Friday, April 25, 2014

Designing an Internship

Savvysherpa has an office in Cebu. A board member in the Philippines asked that we do an internship program with his alma mater: Ateneo de Manila University in Manila. I was tasked with taking care of that.

I worked with HR to get a pool of candidates. We interviewed and selected three candidates. We made three offers. Three originally accepted, with two bailing out on us. We have one intern. That's OK.

The design challenge is to develop an internship. Here's what we have working for us:

  • we selected a great intern,
  • we have a board member invested in this being successful
  • we have some good problems for the intern

My goals for the internship program:

  • for the board member to be pleased that a student from his alma mater had a good experience
  • get positive word of mouth from the intern about our company
  • get helpful effort applied to the problems we're giving to the intern


  • the intern is working remotely - we don't have an office in Manila and she will not be traveling to Cebu
  • the intern is 11 hours away from Minneapolis (0800 here is 2100 there)
  • the intern will not have access to the company intranet

Here's what I've designed.

Weekly "Meet the Sherpa" (clever, eh? Savvysherpa is the company name, "Meet the Sherpa"). Using Google Hangouts or Skype, every week the intern will meet 2-3 people from the Cebu or Minneapolis location. After those meetings, I follow up with a message to the Sherpas asking them to occasionally "reach out" to the intern. Trying to find a way to duplicate "stopping by the cube" that's possible when the intern is located in the office.

I've apprenticed the intern to one of our Cebu researchers. He's teaching her how to use a fairly sophisticated data visualization tool - I think something that will set the intern apart when she returns to class in the fall and a plus to add to her resume.

I've found two people with problems the intern can research. I've connected her with them and then gotten out of the way so that she can work with them. Both are senior people in the organization, so she is getting good face time.

She'll be meeting with the well-connected board member I mentioned earlier. That's a great opportunity.

I've identified some additional learning resources for the intern. One is a Coursera course on Data Science. The other is a codeacademy course. Learning from these resources isn't her primary task, but I want to be sure that should she have ANY downtime, she has something to do that's worthwhile.

I'll meet with her twice weekly to review her experience and determine what additional things we can do to make the experience positive for her.

I've asked her to compose a weekly summary of her activities. This is NOT a check to be sure she's working. It is to keep me updated so I can inform stakeholders here what's happening. It gives her an opportunity to reflect on her experience.

Today is the last day of week 1. So far, so good. The intern commented to me today that she went to Coursera and registered for the course I suggested. She didn't know about Coursera. She reported that she actually found several other courses she wants to take. That's good! All the other events have kicked off as I've expected.

Oh... Just a note on technology. I met with the intern when I was in Manila a couple of weeks ago. I told her she'd need a good internet connection. She worked with her family and made that happen. We've done several Google Hangouts. The thing I want to mention is how much of a trouble the technology is NOT. It took us a minute or two to get the Google Hangouts thing working the first time, now it's a complete non-issue.

I'll continue to post updates on the experience an what I learn from it.

Have any suggestions?

instructional design designing internship remote Philippines Cebu