselves having to put on our “professional career” hat when in a workplace at the price of limiting certain aspects of your personality and character. I found very early on in this internship that eBay genuinely celebrates individuality, and it was very easy for me to feel comfortable showing my colleagues 100 percent of my true self.
What does eBay mean to you?
I was able to pay for a good chunk of my undergraduate tuition by selling items on eBay at a profit. Without that extra income, I would not have been able to obtain my degree, and it’s hard to say where I would be today without that university experience. My story is just one of many. Stories that involve eBay are stories about empowering individuals or small businesses to make a living, provide for themselves and reach their goals. So in that sense, eBay to me means empowerment and independence.