KINGSTON, R.I. – Aug. 25, 2020 – After securing a summer internship at FM Global in November, Ryan Barker worried it could be canceled before it started as the COVID-19 pandemic caused many companies across the nation to rethink their summer employment plans.
“This was a huge opportunity that was given to me and I did not want it to disappear,” said Barker ’22, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Rhode Island. “I was very surprised when I got the news that it would happen. Even though it’s not in the office or full-time, I’m very grateful for the learning experience.”
Barker is one of eight URI students who were hired this summer as interns or co-ops and are working remotely for the Johnston-based mutual insurance company. Overall, FM Global hired 50 interns and co-ops for the summer who are working remotely in the corporate headquarters in Rhode Island or other offices worldwide and earning the same as entry-level corporate employees in those positions.
“That number is on par with how many interns we typically employ annually,” said Steve Zenofsky, assistant vice president, public relations. “Unlike many other organizations nationally, we did not scale back due to the pandemic. Interns add tremendous value at FM Global and so we made accommodations for them to work remotely and have a great intern experience.”
Compared to national statistics, the URI students and their fellow FM Global interns have been lucky. Nationally, a third of college students saw their internships canceled, according to an April survey of students by the career platform Handshake. Another 24 percent reported interning remotely, limiting their experience in an office setting and the chance to easily network with colleagues.
Lauren Poirier ’21 is interning with FM Global’s public relations team, and while she acknowledges that having the chance to meet her team face-to-face would have been nice, she doesn’t feel she’s missed out by working remotely.
“You don’t get to go for coffee in the cafeteria with different people on your team,” said Poirier, of Little Compton, who is majoring in public relations and English. “But at the same time, we have so much technology at our fingertips. If I want to talk to someone, all I have to do is ping them on Skype, send them an email or call them. So, I feel everyone is just as accessible to me as they would be if I was in the office, perhaps even more so.”
FM Global helped smooth the way by shipping all interns laptops and providing high-speed wifi where needed. Regular online meetings have kept her connected with her boss, while she’s been able to meet with other interns through Microsoft Teams. And FM Global chairman and CEO Tom Lawson’s annual lunch with summer interns in the corporate office was done virtually, which extended it to the company’s interns internationally.
Poirier has worked this summer on enhancing the corporate online newsroom, contributing to marketing campaigns and placing numerous stories about FM Global in media outlets.
“Being able to apply everything I’ve been taught in my classes at URI has been a bit surreal. When you’re in the classroom, you can lose sight of the fact that the concepts you are learning are used on an everyday basis by people practicing your intended career,” she said. “I truly feel that I am treated as a full-time employee at FM Global. I’m treated like I add value to the company, that my experience and ideas are worthwhile.”
Barker, who lives in Warwick, was excited to be selected for the internship at FM Global because he had heard a lot of great things about the company. He had visited its research campus in Glocester prior to the pandemic and was inspired by the cutting-edge research into preventing property loss being conducted there. This summer, Barker has used computer-aided design (CAD) to produce preliminary sketches of FM Global-insured buildings, and has learned and used knowledge about fire prevention methods.
“Career-wise, I never thought about potentially becoming a loss prevention engineer,” he said. “But ever since I’ve had this opportunity, it has piqued my interest a lot.”
Yeury Galva Liriano ’21, a computer science major from Central Falls, has been working for about a month in a co-op position in the Agile department, which works on rapid development of technology for products and services.
“I’ve been doing real work and while I have only worked at FM Global for a month, I have learned a lot of things that are not taught in school,” he said. “Everything I’m currently doing is exactly what I want to do when I graduate.”
Andrea Monteiro, of Lincoln, a senior in global business management and Chinese, has been working as an inclusion intern in the human resources department, working on initiatives including an intern recognition project, diversity recruiting strategy, and implementing new language augmentation software.
“This internship has been great in helping me decide my future career path,” she said. “Coming into the position, I didn’t really know what path I wanted to follow, but after meeting so many great people and working on these projects it has influenced me to potentially pursue a career in human resource management or project management.”
Working remotely has prepared her for the semester ahead, she said, while also showing her that it can be done smoothly.
“Working from home has made me even more responsible and self-disciplined,” added Poirier. “I believe it will make me and my fellow interns more marketable upon graduation because we have proven that we can handle the responsibility of working from home. We can get things done.”
The four other URI students who have worked this summer at FM Global are: Keia DePina ’21, of South Kingstown, who is majoring in health studies; Steven Josephson ’21, of Wakefield, who is majoring in computer science; Evan Urban ’21, of North Kingstown, a major in business, computer science and Spanish; and Evan Wildenhain ’20, of Warwick, a major in computer science and math.