One of the things that I really liked about Atalasoft was that we could come up with creative solutions to staffing problems. One of our solutions was to tap colleges for interns. We had interns working for us from WPI, Smith, Oberlin, and UMass Amherst. Sometimes we put them on projects that we didn’t have the staffing to do. Sometimes we had them working on our build systems. Sometimes we had them working on support. All of these things were speculative investments. We were also training our interns in our products and we ended up hiring several of our interns after they had finished their degree. Each of these people had shown that they understood our code and systems and showed that they were good engineers.
After Atalasoft was acquired by Kofax, this program went away, which is a pity because it was such an easy gamble.
Still, I was very happy with every intern that we hired and we tried to treat them well.
Except that one time.
See, I was having a discussion with some of my co-workers about fair food and personally, I have two different forms of fair food kryptonite: smoked turkey legs and deep fried Oreos. In this discussion, Kevin Hulse and I got into a disagreement about whether or not Hydrox or Oreos were better in deep fried Oreos. Unable to reach agreement, we decided to settle it scientifically and set up something I referred to as Fry-day.
I brought in a fryer, pancake mix, eggs, sugar,a package of Oreos and a package of…well..problem: I couldn’t find Hydrox at my usual store, so I bought a different generic chocolate sandwich cookie. Close enough. We set up a double blind test and fried cookies, letting everyone vote on which they liked best. Kevin tallied the results and the winner was Oreo.
So where’s the intern in this?
One of our sales staff, John Casanova, was talking about how wonderful deep fried pickles are and why didn’t we have those as long as we had a fryer going? So we sent out Julia Burch to the local grocery store to pick up some pickles. I felt really bad about doing this, but Julia was a trooper and made the trip out.
Julia ended up working for us after she got her degree and I was very happy to have her on board.
Really, the point here is that paid internships (and ours were always paid internships) are a valuable investment. If you cultivate your interns, the investment will pay off for years to come.