How a Baltic exchange program became a recipe for emerging technology success

“As an exchange program, CIEE allows us to work better nationally, internally and as a community. This program connects us with individuals from Baltic countries who bring different—and welcome—perspectives into our workplace,” explained Albert Zulps, emerging technology director at Skanska.

The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) is a nonprofit promoting people-to-people exchange programs.

For the past nine years, Skanska has partnered with CIEE to host 27 Baltic interns for year-long internships in several of our office locations, including Boston, New York and San Francisco.

Our CIEE interns come with prodigious academic qualifications, many times with multiple graduate degrees.

“Through this program, my colleagues and I get to work with some of the brightest young minds in the emerging technology world, so we feel incredibly lucky. They bring a lot of energy to the office and are incredibly eager to learn,” said Albert.

Teaching our CIEE interns about American culture is also a big part of the program.

“We’ll take them to Red Sox or Patriots games. During their internship, they typically take time to travel across the U.S. as a group. It’s an incredible opportunity for them to learn about American culture,” explained Paul Pedini, senior vice president at Skanska.

Recently, CIEE hosted their Bridge Builder Award Program in honor of their 75th anniversary, which recognizes companies whose efforts and influence over the past 75 year have strengthened international education and exchange. Over 2,000 company nominations were submitted and 75 were selected to receive awards, with Skanska being one of them.

“Skanska has not only enriched the professional and personal lives of the many Baltic interns their team has hosted, but the network of Skanska alumni in the Baltics and the expertise gained have demonstrably benefited the Baltic economy. We’re so pleased that this relationship has proved to be a win-win-win for all,” said Laura Lyons, director of Exchange Foundations.

Our past CIEE interns: Where are they now?

To see the impact of this program, we sat down some of our past CIEE interns to discuss what they loved most about their time with Skanska and how their internship helped get them where they are today.

Miina Karafin, CIEE Intern

Miina Karafin

Time period at Skanska: 2013 – 2014
Role/focus during internship: BIM/VDC
Fun Fact: Miina was Skanska’s first CIEE intern

How did this internship support your career journey?

“My internship at Skanska has had a huge impact on my life. It’s greatly affected my career path in a positive way. I came back to Estonia after my internship, and as BIM was beginning to be implemented here, I became an opinion-leader in that field. I also initiated BIMsummit Estonia, which is now the largest conference in Estonia focusing on digital construction topics. Today, I’m the chief technology officer of Nordecon, the largest general contracting company in Estonia. I’m inspired to change the construction sector and a lot of that motivation I received from working at Skanska.”

Janis Kreics, CIEE Intern

Janis Kreics

Time period at Skanska: 2014 – 2015
Role/focus during internship: BIM/VDC
Fun Fact: Janis started his own VDC company in Riga, Latvia after completing his internship

“My CIEE internship exceeded all my expectations, not only because I worked with the best VDC specialists and engineers, but I was given the opportunity to participate in the creative process of heavy civil construction work planning. After returning to Latvia, I started my own company and am now offering VDC services to a local market while continuing to cooperate with Skanska. This allows me the opportunity to elevate the construction industry processes in Latvia while further strengthening our professional relationship with the Skanska VDC team.”

Priit Ulmas, CIEE Intern

Priit Ulmas

Time period at Skanska: 2014 - 2015
Role/focus during internship: BIM/VDC
Fun Fact: During Priit’s year in the U.S., he visited 22 states and nine national parks

How did this internship support your career journey?

“I was a recent civil engineering graduate when I started with Skanska and learning from seasoned professionals at a global company was a truly invaluable experience for me. In the VDC department, I learned about innovation and got acquainted with American business culture. This professional experience has changed my life, and my personal mentorships are something I value from my CIEE internship. At Skanska, I saw how digitization can help companies become more competitive, which inspired me to become a managing partner of an IT company I co-founded in 2021.”

Krišjānis Silickis, CIEE Intern

Krišjānis Silickis

Time period at Skanska: 2017 - 2018
Role/focus during internship: Laser scanning
Fun Fact: In 2015, Krišjānis was named a world champion in the RECCS spaghetti bridge building competition

What was the most memorable part of your CIEE internship with Skanska?

“I enjoyed the trust I received from supervisors and the opportunity to work on varying and complex tasks. My internship was incredibly versatile. Today, I’m working in Luxembourg as a senior BIM project manager in the largest state-owned real estate agency. My internship with Skanska helped me develop my career and get this job. When I applied to my current job, there were very few BIM specialists in Latvia, and showcasing the experience I received in the U.S. convinced my current company to hire me over other candidates.”

Linas Medelis, CIEE Intern

Linas Medelis

Time period at Skanska: 2019 - 2020
Role/focus during internship: BIM/VDC, laser scanning and virtual reality
Fun Fact: Linas played the steel guitar for team members on VDC calls

What was the most memorable part of your CIEE internship with Skanska?

“During my internship, I attended Autodesk University. I learned so much on that trip to Las Vegas, from technology to networking to bonding with my colleagues. Today, I’m working as a structural engineer in Lithuania at a young company and I'm still passionate about new technologies. The internship provided me with insights on ‘the big picture’ of construction processes and applying innovative technologies to existing problems.”