Internship Tales

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Internships are an excellent way to build your staff for the future. They don’t always work out, but they are still integral to your team and the IBM i community as a whole.

I have long been a proponent of IBM i shops having internship programs. There is no better way to ensure that your company has the resources it needs to thrive than to cultivate the talent you need. This does not come without work, but the benefits far outweigh the investment.

Instead of heralding the advantages of internships, I thought I would approach this article differently. I recently had two interns graduate from college. I thought I would briefly share each of their stories and discuss plans for the program.

Our First Story

The first intern I would like to tell you about has been with me for over two years. He joined my staff during his senior year of his undergraduate degree. I was impressed with his abilities from the start. He was very hardworking and could learn independently. While I did spend time teaching him the basics of IBM i and RPG development, he was content to search the web, read articles and books, and figure things out on his own. He would always come to me if he found himself completely stuck but never before exhausting the resources he could find.

He stayed on with us during his master’s program. He quickly became my top intern and even helped manage the other interns in the program. The work he did for the company was varied. He worked on internal systems, did data analysis, built interfaces between systems, and even added a couple of small features to our products.

I, honestly, was grooming him for a specific position on my staff. However, he decided to take an offer with a company out of state. He and his new wife wanted to move away from home and start a new life. I can’t fault him for that. His last day was just yesterday.

The cynics will probably think that I invested two years in this intern for nothing, and they would be wrong. Would I have preferred to keep him on staff? Of course, I would, but that’s not how the cards fell. I am doing it again without hesitation. The way I see it, I got two years of quality work at an hourly intern rate. He contributed to the company and collected a paycheck. What’s wrong with that? If that weren’t enough, there is now one new developer in the world who understands the IBM i value proposition and can develop in RPG. That must be good for all of us, right?

Our Next Story

I have another intern who came to us from an IBM Academic Initiative program at a somewhat local community college. She had only a semester of school left, but she impressed me during the interview. I wanted her to join the team. Having students from the community college that already know IBM i and RPG is definitely advantageous.

The things that have impressed me most about her have been her ability to quickly learn new things and her dedication. She keeps a notebook of everything she learns, and it is quite full. She drives more than an hour each way, morning and evening, just to come to work each day. Her willingness to drive that distance after a morning of classes for a part-time job is a testament to her commitment to the company and her education. She quickly became an asset to the company and continues to be one.

She graduated in May and continued her internship through the summer. She is currently working as a member of our support staff and doing quite well.

What Next?

Other interns have come and gone in the last two years, mostly due to the pressures of school and work. Interns are always students first, and sometimes they must leave to concentrate on their studies. I don’t disagree with their decisions and hold no hard feelings toward them. This is the nature of intern programs. They come and go. It can sometimes be a bit of a revolving door.

I’m currently in a rebuilding year. I do have one intern with another year before graduation, but the rest of my seats are vacant. Not only am I filling these vacancies, but I also plan to expand the program by one or two interns.

Wrapping Up

I hope that this recap of my company’s experience with our intern program is interesting and compelling for you. Staffing your development team should be a priority for your company, and risk management should be taken into account. If your team consists of only senior-level developers, or even worse, one senior-level staffer, don’t be surprised when that vacancy happens and filling it is difficult. By employing interns and entry-level staff, you ensure a talent pool from which to draw as vacancies arise.

In short, instead of complaining about a talent shortage for IBM i, contribute to the solution. What do you have to lose?