At this year’s URx Leaders Summit, our CEO and Co-Founder Ahva Sadeghi led a breakout session on internship program design featuring panelists Alex Helm, University Relations Program Manager at Waymo and Ashley Smith, Project Manager, UR Programs and Events at Robinhood. Through this session, Ahva and the panelists unraveled key learnings from their past year’s programs, to make effective changes and improvements for a successful new internship season. Here are our 5 key takeaways from the session:
1. Look for new tools and platforms that recreate the same culture you have in the office digitally
In-person internships allow interns to get familiar with the company and its culture before starting their journey. Robinhood hosted social events, volunteer activities, mentorship programs, and more in-person events for their interns to get to know each other and the company better. Due to COVID, Robinhood pivoted to virtual events such as AirBnB experiences, online workshops, virtual volunteer activities, and virtual speaker series, to recreate the same office culture virtually.
2. Collect feedback from the outgoing intern cohort to improve for the next season
Robinhood hosts an offboarding presentation for all the interns 2 weeks prior to their last day at the company. After the presentation, interns are asked to fill out a survey giving feedback on various aspects of the internship such as social events and mentorship programs. At Waymo, interns fill out a mid-point survey and an exit survey in which they are asked questions like: how do you feel about your projects, do you feel the work you do is impactful, do you feel connected to the people at the company, and general feedback on interacting remotely. Based on these responses, you as a program manager can make changes to the internship program for the following year.
3. Introduce intern pods for interns to connect with each other
When Robinhood pivoted to virtual internships, they created ‘intern pods’ which were essentially groups of no more than 10 interns, and each intern pod had a pod leader who was from the Robinhood team. The pod leader would arrange a 30-minute meeting on a weekly or biweekly basis just to check in with the interns, see how they are doing, and answer any questions they may have about the overall program or upcoming deadlines or events. During the intern pod meetings, the pod leader would also arrange games for the interns to get to know each other better. Robinhood plans to make these intern pods a part of their internship program regardless of the format of the program as these pods helped build a strong community amongst the interns in a very short amount of time.
4. Host fun and interactive activities to actively engage interns
To keep the interns engaged, Waymo created a House Cup competition where the interns were divided into different teams or ‘houses’. Each house was led by different Waymo leaders who would meet up with their interns virtually on a weekly basis and host specific challenges that would not only help interns interact with other interns, but also go out in the world and do fun tasks like a mini scavenger hunt. Waymo also held inter-house competitions so interns from different houses could interact with each other. As intern managers and program managers, opt for more workshop-style activities rather than presentation-style activities which are less interactive. At Robinhood, interns really liked cooking classes since they could be very hands-on during that activity. While planning these activities, keep in mind that Zoom fatigue is real! It is key to focus on quality over quantity so interns are not overwhelmed by too many activities.
5. Tools you could leverage this upcoming internship season to recruit and retain next gen talent
- Overdrive: OverDrive, Inc. is a digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, online magazines, and streaming video titles. Robinhood’s mentors recommended several books that would be beneficial for interns to get their hands on. For this purpose, Robinhood leveraged Overdrive to give interns access to these books either in the form of audio books or digital copies during the internship period.
- Symba: Symba is an all-in-one digital platform that helps organizations streamline the management of their talent development programs. Using Symba, teams can easily onboard program participants, manage projects, provide and collect feedback, and build community. In addition, talent leaders can collect key success metrics and build dashboards to track the long-term impact of their programs. Symba helps businesses adapt to the future of work—adopting remote operations, investing in the next generation of talent, and committing to diversity and inclusion. Robinhood leveraged Symba to collect intern, mentor, and manager feedback in an organized manner.
- Gather.Town: Gather is a video chat platform designed to make virtual interactions more human. They do this by building the Metaverse, a virtual layer over the physical world where people can work, socialize, and learn. Waymo leveraged this tool to gather all their interns in one place virtually which would otherwise be very difficult to do in a virtual setting. Check this blog out to learn more about other tools that were discussed at the URx Leaders Summit 2021.
Watch the full breakout session here for more tips on how to elevate your 2022 internship programs.