by Scott Austin July 15, 2013


Intern Program Philosophy

This is our first summer as a company with many employees.  So this is our first time offering summer internships.  My previous experience with interns was back at Microsoft.  They have a robust intern program.  Interns are brought in from around the country.  They are given a project that they own and the support needed to deliver on the project.  This type of internship enables the intern to learn by one of the best methods I know off, on-the-job-training (or trial-by-fire).  At the end of the program, the successful interns are given a MSFT employment offer for when they finish school.

With this background, we developed our intern program.  You can see our job posting about it here,  Here are some of the key elements of the program:

  • We are looking for smart, self-motivated candidates.
  • Interns will be given projects that they own that will stretch them.  They will not be given responsibilities around filing or garbage disposal (I still take out the garbage in our office).
  • Interns will be given their own, personal work area in our office.
  • Interns will have access to company employees for guidance and mentorship.
  • Successful completion of the program will result in consideration for full-time employment.

Our internships are unpaid.  We believe that the real-world experience an intern will get working at our startup is priceless.

Finding Interns

We have two offices, one in San Diego and one in Seattle.  We have interns at both.  The method used to find interns have been similar at both offices and proven to be effective.  The first thing we do is go straight to the universities.  Our SD office is a mile or two from UCSD and our Seattle office is a similar distance from UW.  So we post our intern program on the university job/intern sites.  Additionally, we go to the school's career fairs.  I was at a UCSD career fair in June.  There were 40 or so companies.  The job market out there right now is pretty tough.  And even tougher for college graduates.  So many of the companies at the career fair were for low-paying, low-skill jobs.  For example, there was a fast food company looking for restaurant staff and a baby-sitting website looking for babysitters.  As a tech startup looking for talented people, we were in demand at the career fair.  Eric (our CTO) and I were busy talking to students for the full three hours.  We had two lines in front of us of all the people that were interested in working with us.

Our fancy booth at the UCSD career fair


Screening Candidates

Its great to get a lot of interest from students for our internship program.  But we are also selective about who we bring in.  What we've found with the technical skills we are going after is that most of the students have a pretty good theoretical background.  But few of them have any practical experience in how products are built.  So we screen our candidates pretty heavily.  For the career fair that I mentioned above, we set up an open house at our warehouse office for the next day.  We invited all of the interested students to come to the open house and learn more about the company, our team and the program.  We got a large turn out for the open house.  So we did a presentation on the company.  And then had breakouts for back-end, front-end, and design.  Students went to whichever break out they were most interested in.  The employees leading the breakouts were tasked to determine who to bring back for an interview during their breakouts.  They were using the breakouts to determine who the critical thinkers were and the ones who could benefit from the program. Then the screened interns were put through a short interview process.  If they met the bar, they were offered an internship.  We're lucky enough to have a few interns in the office for the summer.  We've assigned them various projects to enhance their skills.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish.

Intern Open House

Scott Austin
Scott Austin