How interns helped me create the product I envisioned

How interns helped me create the product I envisionedAbout the Author: Raghav Nyati (the one sitting in the center) is a software developer and the founder of Volunteer Curriculum. He talks about his journey and shares some handy tips for maintaining a strong relationship with interns.

In my four years of volunteering for a sustainable education club of BITS Pilani (Goa campus) called Abhigyaan, there were multiple challenges while teaching English and Maths to the migrant workers of the campus. I realized that my ability to be an effective tutor in English was being hampered by the lack of structured teaching material. There was a dire need for a curriculum, either printed or online, which focused on teaching conversational English and started from the scratch. After finishing college and shifting base to Hyderabad, I faced a similar situation in the other NGOs too. I observed that many volunteers dropped out because there was no curriculum to teach from. I soon recognized there was a real lacuna in this specific area.

I had started working on an English curriculum based on my volunteering experience and by March 2015, I had a sizeable content ready. I was absolutely sure that it would work based on my personal experience and intuition. Thus, I launched my curriculum portal in June 2015. However, a lot of work needed to be done – the content wasn’t polished, website UI wasn’t neat, and there was no email list of potential customers.

Having started out as a one-man army, I took Internshala’s help to assemble a workforce for myself on ad hoc basis and finish the above-mentioned features. I found some great content writers and WordPress designers through this platform. Since I don’t yet have a permanent office, I’ve only been hiring virtual interns. 3 things that I always do while hiring an intern are:

1. Creating a requirements document in which I explain the tasks involved in creating the specific feature and the required intern’s background & skillset.
2. Giving the shortlisted interns a sample task (which mimics the actual task that they would be doing) to perform that helps me assess their skills.
3. Training the hired interns with DIY videos.

It’s good to have a competent person you know well work for you again rather than having a stranger trying his hands at it. Many interns worked with me over distinct internship cycles as I ensured that the internship provided them an enriching experience. Here are some of the things that I did which helped me in maintaining a strong relationship with them:

1. I always kept a sufficient time buffer in hand and never pressurized my interns with rigid deadlines.
2. I put together a continuous feedback process in place wherein interns were asked to take guidance and feedback from me as frequently as possible and submit multiple drafts for correction before their final submission. This approach ensured that interns didn’t do redundant work and that their final output always met, and sometimes exceeded, my expectations.
3. After finishing a task, interns were again given the option to either continue working on a similar task or switch to a different type of task altogether (for example, a couple of interns switched from content creation to UI design). This ensured that interns worked on what they liked and explored different options while delivering the best possible quality.
4. I also provided letters of recommendation to all my interns after completing their internship irrespective of the duration that they worked for me.

If you are also starting up and looking to hire interns, please post your requirements here.

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