Virtual interns share their experience at ASML during COVID-19
6-minute read - By Brittney Wolff Zatezalo, September 29, 2020
It’s been anything but normal this summer – from canceled vacations to lost jobs. With everyone’s plans constantly changing or uncertain, ASML felt compelled more than ever to honor its commitment to college students selected for its US summer internship program. The team quickly transitioned to a fully online format within four weeks, welcoming 90 interns from 54 different schools who would work remotely for ASML from 20 different states.
A virtual engineering internship presents many unique challenges and opportunities. But ASML’s US Lead for University Relations Melissa Mena made it her mission this summer to make it work for everyone. She quickly convened an intern advisory board of leaders and hiring managers from each site to secure engagement and develop new projects that would work online, without an intern ever having to step foot in an ASML office.
“At first it was hard for me to imagine a meaningful project to give interns who I expected to physically work within our group in the factory,” shares Mike Perry, senior engineering manager in Wilton, Connecticut. and one of the strongest skeptics on the intern advisory board. “But then I had this aha moment. This is nonnegotiable. We can’t cancel the intern program and the students need to have a good experience.”
What resulted was a 12-week remote internship program with a heightened focus on professional development, as well as sharing broader insights about everything ASML does beyond each intern’s competency area or location assignment.
On-site mechanical engineering intern turned remote employee overnight
Jason Jeon started his seven-month cooperative education position (co-op) at ASML’s office in Wilton, Connecticut, in Fall 2019, but ended as a summer intern working from his apartment in West Lafayette, Indiana.
“Silicon runs in my blood. It’s no surprise that I ended up working at a semiconductor company,” reflects Jason, who is originally from a city just outside of Seoul, South Korea where prominent chipmaker Samsung is headquartered. Lots of his friends and relatives work for Samsung in some capacity, and as a leading chipmaker Samsung relies on ASML’s lithography systems to pattern its chips.
Yet he didn’t know about ASML until meeting during a career fair at Purdue University where he studies mechanical engineering, with a research focus on nanotechnology.
During his first term, Jason found it fulfilling to work on a project that would have a major impact on the machine itself. “But I was surprised to find how much communication and human interactions were involved in engineering. I spent half my time talking with other people to get insights into the machine and certain concepts to complete my job,” shares Jason.
And that made it all the more difficult when his journey with ASML unexpectedly shifted to a fully virtual internship. Summer was much more challenging. It became harder to reach people, but he quickly realized the people involved were the same – COVID just changed the way he could reach and interact with them.
“Prior to the pandemic, I met lots of people early in their careers at ASML and enjoyed various social activities outside of work. I also remember one day a very busy senior architect even cut his lunch short to take me down to the lab to discuss ideas and tackle a challenging problem together.”
“When we pivoted to remote work, I missed these types of interactions the most. Yet I quickly discovered all the people involved were still as friendly, approachable and collaborative as before. The human element is still there no matter what, and nothing can take away that spirit,” summarizes Jason.
“The human element is still there no matter what, and nothing can take away that spirit.”
Quarantined in Texas, virtual intern for San Diego
Kimberly Hernandez finished her school year on a computer screen only to transition to a remote internship from her family’s home in Houston, Texas. But she was grateful for the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic, especially since many of her friends weren’t as lucky and had their internship or job offers rescinded.
Previously, Kimberly only worked with research and academic institutions, but she was interested in gaining more industry experience working on data and analysis. So as an applied physics major at Wellesley College, ASML’s big laser showcased behind its booth at the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Conference caught her eye.
And this summer, she went from seeing to experiencing the laser as part of the troubleshooting and failure analysis team within the droplet generator integration group at ASML San Diego.
“I really enjoyed the teamwork and fast-paced environment at ASML – data was produced quickly, analyzed with many resources and people, and conclusions were drawn. I found my previous academic research to be more individualistic, whereas at ASML I had to connect and communicate with many cross-functional colleagues as part of a matrix organization to be successful. I appreciated everyone in the failure analysis and integration team – they were so welcoming and provided me with feedback whenever I asked for it.”
Kimberly quickly recognized the pros and cons of a virtual internship. Onboarding took a while, which required flexibility and patience. But while it can be intimidating as an intern to meet new people, behind a computer screen with the camera off, that feeling melts away. It was easier to initiate communications digitally, but hard to convey a message clearly and articulate needs, as well as receive and understand new information. However, the multiple daily calls with her coworkers always helped clear things up and helped her proceed with her tasks.
“It was very rewarding to work on one part of the machine that you recognize will have a big impact on the world. I love how everyone I met is committed and excited to improve the technology ASML is providing. But I’m still always going to be curious about people’s heights and putting faces to the voices that I never had the chance to meet,” muses Kimberly.
“It was very rewarding to work on one part of the machine that you recognize will have a big impact on the world.”
Software intern for two summers: similar yet different experiences
In the summer of 2019, Noelle Law left the University of Virginia where she studies computer engineering and works in autonomous vehicle labs to join ASML San Diego as a software intern. She learned a lot about debugging and critical thinking skills, which helped her gain confidence and succeed the following school year. Noelle also made several friendships with interns that extended beyond their summer together at ASML, visiting each other’s colleges the following academic year.
“The other interns were incredible, and I had an amazing mentor, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to come back. I learned so much from him and others cared about my personal development,” shares Noelle.
But while her project and program’s format changed this summer, Noelle appreciated the fact that the diversity of experiences and perspectives remained intact. She discovered colleagues with common interests, such as robotics, and was able to learn new concepts to apply for her future work in the lab back at school.
“I was attracted to ASML because it’s not all software. I get to interact with controls and software to understand how it influences this huge, complex machine.”
For Noelle, it was harder to clock out at the end of the day – days bleed together and it’s easy to lose track of time. The work environment at home also presented more distractions some days than others, but she credited eight weeks of practice with online school as helping prepare her for how to navigate the challenges of a remote work experience.
“It’s bittersweet to end my summer internship and start fall semester all online. But I’m happy I still had the opportunity to join the ASML community and gain this great learning experience. Despite being apart, everyone remains very curious and invested in their work, and as a result helped me find solutions to complete my intern project, but beyond that grow by technical and professional skills.”
Entering the job market in a virtual capacity?
If you find yourself transitioning into a new role in a strictly remote capacity, keep a few of these tips in mind based on the experience of our interns:
- Be flexible and patient. Everyone is figuring out a new way of working.
- Ask your manager about their preferred channel of communications. There are so many options – email, text, IM, phone call, group discussion sites. If you cut through this noise, you can more quickly and frequently connect with your manager to get the information needed to succeed.
- Ask for a mentor or buddy. Literally everyone in the company could be a buddy because they were new at one point. Mentors can help answer your questions and alleviate the burden on your manager who is also new to a virtual format.
- Find the humor in the situation. When you are having a video meeting and your dog barks or your partner/kids/parents walk in, just laugh it off. Everyone is getting interrupted and dealing with a unique situation.
About the author
- Brittney Wolff Zatezalo
- Corporate communications manager US
- Brittney enjoys getting to know the smart people working behind the scenes and sharing their stories. Her mission is to make technology more accessible. She didn’t think she could be an engineer, but wants her daughter to see the potential.