We all remember the days where a solid 3 month holiday over the summer break came as an eagerly anticipated part of our university experience. Some of us chose to work part time, while others made the most of no commitments and spent the summer swimming and lapping up the sunshine.
Now, a whole new generation of young tech enthusiasts have broken the mold as they are eager to gain vital work experience and get a feel for ‘the real world’. While most tech companies struggle for talent, I see no shortage of bright, enthusiastic juniors just waiting to get into their first tech role.
Cue Ruth McDavitt, Summer of Tech’s CEO. Summer of Tech aims to help NZ tech companies find, hire and grow students – providing a bridge between training and their first tech job. Ruth says “There’s a lot of talk about the so-called ‘tech talent shortage’ in New Zealand, but when you scratch the surface, everyone is looking for senior talent”.
I couldn’t agree more, and the proof is in the numbers. This year has been Summer of Tech’s biggest on record, with 1500 students signing up for the program and 170 getting internships as a result.
Here at Xero, we’ve been lucky enough to have 14 talented interns who’ve chosen to trade in a few months off for some great work experience. For us , this means fresh ideas and a huge amount of enthusiasm is injected into our teams over the summer. Our staff love being able to pass on knowledge and help interns discover their passions and really start to build on their capabilities – developing their own leadership skills along the way. Interns do real work at Xero, so from the start they’re adding to the velocity of their teams and making a real difference to our customers.
I caught up with some of our interns recently, to get their take on why internships are important and pull together some advice for businesses thinking of taking on their own interns next year.
Give them a chance to make an impact:
Students want to see that their efforts have an impact – giving them real world work helps them thrive and is a key motivator for them.
Megan Liang said she was really pleased that we’d placed her in a team where she felt able to contribute her own ideas. While she was initially nervous, she was able to lean on her team. She said, “my biggest success was when I saw the work I had contributed to over the last month being released. This was the first time I’d written code that had a lifetime of more than a couple of days!” Vida Fox said she was amazed at how early the work she was doing mattered, “it is an inspiring feeling knowing that what you’re doing is important”. For Rowan Self, it’s been an opportunity to explore; “I’ve been working with really interesting technologies that have only been recently used at Xero, which has been really cool”.
Support their learning
Making sure your teams have the capability to teach and guide juniors is a must have – and something to consider carefully before you commit to taking on an intern.
Ruth McDavitt pointed out this is a key factor in future proofing the tech industry in NZ. “Unfortunately, many New Zealand businesses just don’t have the capacity to retain their senior staff and grow juniors. To grow NZ’s tech talent pipeline, we need more forward-thinking organisations to give students and graduates an opportunity to start their career.”
Will Moreland agrees with this, saying that “Taking on an intern through the Summer of Tech program is going to get you someone who is excited to be in your company and ready to learn as many skills as you’re willing to teach them”.
Thankfully, our interns think we’ve got this right. Mayur Panchal said “I have learnt so much more about how to use tools to scale and how to deploy code, which is something I never really thought of when I was thinking of making a program. It really is super interesting, and made me have a different view on software services and products.”
For Sarah Lancaster seeing the team in action has had the added bonus of helping cement her career choices. She said “I definitely want to pursue a career in this industry and be as accomplished and valuable as the members of my team.”
When hiring, look past their grades
When we recruit juniors, we look for potential, not experience. They’re going to make mistakes, but they’re going to learn as a result. Look for juniors who are keen to learn, have the right attitude, fit your culture and who are interested in your business.
Stefan Schultz says interns are a great addition to any team “we have hardly any real world, industry experience, but that means few preconceived ideas, a great work ethic, and a fresh attitude”
Will Grant put it succinctly – “attitude trumps grades 99 times out of 100. We know if we can show we’re keen to learn and willing to work hard, we’ve got a much higher chance of getting an internship than someone who has straight A+s but couldn’t give a crap about the company or the work they’d be doing”
The Summer of Tech process really supports this. There’s a wide range of events students can take part in to upskill prior to starting their internships. These include CV clinics, technical bootcamps, hackathons and job interview practice, most of which are run with the help of hundreds of employer volunteers. For employers, student profiles are presented in a way that makes identifying and engaging with the right students easy.
Ruth and I are both huge advocates of paid internships. While onboarding and training interns does incur a cost, the outcomes of a well run program are worth it.
At Xero, our internships form a pipeline into our graduate program, with around 94% of our interns returning to us as grads once they’ve finished their studies. This is key to our junior talent strategy. Ruth says this is the case for many businesses taking part, with on average 80% of interns staying on with their companies post internship. Aside from the feel good factor of supporting emerging talent and future proofing NZ’s tech industry, this talent pipeline represents a lower cost to hire and significant return on investment.
Snap up talent with Summer of Tech!
The great thing about the Summer of Tech process is that you don’t have to be a large employer to take part. Even if you are just looking for one intern, they’re set up to help you find the right talent for your team. The end to end recruitment process is efficient and handled directly through Summer of Tech’s bespoke system.
They have awesome brand presence on campus which attracts great talent and translates to brand presence for companies taking part. Joely Huang says “Summer of Tech has been around since before I started university. It has helped me learn a lot more about the industry and gave me the opportunity to put myself out there, and follow my passion”. Alex Royden said “I discovered that Xero offered internships through Summer of Tech, when I started attending the masterclasses and bootcamps that were on each week. After talking to a few friends and family that work in the IT industry, it became clear that Xero is held in high regard, and offers great opportunities for its staff. After meeting some Xero staff at events, I knew It would be an amazing place to work” (why, thank you Alex, we think so too!)
What’s sad though is that this year Summer of Tech had over 1000 students miss out on internships simply due to an unbalanced supply and demand.
What’s important for businesses to remember is that these interns are the next generation of talent. Sarah Lancaster added that “many of the most hardworking, personable and talented students are snapped up by summer of tech employers before they get a chance to hit the graduate job market, so it’s definitely in a business’ best interest to join the race early!”.
So, if you have real world work available, have staff capacity to teach juniors and have the ability to pay an intern get in touch with Summer of Tech and have a chat about your options for the 2017/18 summer. May the odds be ever in your favour.
The post How hundreds of tech students are choosing to spend their Summer Break appeared first on Xero Blog.