Technology Interns To Employers Is Like A Farm Team To Major League Baseball, A Lesson From Fog Creek Software
I am constantly amazed to hear employers talk about the lack of younger technology talent. They cannot understand why there are so few candidates with 2-3 years of experience.
In my mind I ponder these questions:
-Do you have an internship program that actually mentors and teaches future professionals?
-Are you offshoring “entry level” work?
More broadly the technology community needs to do a better job getting at younger people, 7-15, before they start thinking about careers. Show them technology is fun, that it is useful, that it has a purpose, that it can be a great career and it can be financially rewarding.
After all young people are the big users of technology. They are growing up with it. This should be easy.
But that is an entirely different soapbox for a different day.
Back to the title of this post, having an internship program is a lot like the minor leagues, or “farm teams”, in Major League Baseball. This is where talent is developed, evaluated, mentored, taught important skills.
Yet so very few companies do it or do it well.
Worse, they do it poorly and treat their interns like crap and then wonder why they do not come back after graduation. Or even worse yet (as if that is possible) no college grads want to work there after their buddies told them how crappy it was for those three months.
I came across an article in this months Inc. and fortunately it is online. This months Guest Speaker is Joel Spolsky of New York based Fog Creek Software and he wrote Recruiting the Top 1 Percent. (Joel may well be better known as creator of the blog Joel On Software)
Fog Creek Software has an internship program and they do it right. They have a model most companies could use regardless of location. Not everyone can do field trips to Yankee Stadium or Broadway but working on cool projects, being paid, having a social side to get to know the company are things that will attract top interns and hopefully come back as future employees.
Oh and pay them a decent wage.
After all, that is what this is about. The goal of any intern program is to attract top students and to hire them as employees after graduation. (Although I do know that some companies do it only as a way to hire cheap labor to do menial tasks)
Sure there is an upfront cost to this with no guarantee of a hire but it is a lot cheaper than paying me and my recruiting colleagues to find you mid-level experienced talent. Besides as Joel notes even if you do not hire the intern he/she will tell there friends about the experience.
Fog Creek Software does not just have this mentality with college interns but all levels of talent. From their corporate site About Fog Creek Software:
"Good software development talent is scarce. The really great developers — the ones who change the world — are hard to find, attract, and recruit. Yet when we looked around, we discovered that the very companies that whine about not being able to find developers have working environments so bad they make Dilbert's cubicle-land look like paradise."
Amen to that.
Since it seems like I am promoting Fog Creek so much (only because I like what I have seen and something similar can be implemented by any company) here is a link to their internship program and for those with a degree a blog post about the Fog Creek Software Management Training Program.