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Entrusted with real responsibilities: a Q&A with BlueCross interns

Like many college students, I had an idea of what an internship might involve. Usually it’s making coffee and copies, ordering lunch, answering phones, etc.

This is not the experience of the vast majority of interns at BlueCross.

As a rising senior and communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), I wanted my last summer before graduation to include a meaningful and productive internship. My only problem was finding the right fit to pursue my passions.

When I came across the posting for a corporate communications intern at BlueCross, I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know, this position would greatly grow my skills and knowledge, both in communications and the health insurance industry, and better prepare me for my career.

Brenna Powers, corporate communications intern

As my summer internship came to a close, I connected with these fellow interns at the company’s Chattanooga headquarters:

  • Noelle Hepworth – Community Relations and Foundations
  • Hideo Kawakami – Information Delivery
  • Christopher Wiley – Strategy and Innovation

We discussed our experiences, what surprised us most and where we go from here.

Brenna: What compelled you to apply for a BlueCross internship?

Christopher: I’m a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, and I’ve always had an interest in health care but also finance and business. I thought, “What better place to learn about all three than BlueCross?”

Hideo: Last year, I finished my MBA with a concentration in business analytics, but I felt like I wasn’t ready for my career yet. That’s when I enrolled in the Master of Science and Data Analytics program at UTC. I knew the best way for me to learn was with a real-world job or internship. The chair of the master’s program suggested I apply for this job.

Hideo Kawakami, information delivery intern

He told me, “Everybody I know who works there is happy and has learned a lot while being there.” 

Brenna: Once you applied and interviewed, what surprised you about the hiring process?

Christopher: For me it was learning how flexible the internship was. There were several weeks of the summer I wasn’t able to work due to travel and other commitments, and that was no problem at all.

Noelle: I’d say how friendly the whole vibe was; I interviewed directly with my manager and a few other members of the community relations team. I was nervous but my manager was great. He can make anybody feel comfortable in a conversation, which I appreciated.

Brenna: I’ll second that. There were more people than just my manager in the interview, but they asked great questions that allowed me to shed light on my interests, education and past projects.

What are some projects you worked on as interns?

Christopher: I did some of the normal internship stuff — making copies, scanning things for supervisors — and I expected that.

But I also got to do some work in the investment portfolio and look into the competitive assessment and the quarterly financial reports.

And I organized Excel files with all the information they were giving me access to, basically streamlining some of those projects.  

Noelle: I worked on a few different projects, one of my favorites was designing a pride poster for Latino Memphis that was featured in their pride parade. I also put together a five-minute video and corresponding PowerPoint that was used in a board meeting.

It was challenging but very validating to be creative with something reaching such a high level of leadership.

Brenna: I wrote articles for our employee portal, prepared monthly reports for our social media team and helped our events team with a United Way giving campaign. It’s been great to get a taste of everything on the communications side.

Since we’re discussing our work, how would you describe the level of responsibility you were given?

Hideo: In my case it was a lot of responsibility. I worked on a process that could have a huge impact for the company: how data is working and how it’s being stored. But I always asked my supervisor or senior team member before I made any moves, because I wanted to make sure everything was right.

Christopher: I always had something to do, which made me feel like I had a good level of responsibility. Even though I had a lot of different tasks, I never felt too much pressure.

Christopher Wiley, strategy and innovation intern

“That’s the importance of an internship: being able to learn the ropes and earning your team’s trust with completed assignments, but without being singled out for blame if you make a mistake. BlueCross understands that we’re here to learn.”

Brenna: Has this internship helped you realize you’re pursuing the right major?

Noelle: I graduated last year with a major in communication arts, which is basically creative illustration for commercial entertainment purposes, such as games, animation or comics. And while BlueCross may not have been my first choice for an internship, I knew the basics of graphic design are essential to any arts jobs. I was hired as a graphic design intern in the community relations and foundations team. This internship has helped me become more knowledgeable with those basics, even if I decide to go the freelancing route.

Noelle Hepworth, community relations and foundations intern

Hideo: There are so many different paths you can follow within data management, which I didn’t know. Now that I’ve worked in something that’s not completely related to my field of study, I feel like I’ll change my path a bit.

“This internship has definitely helped me find where I want to go and brought clarity to what I enjoy doing.”

Brenna: I agree with Hideo; this internship has helped me know what path I want to take, since I’m in the communications field and there are so many different areas I could go into.

How has some of the work you’ve done better prepared you for the career you’ll pursue?

Christopher: This job has shown me a glimpse into a life in finance and business. I’m making connections through this position and learning how large companies like BlueCross work in the business world. I feel better prepared for a career in business after having an internship here.

Hideo: In my case, working in data science and analytics, this internship provided me with the skills I need to succeed in this field. For example, learning some programming language or how to use different software, things I didn’t even know existed. I’ve been learning a lot and am definitely bringing all the knowledge and skill into my future career.

Brenna: What advice would you give to those who haven’t considered internship opportunities at BlueCross?

L-R: Christopher, Noelle, Hideo, Brenna

Noelle: I would say to just do it. This is one of the best, if not the best, entry-level position you can get in this area. The workplace environment is incredibly friendly, and you get a great opportunity to learn. For my fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community out there, this is a great workplace that focuses on inclusiveness.

Hideo: Since I’m an international student, there are a lot of regulations you need to follow, and some companies aren’t very accepting of that. But at BlueCross, it was never an issue. They knew I was an international student from the moment I applied, and they never expressed any frustration about it or gave me any trouble over the documents they needed.

“They accept you for who you are, and that’s the kind of place you want to work.”

Christopher: I would say, why not? It puts good experience under your belt. BlueCross trusts their interns, they pay well and offer flexible hours. It’s a very diverse workplace that makes everybody feel included.  So, take advantage of the benefits and you’ll be growing and learning along the way.  

About Brenna Powers, Corporate Communications Intern

A photo of the authorBrenna is a senior communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She joined the corporate communications team as an intern during the summer of 2022.

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