Yahoo! Internship program – what makes it so popular?

Yahoo! is an amazing firm to work with. Internshala recently had the opportunity to catch up with Muthusamy Chelliah, who manages Academic Relations at Yahoo! India R&D. Yahoo! gives a strong emphasis on internships, since the company is aware of the pivotal role that leading companies have to undertake in bridging the gap between what one learns and what one is expected to do in real life. Read further to know more about the Yahoo! internship program and other avenues through which students can engage with the digital media  giant.

IS: Could  you please provide us with an overview about the Yahoo! internship program?

Muthusamy: Our internship program is designed for real-world work experience in a global product R&D environment. Interns get to work on cutting-edge scientific problems with renowned scientists and architects in Bangalore and across the globe. We mainly have three hiring windows i.e. Jan-May, May-Jul, and  July-Dec where we hire from Top-7 IITs and BITS Pilani mostly. This exclusive reach out is because students from these colleges are more likely to get exposed to opportunities that require them to think out of the box through projects and challenging assignments and we at Yahoo! value experiential learning very much. We employ two methods of hiring, namely regular placement and Hackathons.

IS: As far as the methods are concerned, how effective are events like HackU and Hackathon as against the traditional Test-GD-PI method?

Muthusamy:   HackU is an innovation workshop, not a programming competition. Here while we do prototype implementations relevant to our business needs, we expect participants to ideate, brainstorm, develop, implement and demonstrate an idea within a very short timeframe through rapid prototyping. Our belief is that it’s a mutual vetting process since upto 6 engineers and 3 cross-functional partners from recruiting, events and logistics get to visit a campus through this event. Thus, we get to assess a candidate holistically through 3-days of intense engagement with various stake holders and the proof of that shows up as actual code and a pitch to the judges. The impression we get from a few hours interview would be different from what we get from a 3 day workshop. Also, the internship would be a continuation of what they did at the workshop and hence interns too get a sneak-peak at what they will be doing at Yahoo!.   To selected interns, we offer a final year project also, where they can work under a professor’s guidance and utilize the vast technical resources that we possess. But unfortunately, this level of resource-intensive engagement is not something that we can do in every other campus and hence, as of now, it is limited to a few IITs alone.

IS: Yahoo hire in the summer as well as round the year. What kinds of opportunity are available round the year?

Muthusamy: Summer projects are typically 10 weeks long whereas rest of the year students typically spend upto 6 months with us. Most of our long-term interns still come through traditional hiring mechanisms (e.g., we offer internships in their final semester to BITS students who have been selected for full-time opportunities with us)

IS: As someone working in a company like Yahoo! what would be the skills that you expect to have in a technical intern apart from expertise in his/her field?

Muthusamy: Communication skills as evident from reports/papers on projects accomplished and hands-on experience as obvious from code/working prototypes available in the open source and on the Web would be very much valuable. Also, a holistic idea about the entire operation would be good. We don’t want a jack of all trades though. Every person should have his/her own field of expertise, but it would increase their chances of getting hired if they have a fair idea about what is happening at the other end of the process as well.

IS: How does Yahoo! benefit by hiring interns?

Muthusamy: Internship is a great opportunity to brand the company in strategic campuses; it’s a phenomenal learning experience for both the sides. Yahoo! looks to make a good first impression which can last throughout the career. We engage our interns in challenging projects which stretch even our own engineers who mentor them, to produce innovations like patents and products which could move the needle for the company. An added bonus is high-potential interns whom we could convert into full-time recruits through this exercise . Usually they, thanks to their firsthand knowledge about the company, stand a higher chance to accept our offer.

IS: What kind of mentoring is available with Yahoo! for interns? Do they get assigned to projects or assist individuals?

Muthusamy: Each intern gets assigned to a hiring manager who in turn appoints a technical mentor for the entire tenure. SMART goals are set for the assignment and periodic review is undertaken culminating in a showcase presentation where business leaders get to assess the work and provide constructive feedback. Interns also get to attend custom boot camps and career panels which not only train them on their daily needs but also promote awareness about the broader company. We support our interns in bridging the gap between what they learn on campus and the real world of work. We also realize that there are some tools and technologies that are very specific to Yahoo!.  So we organize tech boot camps for our interns to help them on both these counts. Also, we help interns think about career choices by presenting to them the various career tracks available at Yahoo!. We organize panel discussions highlighting the different career tracks at Yahoo! and what they entail.

IS: There is great feedback in the web about the program and all of them talks about the ice-breaking events.  Apart from what is specified in the contract, what can an intern expect to do at Yahoo?

Muthusamy: We promise a holistic experience through which interns at the end of their assignment not only should have a sense of significant accomplishment which will stand them in good stead for years to come, but also get to interact with fellow students from across the globe who spend time with Yahoo!. People skills they develop in addition to their technical achievement help bright young minds to assess what a career in IT industry feels like so that they can make informed decisions about a career choice when they come to that point. Of course, we would like to believe that we have made that choice easy one  (i.e., Yahoo! of course J)

IS: How should one prepare for a Yahoo! internship?

Muthusamy: We are not looking for technical skills alone.  There are umpteen number of people who are good at technical aspects of work . But we need people who have original ideas. Gone are the days when one gets specific information on what needs to be done. Today, everyone needs to innovate and shape up the work. You need to be creative and cultivate the right attitude to internalize what is innovation and entrepreneurship. Also, don’t wait for Yahoo!  to hire you.  Engage in other opportunities and make the most of the academic phase of your life. Companies like Yahoo!  will eventually hire you if you have done enough practical learning through other opportunities.

Once you have been hired by Yahoo!  for an internship,  it would be good if you nurture the following attitudes.

1.Be prepared to be super-flexible. Forego all your inhibitions and roll up your sleeves in order to learn everything you can.

2. Be prepared to take a lot of initiative. You have to be prepared and determined  to make a meaningful contribution and get a sense of accomplishment. We give ample opportunity to all the interns to showcase their skills and we want them to reciprocate it.

3. Be prepared to invest your time and energy to fundamentally change the landscape. See it as a stepping stone to bigger things.

IS: What from an intern’s part are the top four things that can make his/her tenure at Yahoo!  a forgettable experience?

Muthusamy: 1. Not being open to new challenges or ideas can harm your chances of having a good time at Yahoo!

2. Not appreciating the work being done is another thing that might make your internship an unpleasant one. Do not regard any work as mundane or beneath you.

3.Fun is an integral part of our work culture. But work should be given priority. Chalta hain attitude will bring you nothing but trouble.

4. Thinking of oneself as merely an intern will curb the vast potential you hold within. There is still so much of untapped potential in every industry we engage with. For example, let’s say we have a target addressable market  of 50bn dollars in the ad market, the real world of ads i.e. the offline one could be worth a good 10 times of that. So a person should have the hunger to go after it and make the big thing happen, regardless of whether he/she is an intern or a regular employee.

Hope this was helpful. If you have interned before at Yahoo! and want to share your experience, or if you are looking to do an internship with Yahoo! and need more information, please leave a comment below and Internshala would get in touch!

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