2021 Internship Program and Philosophy8 min read
BrainGu puts an immense emphasis on the quality of our internship program. For the second year of our official Summer Internship Program, our focus has been on providing a stimulating and rewarding internship experience. As the organization grows and matures, so does our collective ability to provide an impactful internship experience. I’m confident that we have succeeded in making the 2021 internship program richer and more organized than last year.
BrainGu Internship Philosophy
BrainGu is highly committed to recruiting a diverse and well-rounded cohort of interns and providing them with an immersive and educational employment experience. We want our Gu-interns to share a similar experience to that of our full-time engineers and developers. Therefore, we strive to give them logic and technology problems to solve, teach them principles of product and project management like SAFe and Agile, and give them opportunities to self-actualize, be creative, and bring their personalities and hard work to a supportive and collaborative environment.
The 2021 Intern Cohort had two primary goals in addition to the mission of the internship program itself:
- Have the interns create, test, and deliver a fully functional Swag Store for the company.
- Accept more applications than 2020 and make the Internship a nation-wide opportunity.
I am happy to report that we have been successful in all three of these primary goals. We concluded the 2021 Summer Cohort with a full walk through demo of the swag store. The interns conducted a survey in Slack and the company voted to call it BrainGear. I thought it was an impressive demonstration that showcased the skills and talents of our awesome interns perfectly. They were able to get an app designed, built, tested, polished and brought to the edge of full deployment by utilizing industry best practices and leveraging team collaboration.
I think the interns certainly walked away having learned a lot, but I also believe this cohort taught us a lot about ourselves as BrainGu. One of the most important things that observing our interns this year reinforced for me was the importance of process in getting lots of work done quickly. By utilizing SCRUM and Agile principles, Chris Antonio, our Learning + Development Manager and other BrainGu leaders were able to coach the cohort to a successful product while gaining momentum, and staying on course with each new sprint. I look forward to the work that future intern generations will be able to accomplish on the foundation of the 2020 and 2021 cohorts’ cumulative progress.
This year, we recruited the most diverse group of interns yet. Our amazing cohort this year is 50% women, and we have interns from many different ethnic and national backgrounds. We will continue prioritizing our DE&I mission for all of our recruitment practices, and the work continues. Lastly, we went from processing ten qualified applications to the 2020 cohort to processing almost 200 applications to the 2021 cohort. This huge transversal of scale was made possible by our awesome recruiting team, our new applicant tracking system, Greenhouse, and our newly adopted pre-employment tech testing tool, Codility.
Codility, Greenhouse and the selection process
Last year it would have been impossible to imagine that we’d be able to get ~200 applications processed while making the process more data-driven and objective within a tight two-month time window. Greenhouse made the team lift feasible and enjoyable. Greenhouse shares a full integration with Codility. That means that we were able to send out take-home evaluations to over 150 candidates, invite the most qualified candidates to a technical interview with a panel of our engineers, and send out offers to eight extraordinarily talented and engaging interns without adding any personnel or overwhelming our current recruitment team process. Our use of Codility and Greenhouse at scale for the 2021 Internship Recruitment Sprint taught us a lot of skills and tips that we have already begun employing in our company-wide recruitment practices, things like:
- Using pre-employment testing to mitigate unconscious bias.
- Sticking to workflow SOPs to ensure low variation in the recruitment system, and fast, reliable results.
- Analyzing and extrapolating from exported candidate data and evaluator feedback to narrow applicant pools to only the most qualified with the best cultural fit. This makes selection rounds a breeze without compromising fairness and equity.
We used a nearly identical recruitment flow for our internship recruitment as we do for our full-time positions. These are the steps that we followed in processing each application we received this year and some details about each stage:
- Application Review: The recruiting team reviews each cover letter and resume, looking for the correct experience and tech stack. Unqualified applicants are rejected and encouraged to apply for a future opportunity.
- Phone Screen: Qualified applicants are invited to sit for a 15-minute phone screen with a member of our recruitment team. Our team asks a series of questions from our standard question block and gets to know each qualified candidate. We answer any questions they might have about the next steps in the process, and we prepare them for a Codility test, giving them the option of which test they’d like to take. This year we offered a take-home test in either the Django Framework or the React Library.
- Take-Home Codility Test: We received a completed exam for >75% of the exams we sent out invites for, which is pretty cool! Codility scores allowed us to make objective decisions for advancing candidates.
- Technical Interview: The top scorers in the Codility testing rounds were invited for 30-minute technical Interviews with a panel of our incredible technologists. We used a bank of questions and problem-solving exercises that evaluated technical skill fit and took an opportunity to get a sense of each candidate’s culture fit in BrainGu with the luxury of face-to-face time.
- Offer: We extended and received back 8 signed offers, with a week to spare before the start date! We made sure to be ready ahead of time with the computers, and all of our interns started their internships with a BrainGu company laptop on day 1! Thanks, April Johnson, Project Manager and Luke Reichel, ITM Manager!
The Project and the Immersion Experience
As I mentioned above, the mission of the annual internship program is to provide an educational and fully immersive simulation of employment in a technology company. This year our intern cohort is developing a fully functional and styled swag store app, called “BrainGear,” from Day 0 → Day 1, following the same SAFe Agile principles that BrainGu uses to bring solutions to our satisfied customers. The internship is self-driven, so we do our best to enable and encourage our interns to be vocal and assertive in going after the work that interests them and improving their skills in a team environment. In the 2021 cohort, we have interns gaining valuable professional experience in UI/UX design, Project and Team Management, Front and Back-End Engineering, cybersecurity, automated testing, quality control best practices, and more.
At BrainGu, we hire and evaluate by values. Therefore, we filter the work and the teamwork associated with completing the work through the lens of our three values pillars: Execution, Diplomacy, and Citizenship. Every two weeks, the intern team presents their most recent development sprint results with a demo, Q&A, and new sprint planning session. Team Members from across the company are invited to attend these Friday demos to ask questions and provide feedback. We hope that this gives all interns opportunities to get valuable business experience explaining technical and functional concepts to customers or associated stakeholders, taking their questions, and incorporating customer feedback into team iteration on end-product delivery.
Cohort 2022 and Beyond
As we look ahead to next year, we have begun to identify goals, improvements, and expansions to the Internship Program. Firstly we must continue the never-ending work on our DE&I mission. We hope to build on the diversity and equity wins of the 2021 program by partnering even closer with diversity-focused non-profit groups like Girls Who Code and STEM organizations like the North Carolina Space Grant. Second, we will continue the ongoing work of the cohorts -- developing more and better tools for BrainGu to use to drive company culture and positive employee experience. Lastly, we will continue to expand on the quality and depth of the Internship Program offered by defining SOPs for curriculum and project management and designing improved learning and development supports by leveraging Pluralsight and many more improvements (stay tuned).
After everything is stripped away, the driving force in our motivation to continue providing internship opportunities is hearing from our interns that they had a positive, memorable experience that helped and changed them and opened up doors for their futures. That makes all of this worth it.
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