The Challenge of 11 Full-Time Summer Interns

Back in early 2007 we were just getting Pardot off the ground and had a number of road map features we wanted to crank out during the summer. With an extra 2,000 square feet of office space we weren’t using, there was plenty of room to add team members. We didn’t have much money so we did what any enterprising startup would do: we hired 11 full-time, paid summer interns (eight engineers and three marketers). Hmm, you might be thinking, 11 is a bit much since there were only three full-time people in our startup (two co-founders and a lead engineer).

Here are some lessons learned from hiring a large number of interns:

  • Without management infrastructure, we actually had one of the interns be an intern manager and manage several other interns, which worked out well, but overall the interns didn’t get nearly the amount of attention they needed
  • Hiring standards were lax so we had a number of interns that didn’t work out, including one we had to fire half way through (a small number of the interns worked out really well)
  • Customer discovery wasn’t distributed across enough different companies, so the product progressed faster than market feedback, resulting in functionality that was unnecessary
  • Some of the interns excelled and we hired them again in the future

My recommendation is to incorporate interns into startups, but do it in a more thoughtful and manageable manner, such that everyone has a great experience.

What else? What are some other thoughts on hiring 11 full-time summer interns for a three person startup?

One thought on “The Challenge of 11 Full-Time Summer Interns

  1. I am sure that was quite a learning experience for everyone! Thank you for sharing. I am in the process of starting an (not sure what it will be called) Internship, mentorship, or summer boot-camp for young technical talent. When I say young I am going to open it up to high school Seniors – College Seniors. The goal behind this is to help the local STEM program and local college in providing some hands-on-experience that provides a value beyond future recruiting and developing a program that can be improved upon and used at a add-on or substitute for the 4-6 year degree that some of the most talented programmers don’t make it through.

    Initial ideas:

    – Defining the “projects” that can be developed by an entry level developer
    – Selecting a few developers or technical experts that would enjoy mentoring a student
    – Treating the screening process as serious as hiring – but FUN! Hack-a-Thon or something similar to establish talent and desire.
    – Based of off the list of projects – pick ideal teams. ei. A student going through PM certification, with a back-end programmer, and a UI programmer. Having mentors for each one.

    The students will get college credit, real hands-on experience, and hopefully a successful project under their belts for their resume.

    The business – young future talent and hopefully a successful project.

    I would appreciate any feed-back you have on ideas on how to improve the project. We aren’t a start-up with about 320 employees, but we function like one.

    Our biggest challenge with being successful with prior Internships were a combination of stealing time / resources from experience busy engineers and a long ramp up period for the student to be productive.

    I would like to develop this further for other local technology companies and once I have a proven system offer the program to more companies.

    Good idea?

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