Adobe Research interns build a network of peers and mentors—even when they’re far apart

October 10, 2022

Tags: Internships

There are a lot of benefits to an Adobe Research internship — interns experience life in industry, take part in cutting-edge research, and contribute to publications and patents. Another big benefit: the relationships they build.

“As a PhD student, the social connections you make are usually with your peer group,” explains Adobe Research Scientist Zoya Bylinskii. “As far as mentors, you have lecturers who teach you, and your advisor who’s your academic boss, and maybe some senior graduate students or postdocs in your group. But an internship is an opportunity to expand to peers at other institutions and a whole network of mentors.”

And those intern-mentor relationships at Adobe can run deep. “It’s very rare for your PhD advisor to sit and have lunch with you, but it’s common for your Adobe Research mentor to,” Bylinskii adds. “You get face time with senior researchers, so you can absorb their wisdom, experience, and views on the field.”

Helping interns build connections in a more remote world

In addition to her research work, Bylinskii is one of the organizers of the Adobe Research internship program. And one thing that’s been on her mind these last few summers is making sure interns connect with their peers and mentors, even when they’re remote.

“We got feedback in earlier summers that people felt isolated — which was the case for just about everyone during Covid — so we wanted to find more ways to help everyone connect,” Bylinskii says. The team leaned into the things they knew interns want most: opportunities to learn and talk one-on-one with mentors.

Getting the formula just right

The team organized last summer’s events with a focus on how people interact in the digital world: small social events were less structured because that’s where virtual chatting feels most comfortable. As events got bigger, the team added more structure to help interactions flow.

At the smallest scale were the “Donut Chats” — interns and researchers signed up by way of the Donut feature in Slack, and then they were randomly paired for weekly 30-minute intern-mentor video calls.

Principal Scientist Kalyan Sunkavalli was a frequent Donut Chatter this summer. “I find it useful as a way to connect with interns who are working remotely,” he says. “I hope that interns feel like they’ve made a personal connection with someone at Adobe who they may not be working with (which is something that would usually have happened in hallway conversations). And I hope they get a sense of what’s great about Adobe Research — the freedom to do open-ended research, the opportunity to have a deep product impact, and the collaborative nature of our teams.”

Carlos Taveras, an Adobe Research intern, says he got a lot out of Donut Chats. “I’m interested in hearing what other people are working on. I’ve learned something new from everyone I’ve talked to.”

For slightly bigger events, individual labs put together digital meetings with a fun agenda, like virtual games. Adobe Researchers also formed larger, more formal interest groups with readings and speakers — topics ranged from physics and numerical optimization to document analysis and readability research.

The biggest virtual events were seminars and panels on topics near and dear to interns, including communication skills and the transition from academia to industry. In these large settings, interns had the opportunity to interact by asking questions.

With so many virtual ways to connect, this past summer’s interns were able to come together with peers and mentors all across Adobe, regardless of time zones or physical locations. While virtual events started as a COVID workaround, they’ve quickly become a tool to help interns build wider networks than ever before.

Meeting in person, finally

After a long pause, interns last summer also had several opportunities to meet each other and their mentors in person. Interns could work in the office, which opened all of those little moments for day-to-day interactions, from quick conversations in the hall to lunch socials.

At the end of the summer, many interns took the opportunity to come together for the North American Adobe Intern Summit in San Jose — they had the option to attend in-person or join virtually. During the event, attendees heard from Adobe leaders, watched lightning product demos, took advantage of professional development sessions on everything from emerging technologies to creative problem solving, and got to know each other through a scavenger hunt and mixer.

“Working from home can be isolating,” says Melanie Bancilhon, one of this year’s Adobe Research interns. “So, meeting face-to-face at the Intern Summit allowed me to reinforce the connections I’d made virtually and bond with my colleagues and research lab mates. It was also nice to just hang out and have casual chats.”

A summer of network-building

After a summer packed with learning and social events, this year’s interns headed out with a new network of peers and mentors who’ll be there to help support them in their academic work and beyond. Interested in an Adobe summer internship? Learn more and apply here.

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