Hiring Interns Who Make Real-World Impact
Maximize your internship program with these expert tips and insights that will help every intern make their mark.
One of the best new features in the latest Adobe Document Cloud release wasn’t created by a veteran employee — it’s the work of an Adobe summer intern.
Alex Yeh, a computer science student at Carnegie Mellon, started his Adobe internship ready to do some basic mobile app development — but on day one he was tasked with creating a new way of recognizing fields on a page, which would work with the Fill & Sign tool for filling, signing, and sending any form in Adobe Document Cloud. Alex’s manager told him that if he could connect the dots and create something meaningful, his work would be part of the latest release.
Using an Adobe Sensei algorithm developed for the web, Alex created a native iOS component to recognize fields and text on a page. Jim Alisago, a senior computer scientist and Alex’s mentor, says that the iOS component Alex developed will likely be used in future mobile products and extend beyond this particular release.
“When they first told me about the project, I didn’t really understand the impact it was going to have,” Alex says. “Then I started working on it more, and realized this was going to be part of this massive launch.” It was a powerful moment for Alex, who was surprised by the level of responsibility he was given, especially so early on in his Adobe internship.
Jim says he and his colleagues chose Alex for the project because of his prior experience with — and passion for — mobile app development. Because Alex was adept at creating mobile apps, he was excited to work on a project with real-world ramifications.
Creating benefits for both sides
While many managers may have viewed it as a major risk to assign the development of an important new feature in such a widely used solution like Adobe Document Cloud to an intern, Jim believes there’s a true corporate responsibility that comes with training the next generation. “I think companies are afraid of letting interns try to achieve something big,” he says, “and they’re probably selling the interns and themselves short as a result.”
By integrating interns in meaningful organization processes and workflows, companies can truly benefit in big ways. In Alex’s case, his contributions to Adobe Document Cloud — and to future Adobe products — are tangible and meaningful, while freeing Jim and his team to tackle other challenges.
Creating significant hands-on experiences for interns also fosters a sense of loyalty and connectivity between managers and their team — relationships that often go the distance. In the industry, approximately three in five interns are offered full-time positions with their employers and, of those, close to four in five accept.
Because of their prior experience interning at the company, these “new” hires arrive on day one ready to hit the ground running and continue contributing to the success of the organization. This not only enhances efficiency, but hiring well-trained interns also reduces costs for entry-level recruiting, a major expense for many enterprises.
An alternative path to a second career
Former Adobe intern Audrey So’s journey is another example of the success internships can drive for both interns and organizations.
“I was teaching for almost five years in San Francisco,” Audrey says of her pre-Adobe life. “I went to school for education and English, and I was teaching second grade.” She came to a point where she was ready for that next step and, given her chosen path, assumed she’d pursue a Ph.D. But she couldn’t shake the idea that something else was out there for her.
“Three of my brothers are engineers,” Audrey says. “I thought to myself, ‘What if I just explored something completely different?’ I was really interested in growth mindset. I was preaching it in my class and I was telling kids that they can do and learn anything. And that made me wonder if I could actually do a bootcamp. I wanted to see if I could learn something I had no prior knowledge of.”
The verdict? “It was definitely hard,” she says. “From there, I wanted something very marketable, and my brothers said mobile. That’s how I ended up joining the Adobe Digital Academy with General Assembly.”
Audrey attended General Assembly’s Android development program offered at the time, and, with positive feedback from her teachers, she was accepted to the Adobe Digital Academy, which provides high-potential students with scholarships and living stipends while they’re completing their bootcamp course. Qualified graduates are then eligible for a three-month internship at Adobe to gain technical experience.
Audrey advanced to the internship stage, and, just five months later, she was hired full-time as a software engineer. Feeling supported and nurtured through Adobe training and internship programs, Audrey spent this past summer giving back as an instructor for one of our three Girls Who Code classes.
“Girls Who Code has been on my radar since I was an intern,” she says. “That was one of the reasons I wanted to work at Adobe — the cool programs that enable you to combine your passion for technology and anything else you’re interested in. For me, it’s perfect. Education is a huge focus here.”
Driving a meaningful internship experience
Whether you’re in or preparing for an internship — or if you’re bringing in interns to support your organization — keep in mind both sides have a limited time frame to achieve success. To ensure you’re making the most of these opportunities, have a solid framework in place going in, with tangible benchmarks and desired takeaways.
Here’s how successful interns and hiring managers can make the most out of internships:
- Dive in and learn something new. When Alex started at Adobe, he was versed in several programming languages but needed to learn C++ to complete the project he was assigned. “The first week, I started off by looking up C++ tutorials and reading a short summary on how it’s similar and different to other languages I already knew,” he explains.Not only did taking the time to increase his knowledge of programming help in his internship, but it will also make him more marketable in the future. “The interns who have had the biggest impact on the team were the ones confident enough to jump in and thrive,” Jim says, “even when things aren’t completely defined.”
- Work on something you’re passionate about. Alex asked to work on a consumer-facing product and was handed the project of a lifetime. He had the passion and, as Jim says, it showed — and made Alex an ideal candidate for this assignment.Audrey’s passion for education has steered her career path.“I want to learn constantly,” she says, “and I’m giving back through Girls Who Code. I’m using these skills to help the next generation.”
- Network and build relationships. “From what I’ve found, everyone is willing to talk to you and share with you about what they’re working on,” Audrey says. “They’re happy to share how they got to where they are in their career, whether you’re the new person or a senior person.”
- Have a growth mindset. Follow Audrey’s lead. Push yourself and gain new skills. Learn all you can from mentors, peers, and experiences. Take on challenges you aren’t entirely sure about. Even if you struggle, you’ll gain valuable experiences and come out of an internship, course, or bootcamp stronger than you were before.
- Empower your interns. If you’re hiring, managing, or mentoring interns within your organization, make sure the investment on both sides pays off. Empower interns to go above and beyond a typical internship, and don’t be afraid to task them with challenging projects that will impact the business.
With this approach, interns will be more invested in the work and, should they come on board for the long haul, they’ll be better equipped, better trained, and more committed to the success of your team and your organization as a whole.
“This is the beginning of their career,” Jim says of interns. “An internship is about getting them inspired about what could happen and showing them that, if they’re capable, they can achieve a lot.”