September 23rd, 2008 by dusty
In the first part of this article, we talked at length about how we went about finding our interns for the summer, and how we went about wading through the sea of resumes that we received.
I’ll pick up pretty much where we left off, with the interns just arriving at BrightMix ..
Step 6: Provide Lunch and Proper Equipment
When we talk about the internship program to people, one of the things that turn the most heads, is the fact that we provided free lunches to the interns every day. These weren’t shoddy lunches either; we went out of our way to bring in a wide variety of foodstuffs, ranging from delicious Mama’s Pizza to make your own sandwich day! (Actually, the whole company got free lunches, not just the interns.)
Why Provide Lunches?
First, it’s a great differentiator. I would venture to say that out of all the internships available to the students at these colleges, NONE of them offered free catered lunches. ZERO. The monetary value of free lunches is fairly menial, but it has a great impact.
Second, it opens the doors for some fantastic team bonding time. Having everyone in the office talk to each other and get along is incredibly important. As it turns out, eating lunch together (mostly) every day is a great way to make this happen. Our full-time employees got time to interact and make fun of the interns and vice-versa!
Lastly, talented individuals love getting things done. Catering lunches helps paves the way for that to happen by removing the need to leave the office every day for lunch. Not to say we didn’t let them leave – in fact, we had an entire week where we all worked from home!
Step 7: Provide Guidance and Get Out of Interns Way (mostly).
Another very common question is “How did you structure the software development lifecycle?”
We’re not big believers in Big Design Up Front, on this project especially. A major reason for this is that we wanted the interns to play a large role in defining the functionality of the application, in addition to actually coding it. If we had just handed the them a big fat requirements document at the beginning of the summer, they would’ve just been code monkeys. Not fun for anyone. Especially considering somebody, namely, ME, would actually have to WRITE that requirements doc.. yuck!
Instead, we were agile in our approach— a very task-based workflow, with weekly-ish “sprints.” Kevin and I would provide guidance in terms of the tasks and functionality that was expected for the week, and then we would get out of the way. From time to time we had to step in for code reviews and do some question answering.
Step 8: Take a Load Off!
We broke our product release schedule into 3 phases, each roughly a month in length. At the end of each phase, we prepared a formal “demo” of the app. Needless to say, the deadlines got a little hectic. Trying to firm up the functionality and the design of the app in time to demo it to whomever we were demoing it to that day.
But, after crunch time, it was important to get everyone out of the office to blow off a little steam! So, one time we took the afternoon off and went bowling, another time we went and saw the new Indiana Jones movie, and the last time we saw The Dark Knight (on opening day, on IMAX, I should mention – it was killer).
Step 9: Launch Product!
Finally, after three short months of feverishly hacking and designing away, it was time to unveil for the first time publicly, the project which our 3 interns had poured their blood sweat and tears into. It just so happened that BarCamp Omaha coincided with the end of the internship, and thus provided a fantastic forum in which to launch the product—BetterOmaha.com
All in all, it was a wonderfully fulfilling and rewarding experience for Kevin and myself, and I certainly hope (and truly think) it was an equally rewarding experience for the interns.
In the beginning, we set out with the following mission…
We want to have an internship that’s not your ordinary, paper shredding internship. We want to find and hire the best of the best—the Cadillac interns, if you will. We want to feed them free lunches every day, and pay them well, and give them interesting things to work on. We want to value their opinions and inputs on the project. We want them to SHIP SOFTWARE. And, at the end of the summer, we want them to be able to go home and say “hey mom (or hey future employer), look at what I MADE”….
Thats what we set out to do… and by golly, I think we did it. Our interns, Allyn, Robert, and Erin #2: .. the Feisty Piranhas.. you should all be very proud of yourselves! You guys will be forever remembered as Brightmix’s first ever summer interns! (We thought about making Statues of you guys, but we bailed out on the idea 😉
If you’re interested in hearing what the Interns had to say, check out their reviews of their experience here. We didn’t persuade or bribe them in any way, honest!