Having a tech internship program is a big investment that companies should not undertake without making sure they can put in the work to make it successful. Some companies approach it as a source of extra help but without giving the interns the support they need it will end up in hurt productivity for them and the rest of the team.

The ultimate goal of an internship is to provide useful work, determine whether there’s an opportunity for a full time role, and sell the candidate on that opportunity. A great way to achieve these ends is to give interns a chance to own a large project that allows them to get a feel for the work and showcase their abilities. The ideal project should have the following traits:

  • Technology. Each company has their own stack and it’s important to make sure interns are exposed to the way the rest of the team works. Rather than have this project be isolated from the rest of the team it should leverage the same tools and technology that the rest of the team uses and provide a glimpse of how the team operates.

  • Useful but not urgent. This is self explanatory but the project should be useful since it’s both a way of giving interns a sense of ownership and impact but it cannot be urgent since there is likely a steep learning curve and you do not the rest of the team to have to pick up the slack.

  • Autonomous. It’s inevitable that there will be questions but the goal should be to not overwhelm the rest of the team. An ideal project will provide enough autonomy to keep the interns busy while challenging them to figure things out on their own. This means that the project should have clear measures of success and minimal amount of nuanced commercial logic which require months to ramp up on and understand.

A good way of making sure these are hit are to have a brainstorming session with the team to propose as many projects as possible by scanning the backlog and then using the rubrik above to score them against the various dimensions. You should then have a few candidate projects emerge that would be eligible to be picked as an intern project.


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