Qxf2 internship program: Version 1.0

We trained two recently graduated engineers as part of an internship program. This post gives you a summary of what we did, how the interns felt about the program and what we learned.

The origins of our internship program

This section and the next is written by Arun, Qxf2’s founder. Last March, thanks to a suggestion by a rejected candidate, I decided to spend time and money on a 3-month internship program. My goal was to learn how to train a fresh graduate. I tried the same experiment again in September. In both cases, I took the lead in training and developing the new engineers. And in both cases, I did a lousy job. Sure, the two interns got paid and they picked up real world experience but they did not land full-time jobs right after they left Qxf2.

In the interest of fairness, we did the following:
a) paid the interns well
b) were upfront with them and told them that we did not have openings after the 3-month training
c) we helped them to apply for jobs during the 3-month period
d) we included them in our internal meetings so they got a taste of the social side of work

Qxf2’s constraints

We have had very little luck with taking a fresh graduate and turning them into billable professionals. The two largest stumbling blocks also happen to be two jewels of Qxf2’s culture – remote work and low management overhead. I want to learn how to train fresh graduates within the constraints imposed by Qxf2’s culture. Annapoorani, who has teaching experience, is helping Qxf2 solve this problem. The rest of this post is by Annapoorani.

Why this post?

Qxf2 wants to help testers. We were a little behind in terms of hiring and training freshers. After doing some ground work, we have come up with the internship program in Qxf2 Services. So here I will be writing about my experience designing and implementing the first internship program at Qxf2 Services. I am hoping people with training backgrounds and freshers who are searching for jobs can chime in with ideas on how we can improve.

Short overview of our internship program

I made some changes based on our previous two attempts to train interns. Key among them were:
1. A plan and a syllabus
Before we started our internship program, we came up with the detailed plan outlining the intern’s journey through this program. We started with our usual orientation program and set up with their systems. In 14 weeks of internship, we trained them on testing artifacts, Selenium, Python, SQL, and UNIX. We also made sure that they got practical experience during their internship. You can see the plan for our internship in the below image.

2. We hired two interns instead of one
We felt they would feel nicer if they had a peer.

3. The interns had to come to the office for the first month
Usually, we work from home but I thought it would help the interns to be in the office for the first four weeks.

4. We would conduct mock interviews and resume reviews
Our previous two interns did not take resume writing and preparing for interviews very seriously. So, this time around, we thought we would make these activities mandatory and explicit.

Ok! 14-weeks flew by and we are a little wiser. For the rest of this post, I am sharing my experience about:
i) What was the interns’ attitude during the program
ii) What was my perspective
iii) Our learning from the first Qxf2 internship program.

Interns’ attitude

I felt that they expected to be spoon-fed every time. They also wanted to jump into coding immediately rather than learn the foundational material. We started with teaching them about testing artifacts and some theory of testing but I observed they were not too keen on learning basic theory. They wanted to jump to coding directly.

I observed that they were highly energetic during the practical training session and they completed the work within the allotted time. I could see the excitement in them while they were learning new technologies with clear practical applications. This could be because this sort of learning is a welcome break from the typical textbook learning in colleges.

When they started searching for jobs they were pretty nervous and got demotivated easily. So I had to continuously speak to them and encourage them to be positive and confident. Overall, I felt that they were happy to learn the new things and get some first-hand experience of the corporate environment.

My perspective

I have many years of teaching experience in colleges. This corporate internship program has been a different experience for me. Interns worry about their future and career development which wasn’t always the case in colleges. After seeing their interest, I expected them to learn more than I taught during their classes. But, in the end, I had to keep pushing them to learn and read more. I expected them to come up with various mini-projects once we came out of the theoretical concepts. But they kept learning and practising the same simple tests and lines of code.

Until we asked them to apply for jobs, they were not doing it seriously. I have to think about how to make them come out of the college phase and encourage them to take more initiative during their internship program so that they can have a good start in their career.

What Qxf2 learned

This was the first baby step towards our internship training program. We held retrospective sessions with the interns and also an internal review meeting. Here are some learnings

1. Having a syllabus helped
The interns felt good when they came onboard. We had a plan that we adapted to accommodate our interns landing job interviews and handling personal emergencies.

2. Testing or development?
We clearly mentioned that we are going to help interns in software testing and not software development. Yet, through the 14-weeks, the interns seem to be chasing development jobs. There is no consensus within Qxf2 about whether we should force them to apply only for testing jobs or if they should continue to apply for developer jobs too.

3. We lacked a test applciation
The success of internship is giving the practical session to the students. We had them sign up for different web applications and mobile applications to practice their testing. In future, we are planning to give our own web and mobile applications which contain bugs for them to practice and learn.

4. Begin the job application process early
It took ~10 weeks before the interns had their resumes and cover letters ready. We felt they were not very serious about interview preparation either. We will encourage them to focus more on applying for jobs from the start itself so that they are able to find a job as they complete the program.

5. Our mock interviews need more variety
Our interns gave us feedback that the next time around, the mock interviews should mimic what startups look for and must have more than one person on the panel.

6. Making the interns more pro-active
Interns, due to many years of schooling, want to be spoon-fed. My colleague, Rohan Dudam, has suggested we select candidates for an internship only if they have done at least one project outside of their coursework.

I am looking forward to hearing from experienced trainers as well as fresh graduates. What do you think of our internship program and how do you think we can improve? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

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