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Intern Experience at Blue Raster: Summer 2020

Another Blue Raster summer internship wrapped up this month. Beth, Victoria and Luke, this year’s GIS interns, spent the summer working from their homes developing GIS products and solutions on a wide variety of projects. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked remotely along with the rest of Blue Raster, jumping right in, and contributing to the team.

Intern photos
From left: Beth Wiberg, Victoria Dombrowik, Luke Watson-Sharer

On our first day, we immediately got our feet wet. Beth and Victoria began developing COVID-19 dashboards with Esri’s ArcGIS Dashboards while Luke utilized his Spanish in an ArcGIS StoryMap for the Meridian Institute. These initial projects were challenging for a new intern, but they prepared us to tackle more difficult projects and work more closely with clients. Over the course of the summer, we worked with a variety of clients: from private companies like Esri and Microsoft to NGOs and government agencies like The World Bank, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Jane Goodall Institute. We contributed towards building and learning new GIS workflows to create the best possible products for our clients.

Examples of intern work

When asking Beth about her favorite project from this year, she said that “working on the World Bank Gender Based Violence app was my favorite project because it was one I got to see come to fruition. It was cool to see my contribution help move the project forward and work on an application that addresses a significant world-wide issue.”

Interns at the Esri UC

The Esri User Conference was one of the most rewarding experiences of our internship. The Plenary sessions, along with other sessions about new software and new geospatial tools, were available for us to view and participate in throughout the week. These sessions provided us the opportunity to learn about the recent trends within the industry, including many of the new products bring developed by Esri.

Part of being an intern is learning, and at Blue Raster we were very fortunate to see a new side of the GIS field through both the UC and hands-on, web based Esri application work experience. Many of the web applications became staples in everyday work and helped us improve our data visualization and mapping skills.

Intern UC

“Watching the Plenary sessions as a GIS team was a great experience, one I would not have had in the pre-coronavirus world. Seeing the roll-out of new features and products to incorporate into my own projects and ideas one day was an invaluable experience.”  Luke Watson-Sharer

Lessons Learned

From getting exposure to a wide variety of projects and clients to working closely in product development, we gained some key takeaways throughout this summer internship. Beth’s biggest takeaway pertains to the nature of remote internships, which she believed to be an invaluable experience. “It is possible to have a completely fulfilling virtual internship. Everyone was very accommodating and helpful with the unexpected situation we were in.” Our ability to collaborate virtually gave us the flexibility to work together to bring out the best in each other and we worked very closely together. As Victoria pointed out, we felt very close despite being remote. “Although this summer did not turn out how I expected, I never felt far away from the rest of the GIS team. I enjoyed the collaborative environment and that everyone I worked with had a different skill set.”

Virtual Bingo
Who knew Virtual Bingo would be so much fun?!

As the summer concludes, we all look forward to taking our skills and experiences from this internship into our future schoolwork and careers. Following this internship, Beth will finish up her bachelor’s degree at the Ohio State University in the fall. Luke will return to Clark University as a senior studying GIS and will begin his honors thesis this fall. Victoria will be returning to Yale University for her senior year, where she hopes to learn more about GIS development by enrolling in programming courses.

We hope to keep in touch with our coworkers at Blue Raster and are excited to see what the futures holds.

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