Using virtual internships to develop my skills: Edinburgh Award

Delighted to continue our Edinburgh Award (Work Experience and Volunteering) insights with a guest blog post from Ian Yang, a current undergraduate student with the School of Chemistry. Ian provides an excellent overview of how he approached virtual internships. He also shares some top tips for those interested in participating in future Awards or virtual internships.

I am looking forward to the start of semester when I will be going into third year of the Medicinal and Biological Chemistry undergraduate degree. For the Edinburgh Award (Work and Volunteering Experience), I participated in four different virtual internship programmes: KPMG Data Analytics on InsideSherpa and three programmes on Bright Network (Consulting, Technology, and Business Operation). These programmes were very similar but different in their own ways, and I will focus on the two most valuable skills I developed: project management and problem-solving skills:

Skills gained and how I approached each internship

Project Management Skills – Bright Network Consulting Internship Experience

  • The task required me to design, implement and predict the outcome of a customer loyalty programme for a chocolate company.
  • Firstly, I did my research on the chocolate and confectionery industry in the UK and identified challenges and specific steps to take.
  • With the tasks identified, I predicted the specific economic outcomes of the project implementation.
  • The most important step for the project was the Gantt chart which helped me enormously to juggle tasks and keep on track with deadlines. This tool was not something I had been familiar with before taking part in the Award. I became aware of it through networking with my peers who were also working on the same tasks.
  • Finally, to implement the project, a change management plan was laid out to make sure that every stakeholder was on the same page.

Problem-solving Skills – Bright Network Technology Internship Experience

  • The task involved designing a facial recognition function for the login of a mobile banking app.
  • To kickstart the project, various steps were identified: reviewing the benefits and vulnerability of the technology, researching and understanding the needs of key users, application feature design, stakeholder communication plan and customer feedback.
  • During the ‘application feature design’, I used the “User Story” approach to mitigate the problems in the format of, “As a user, I want so that.” For example: ‘As a customer who is wary of privacy breach, I want the app to keep confidentiality about my facial data and not give access to any third party, so that I know where I have given consent for my facial data.’
  • Acceptance criteria for the needs of each customer could then be set.
  • This approach prompted me to think outside the box about problems, and that helped me develop unique ideas.

Tips for future participants:

Set deadlines

One piece of advice I would give to others who are doing similar projects is to set deadlines and stick to them, especially when working from home. Whilst I was working on tasks for the KPMG data analytics internship, I was also taking part in other online projects. However, since this internship didn’t have a set deadline, it was easy to forget some tasks.

Network with your peers

Whilst a virtual internship consists of individual tasks, working with a peer or sharing advice will benefit your progress – especially when you don’t have a clue as to how to approach a given task. Through networking with others, you will also build connections and invaluable interpersonal skills. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; send a message on a social media platform like LinkedIn and start connecting.

Parting thoughts

During my degree, I am able to develop vast chemical scientific knowledge, laboratory techniques and data analytic skills. It is a challenging degree to be pursuing, but I am glad that it is, as I have learned many transferable skills such as time management and stress management skills. I was able to apply and further develop these skills during my virtual internships. Such skills are valuable to employers and I’m really pleased that I took part in the Edinburgh Award.



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