I’ve tried hard to work out where Eileen Yu at ZDNet Asia is coming from when it comes to interns in the workplace.
On one hand, interns in some companies (that know how to use intern resources) get plenty of resources and an environment where they can truly push themselves and discover what that want to focus on in their careers.
I’m sure there are also plenty of horror stories of interns being used for nothing more than glorified secretaries or gophers.
I’m a product of the Technology Intern system. While I was still studying in Australia I worked at Microsoft covering market intelligence for ANZ as their MI intern. Now we weren’t paid that much, we often worked horrendous hours and often were pushed to be contributing members of the extended marketing, sales and developer groups we were assigned to.
But the thing I remember most of those twelve months was not the long hours or being bribed with t-shirts to do front of house at marketing events. What I remember most was the comradery of the 14 or so interns that were part of the program. Interns from Finance, PR, Marketing, Development, Channel management and so on. All of us focused on one area, but all with a common goal of learning all we could about the organisation.
Because of this comradery, we got together often as a group, talked about things that were happening in our teams and generally thought of ways to save the world. Importantly, as a group, we shared ideas across areas of the business that rarely talked to each other. There was a cross-pollination of ideas and, in a number of cases, those early relationships helped our managers up the chain to solve problems merely because we broke down some of the barriers within the company.
I learnt more about market research from those twelve months than I did from three years of university.
Now I’m getting the chance to hand a little of that learning back to a group of interns within Oracle. Same situation, a group of smart, enthused, talented guys and girls. All of them with a unique and fresh view of the market and the ways things could be done. It’s infectious to say the least.
I know my Intern buddies from back in the day would agree with me.
I disagree that Interns are a hassle. If you’re looking for minimum wage fodder, you’ll burn out these bright sparks and dishearten them faster than you can blink. Interns are an asset and should be seen as such, but you have to put the effort in to have the right framework to take those new minds and harness that energy. Better to not have a program than go in half-heartedly.