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BlueSky Institute students begin paid tech internships

More than two dozen members of BlueSky Institute’s Cohort 1 began their first internships earlier this year on technology teams within BlueCross  and so far, the experience has been rewarding for all involved.  

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of the team and getting to understand how what I’m learning applies to actual projects,” said Joey Whitmire, a Cohort 1 student embedded in the application development area. “It’s been fun to work on problems and address issues in real time.” 

Up to the challenge 

“This internship program is unique for us because it’s permanent and it’s holistic,” said David Jeffers, managing director of enterprise shared services. “BlueSky interns are here year-round, physically in the building. As a remote-first organization, we had to rethink the scale and the approach of our program, as well as how we were going to support the students. As much as possible, we’re working to give them a broad perspective on life here at BlueCross, the different types of roles, and what it’s like to work in them.”  

The students have a rotational schedule with spring, summer, and fall placements that align with semesters at East Tennessee State University, the partner school that provides instruction and grants degrees for BlueSky Institute students. Last fall, Cohort 1 ranked their areas of interest, and that information was considered as they were placed according to the capacity of BlueCross tech teams.  

Application development is the largest unit, so most students have a rotation there, with successive stints in information security, project management, and infrastructure to round out their experience. While some students will serve in two units, most will have three distinct placements. 

“For 20 hours a week, they’re participating in meetings, they’re embedded to a degree that they’re contributing to meaningful work,” said EIT staff engagement team lead Cynthia Logan, who serves as program manager for the BlueSky Institute internships. “They’re also managing a full course-load on top of this internship, so we’re in constant collaboration with the BlueSky team to make sure there’s balance.” 

Finding the right fit, making progress and developing connections 

Application manager Marqueta Lee worked with her assigned intern to find the right fit for her skills, ultimately sharing her with another department to offer her the experience that would most benefit her.  

“We want all the students to have work that is meaningful to them, and we worked on it and found that for her — and she has done an amazing job,” Marqueta said. “It was a win-win for all of us and proved the benefits of being flexible and responsive to the student’s needs.” 

Several students have gone above and beyond to make the most of their internship. 

“I was assigned two interns and they’re very eager,” said EIT operations team lead Corey Bradley. “They’ve jumped at the opportunity and have been learning on their own after-hours, coming back the next day to apply what they’ve learned to the challenges we’ve given them in their projects. They’ve been fantastic.”  

The overall impact of the internships has been overwhelmingly positive. BlueCross and BlueSky Institute leaders are also learning and adapting as they go.   

“It’s energizing to be around students who are hungry to learn and receptive to what they’re being taught – and I’ve had several managers share that sentiment with me,” said Cynthia. “It’s not just an intern experience, it’s a division experience. because our management teams and our buddies are all happy to be working with these students, and I think they’re getting some benefit out of it, too.” 

What is BlueSky? 

  • Students can earn a bachelor’s degree and a job offer from BlueCross in 27 months 
  • BlueCross helps guide curriculum based on skills our technology workers need 
  • ETSU provides instruction and guidance, and grants the degrees 

About Alison Sexter, Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorAlison has been a member of the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team since 2015. A Chattanooga native, she has a decade of health care communications experience including writing, editing, public relations and social media.

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