Posted by: danielrashke | October 1, 2018

Building An Internship Program for the Future

TASC is a relative newcomer to internship programs. For many years we were so focused on adding the experienced and expert talent we needed to grow our business that we didn’t feel we could give interns the attention they deserved. If we were going to bring people in, we wanted them to do more than the stereotypical intern duties—more than collating papers and getting coffee. We wanted our program to be strategically focused and meaningful both for our interns and for us—an internship program of the future, not the past.

Two things helped convince us that it was time to act. The first was that our company reached a point where we felt we could provide a quality internship experience. The second was that I saw the enormous benefit my own children derived from their internships. My son Quinn landed spots with two outstanding Wisconsin companies, Exact Sciences and S.C. Johnson. The latter internship developed into a full-time staff position as a chemical engineer. My daughter Tia spent this past summer in South Africa working as an intern with the Southern African Bishops’ Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office, where she researched and wrote a briefing paper on how migrant children are received around the world. I saw that in addition to gaining valuable practical experience, Quinn and Tia had been able to contribute meaningfully to the companies and organization they worked for. And I knew TASC could benefit by a similar infusion of youthful energy and thinking.

In summer 2017 we brought in two interns, Alexandra (Alex) Gallagher, a Nonprofit Studies major at University of Wisconsin Madison, and Vishal Narayanaswamy, who’s major is in Economics and Political Science at Berkeley. We picked them strategically, knowing their areas of study could help us develop The Greater Give, a 501(c)(6) formed to increase charitable giving by cultivating a movement of shared responsibility between employers and their employees. Alex and Vishal were instrumental in helping us build a case for “The Everyday Philanthropist Act,” a piece of legislation we hope will revolutionize giving. And I think both would tell you they got a lot out of their internships. In fact, during a recent trip to Washington D.C. I ran into Vishal, who had leveraged his experience with us into another policy-related internship.

In 2018 we built on that success. As with many businesses, our need for new and better information technology has been growing rapidly. That’s why we recruited eight aspiring Information Technology professionals. They came to us from University of Wisconsin campuses in Madison and La Crosse and from an innovative program through Madison’s YWCA called “Y-Web,” which provides Information Technology learning to women and men in minority communities. These interns helped write code, enhance automation, and fine tune our websites and applications.

This past summer we also refined the shape of our program itself. For example, we brought our interns in as a group, so they could support each other as cohorts. Besides giving them pizza and TASC swag, we provided access to senior leadership during coffee hours and a brown bag lunches. We helped them develop soft skills such as using email effectively, effective communication and listening, and effective time management. We asked them to put in eight hours of paid volunteer time, and to give a presentation at the end of their internships, where they could talk about what they had learned from us. Last but not least, we challenged them to tell us what they thought TASC could learn from them.

That point is key. Internship programs give businesses an opportunity to see how they look to the emerging workforce, the young women and men they will need to recruit if they hope to succeed in the future. In the final analysis, a good internship program should make it easier to recruit good people. In many fields, especially Information Technology, we’re all in competition with high profile names like Google and Facebook. To get the best people, you need to create a memorable experience that will make your company a destination.

This innovative approach to recruiting interns has already paid great dividends. We offered all three of our interns from the Y-Web program full-time positions. We offered other members of our summer 2018 program opportunities to work at TASC part-time while they finished school. In future years we hope to expand our internships beyond IT into other departments as well.

I want to congratulate this year’s summer interns: Edmond Apaloo; Ashley Budden; Gustave Gbossou; Paul Heyrman; Krishna Kunadharaju; Lucy Putnam; Junior Quintero; and Lexi Wegman.

We appreciated their enthusiasm, energy and intelligence. And we can’t wait until next summer to meet our next group of interns!


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