When COVID-19 caused numerous companies to cancel their summer internship programs, many college students across the country became disappointed and helpless. While equally shocked by the abrupt changes, the members and supporters of URx, a community of university & early career talent professionals, put their heads together to bring about a solution — InternHacks.
Thanks to the dedicated organizers, mentors, and sponsors, InternHacks was launched on June 15, 2020, with over 170 student participants. These interns just wrapped up their 6-week summer projects last Thursday. To hear about their experiences, we reached out to the organizers and sponsors of InternHacks.
Iris Oliver, one of the mighty organizers of InternHacks, kindly shared her answers on behalf of the organizers.
Q: What’s the vision for InternHacks?
Iris: We wanted to give students who lost their internships a project to work on this summer, and make sure that people have opportunities this summer in spite of geographical or economic constraints. We also wanted the program to be open to non-traditional tech students and underrepresented minorities – we’re proud that the inaugural InternHacks cohort has over 40% Black and Latinx students, more than half of whom are female-identifying. We also support students from both two-year colleges and four-year universities.
Q: What do you want the students to get out of InternHacks?
Iris: To recreate the best parts of an internship, we set our goal to provide students with opportunities to Build, Network, and Learn. These three concepts came to life in the program through the incredible projects our students are working on in their teams, smaller virtual networking events throughout the 6 weeks, and the four pillar events we hosted.
Q: Summer was right around the corner so you had a tight timeline to launch this program. What was the preparation process like?
Iris: We started planning InternHacks in mid-March, which is the fastest event turnaround that any of us have ever worked on. It’s definitely been a whirlwind! We’ve spent many evenings and weekends on cross-country Zoom meetings, but it has been amazing to see all the hard work pay off.
Among the organizers, we took the “divide and conquer” approach:
- I led an inaugural cohort of over 170 interns, ensuring that they were able to work together as a team smoothly, to learn from their mentors, and to network with the sponsors even in this virtual environment.
- Obum Egolum and Bori Oludemi spearheaded the mentor experience, leading a team of over 150 mentors from industry ranging from new grads to VPs of Engineering at FAANG corporations.
- Zohaib Imam, our Slack expert, was instrumental in event logistics and operations.
- Supriya Sanjay raised over $25k worth of sponsorship for our student prize pool from 10 partner companies. She was also the driving force of the program as a director since early March.
- URx, their partners, and InternHacks sponsors gave the program and team organizational backing and institutional support.
Q: What are some projects these interns worked on?
Iris: InternHacks provided 12 different project tracks with expert mentors in each. Then the interns defined the scope of their project for their respective teams. We’ve been humbled watching our students participate in this program in so many ways. Almost all of their technical projects have a social justice angle to them: some worked on resource aggregation for Black Lives Matter protests; one team created resources for people who are houseless; others worked on systems to increase voter engagement.
Q: How has it been from the aspect of building a community?
Iris: The interns have also been so helpful, collaborative, and kind in our Slack channel. They’ve thrived in this virtual environment. We’ve seen interns go above and beyond for each other. For example, they’ve run peer resume reviews, started a peer to peer practice interviewing system, and filled out surveys to give feedback on other teams’ projects. More than a few teams have also indicated that they plan on continuing to work on their projects together beyond the official InternHacks end date because they love their teams.
eBay – Sponsor
Cindy Loggins, the Director of University Recruiting and Programs at eBay, shared more color on eBay’s experience with InternHacks as the D&I project track sponsor.
Q: What motivated eBay to sponsor InternHacks and the D&I track in particular?
Cindy: The core of InternHacks was to provide meaningful summer work for students whose initial offers were rescinded, which then grew to an opportunity to engage with untapped minority student groups with mentorship and coaching built in. At eBay, we are always looking for new ways to engage with young talent and foster diversity and inclusion, and this seemed like a unique opportunity for eBay to reach out and help!
Q: Could you share your experience with the program so far?
Cindy: My recruiters and I have hosted AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions, coffee chats and resume building sessions. Each one of these offers us an opportunity to meet new students and help them navigate the technology world. While each company might require something specific, my team’s purpose was to be super authentic and offer a glimpse into what eBay does, how we recruit, and share our own life lessons.
Q: What has been the big win so far?
Cindy: The big win is that we have an entirely new population of students who are now interested in seeing where eBay might take them, whether as a place to work or perhaps even looking at the eBay platform in a way they didn’t before. Super exciting!
Q: Is eBay planning to hire students from this program or provide a continuous mentorship beyond the InternHacks program?
Cindy: Absolutely! We have already connected with students who joined the program this summer and hope to continue these conversations into the Fall. I am always humbled that students are wanting to know more about my career, what we do at eBay, and ultimately how they might help make a difference.
Q: What’s your plan for university recruiting this year? How has COVID-19 affected university recruiting?
Cindy: Early-in-career-talent hiring continues to be a strategic initiative for eBay and we will be engaging with students around the U.S. in a virtual format this coming season. We can’t wait to see what they bring to the table! (Note: eBay was one of the companies that were able to quickly pivot and host an internship program virtually this summer.)
CodeSignal – Sponsor
Tigran Sloyan, Co-Founder and CEO of CodeSignal, shared CodeSignal’s participation in InternHacks as a sponsor.
Q: What motivated CodeSignal to become a sponsor for InternHacks?
Tigran: When the URx team reached out about the opportunity to get involved with InternHacks, it was clear we could help enhance the summer experience for the interns. Since many of the interns are technical students, we decided to offer them the opportunity to take a CodeSignal’s certified coding test called General Coding Assessment (GCA). GCA is a standardized coding test used widely in the full-time new grads software engineering hiring process. So the interns can get a sense of where their current technical skills stand and how they can improve ahead of their full-time job search.
Q: How has the InternHacks experience been so far?
Tigran: I’ve been very impressed with the high level of engagement the interns have shown so far with the InternHacks program. In addition to the team projects they are working on, they’re actively taking advantage of various resources provided by the InternHacks program to learn and to make the most out of InternHacks. For the GCA, we’ve seen almost 200 technical assessments completed since the program started. We plan to continue providing GCA access to these interns so they can see their progress.
Q: The school year will start soon. What’s your advice for students out there looking for jobs this year?
Tigran: For students looking for software engineering or other technical jobs, here are some tips on how to prepare.
- Be ready to talk about the project you’ve worked on this summer. Practice saying it out loud and share both what you’ve done and what you’ve learned from it.
- Review the computer science fundamentals (e.g. common data structures) and practice for technical interviews.
- Get yourself familiarized with the popular online tools and virtual interview environments. For example, take a practice test using a cloud-based IDE or try drawing on a virtual whiteboard so that you feel more comfortable during the actual interview.