Internships at Precocity Part 3: What We Learned

My first thought when I met Ali and Yuriy was that quite a bit had changed since I was working on my undergrad.  They exhibited traits that I, as both a technology professional and an occasional contributor to our hiring, was refreshed by and surprised to see in a pair that have only just begun their career journey. Not only have they taken on the responsibility of coordinating hackathons and serving as leaders of a student organization at their university, but they actively participate in Open Source, and still find time to compete in national hackathons.  Whether they realize it or not, they have already begun to lay a strong foundation for their futures without breaking a sweat.

A Whole New World

There are so many new avenues and resources available to help students hone the skills necessary to prepare for a career in technology today and the list keeps growing.  Being a bit further removed from that time in my life than I care to admit, I realized in working with Ali and Yuriy the “hustle” surrounding all aspects of personal development and establishing yourself as a desirable candidate is itself a full-time job.  To be a rock star candidate, you must go above and beyond the standard mix of extracurricular activities, course work, and community service that were expected in generations of yore.  Ali and Yuriy were the perfect embodiment of the new world of tech talent and they opened our eyes to the types of candidates that we should court starting now and what appeals to the best of the best.

We met Ali and Yuriy at a hackathon and I had the pleasure of participating in one with them at one of our clients with our project placing as a finalist in the competition.  Competitions like these are microcosms of the real lifecycle of a technology project; you come up with an idea, implement it in whatever way possible as fast as you can, and hope to beat out the competition in the end.  These competitions had previously been few and far between for professionals and students, but have now become commonplace and they provide broad and realistic problem solving experience to students that will benefit them greatly when applying for tech jobs.

Student Professionals

One lasting impression that Ali and Yuriy left on our team were the near professional-level technical and problem solving skills they already possessed that are in line with what we look for in great consultants.  They were inquisitive, driven, well versed in their respective disciplines, and could quickly adapt to a fast-paced and demanding environment where they were expected to create innovative solutions for complex problems.  They surprised me by being Agile without ever being exposed to the formal practice or methods in the way they approached their projects; it was just part of their nature.  They already had informal knowledge of many of the technical concepts and tools that they would end up using during their time with our team.  It was amazing to see our interns work with our client’s interns and demonstrate best practices that I’ve seen teams take much longer to understand, much less adopt and how natural it was for them.

Ali and Yuriy had already developed many of these skills in the pursuit of their passions outside of school.  Like tech professionals today, they have several personal projects and tangential activities that help to develop the knowledge and skills that will be invaluable when they start their careers.  As we’ve seen more companies adopt Open Source mindsets and change their approach to technology, we expect that students who have been active in Open Source projects will have a competitive edge in the tech job market.  This has been true, but the rate at which it has become an expectation rather than a perk is increasing exponentially.  Put simply, working with open and freely available technologies, frameworks, and languages before seeking internships and jobs will be a necessity for students more so than ever.

Appealing to a New Generation of Tech Pros

Ultimately, an internship program should be designed so that your company can attract top talent and can help them accelerate their integration to the team if they accept a position after graduation.  With the first year of our new internship program behind us, here are a few things we think are necessary to make sure your program achieves your organization’s goals and to attract the best candidates:

Interns should work on real projects/products/initiatives/etc., warts and all (NO COFFEE RUNS!!).  Real experiences are invaluable and they allow for both you and the interns to identify areas in which they excel.

You should work with your interns, don’t just leave them to their own devices.  An internship will provide both parties more value when it is a collaboration.

Be open to learn just as much from them as they do from you, they’ll have plenty to teach you and will almost always have a unique way of looking at problems that your team might not otherwise possess.

Embrace a bit of remix culture and let them take a problem or problems you’ve already solved and then try to come up with another way.  We had a great experience with our interns coming up a few ideas that elevated some prior work we had done.

Provide interns autonomy with guidance, they should be empowered to strike out but you should go along with them, provide solid mentorship and let them see all aspects of your business, even the red tape and the boring stuff.

Be genuinely excited about your program, it shouldn’t be thought of as a burden or “just more work”.

If you have questions about internships at Precocity, reach out to us!  We’d love to hear from you.