by Dana Ciubancan
Internship experience: the good, the bad and the unexpected
Organizing an internship is cool, right? It involves lots of learning, sharing knowledge with the younger generation, stepping out of our daily routine and comfort zone, winning some new colleagues. It all sounds great. Of course, we would have to spend some time interviewing candidates and preparing for their training, but overall, it’s a good give-and-take balance.
This was my first thought when the idea was put on the table. Do I feel the same now? Well...
Let me walk you through all the steps of the process before answering that.
First things first
We needed to get the word out. What better place than a university fair full of enthusiastic students? Just two aspects to consider. Make sure to double-check your seat at the table, or you might get left out from the event (a good example of why networks are important) and do have enough fliers, they are hotter than fresh bread.
Now we could patiently (not 😅) wait for our applicants.
We also wanted to keep it small, to bring the most value, so choosing 3 to 4 people out of 300+ almost identical applications was way harder and time-consuming than we would have thought.
Corona, do we still do it?
Let’s not forget this year was hardly the dullest one lately. Given the uncertain times, we faced challenges that we never expected. Does it still make sense to go ahead with it? Will it be a remote internship? How will we do the assessment of our candidates?
Canceling it might have made sense, but we decided against that. If nothing else, it would be a learning experience for us all.
Fortunately, we were able to have an on-site internship, for which I am grateful. We might be digitally skilled, but we are social beings.
Now it only remains to decide on what exactly we will do.
We wanted to have a standalone project, to experience together all the stages of product development. As it turns out, it’s not so easy to come up with a cool and, of course, original idea. What you can do is to brainstorm. Again, and again.
In the end, the best idea wins, or you just get tired and compromise 😅. In our case it was the former rather than the latter - Probono, a platform for planning events and volunteering activities.
With this, we got our initial plan written down. Let’s call this the optimistic view. This is a good moment to also get your expectations straight because reality hits no matter what and plans change, so you need to stay flexible.
Let the games begin
From our daily business, we all had to step into new shoes and become mentors, product owners, and clients. This offered us a unique position of understanding what challenges these roles face and learning how to better work together with the persons fulfilling these roles in each of our projects.
In the chase of finding the ideal candidates, don’t forget that creating the right context is as significant as having the right people. Constant feedback is part of that. More important than finding a person that’s perfect from the start is finding a person that is able to grow.
As for the internship project, things can, and will, go sideways at any moment. The unexpected occurs, setbacks appear, you don’t have enough time to deal with everything, the initial plan is no longer doable, and you need to rethink the whole project so that you can deliver something in the end 🤯. The full working on a commercial product experience.
And this is what makes it great.
From challenges, we learn. From challenges, we get to know our (maybe) future colleagues better and see how and if we can work together. Because you are actually looking for people you can connect with, people that match the vibe and values of your company, no matter the actual outcome of the internship. But as well, you need to face the hard truth that not all are meant to stay.
In the end, we do have great additions to our team. Some of our babies have become our colleagues, and they fit right in. Don't take just my word for it, take a look at what they think about the whole experience.
Given all that I know now, would I do it again?
No doubt. It was an awesome experience, one from which everybody involved had something to learn. EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. Nobody says it’s going to be easy, but it’s worth a try.
Will I be part of the next one?
After all the hard work that needed to be put into, I could be tempted to say that somebody else might benefit from the experience as well, but given the learning opportunities that it offers, I will consider it again 🙂.