Goals for the session
Some things to consider
What does an intern software developer want? It depends who they are, here are some examples:
- a plan for me
- throw me in the deep end (& support me!)
- lead/teach by example
- the right level of support
- time for me, space to let me try
- ask me good questions (and let me find the answer)
- guidance + autonomy
- starter project – let me contribute!
- clarity & transparency
- it’s ok not to know the answers (let’s figure it out together)
Having a good internships requires proper preparation…
The critical times are:
- Before Day 1
- First few days
- Week 2-10
When there have been difficulties with internships it’s usually problems related to different expectations and/or low level of engagement & support in the first couple of weeks.
Before Day 1
Before day 1 you need to prepare…
- Get contracts signed
- Define the project
- Get work station setup
Your goals & expectations right project + right intern + right support = good internship
Suggestion: Invite the interns for a casual lunch before start date. No pressure, just to meet the team and make everyone feel welcome.
First few days
In the first few days get them introduced to their mentors, the company values, tools for communication etc. Housekeeping Have them meet senior leaders, understand what each person’s role is and how they fit in the bigger picture.
- Orientation to training & support resources (online & offline)
- Encourage questions (but help them solve their own problems)
- Intro to Git (learning git on day 1 is useful)
- Set up blog
- Ask them to document their learning, set expectation that they will present back to the rest of the team at the end of the internship their experience
- Remember: technical & non-technical support!
Make sure day one goes smoothly! First impressions are really important. Try and remove any housekeeping glitches and have a clear plan for the first few hours.
- Remember, this could be their first “real” job, be clear on start/finish times, office etiquette, clients/VIPs/confidentiality etc
- Xmas party etiquette, after work functions etc.
- Don’t panic, it’s not about babysitting, you’ve hired mature, confident self- starters!
- Clear expectation-setting
- Check in
- Give feedback
- Encourage question-asking
- Share good problem-solving techniques
As a newbie, it’s easy to get stuck in a hole. 1 minute’s advice from their mentor could save them HOURS of independent problem-solving.
Provide context for your intern: how does their project fit into the wider team/product/organisation?
If you are mentoring you should be able to pull back training/mentor time but remain available & ensure regular check-ins
See value devoting the 1 or 2 weeks to focussed learning, this will pay back in the rest of the iternship.
Make it clear what the learning outcomes are… Git, C#, Four Rules of Simple Design, Unit Tests We focus on some of the practices that have a longer shelf life, clean code, tdd, git. We try to avoid the technology till the project work
In focussing on practices setting the interns up with a small “learning” project to get them familiar with the concepts works well. TicTacToe is your friend.
After a few weeks they are going to get frustrated, we start the project after 2 weeks About the project… talk about what they’ll do, why it’s important, what they (and the organisation) will get at the end.
While shadowing is useful, limit it. It’s great to shadow for a few hours but after watching someone else work you really want to try it yourself. Try and get tangible outputs, this adds meaning to their lives
Consider re-scoping project if their progress is faster than anticipated Can you expose to different projects/people/clients/tasks? Invite to observe other teams/meetings/events?
Consider re-scoping project if their progress is slower than anticipated Can you provide extra training resources or tips? Extra tech or non-tech support required?
We always asked our interns to present back to the wider team at the end of their project. It is great experience for them, and helps raise awareness about what interns can do. Wanna keep em? Sometimes interns are available part-time or full-time after summer. COMMUNICATE EARLY!
As a mentor
Expect to be really hands on early on Expect to be available for the first two days, especially orientation day Write a reference or LinkedIn recommendation if you’re comfortable doing that Document & Feedback (from them to you, you to them, you to future you) Documentation… is super-useful to reflect on your mentorship experience, too ;-)