Cloudera’s Pivot to a Virtual Internship Program

Typically, running smooth and successful internship programs requires in-person interactions with high touchpoints. From onboarding and regular meetings to coffee chats and welcome events to meet the team – it takes a lot to integrate a new intern. They’re not only new to the organization but new to the workforce, after all.  

Yet, with most tech companies going fully remote, Early Talent teams had to consider their options. They could either postpone the program, shorten it in length, go fully virtual, or cancel it altogether. 

From a poll done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, by March 1, 22% of companies decided to cancel their program with another 19% undecided.  By April, more than 80% of companies decided to alter their programs in some way. That’s a lot of change! 

For Cloudera, the decision was easy. 

The Early Talent program team knew just how valuable this program is to the development of new college graduates as they transition into the workforce. The show must go on!

The question became less about “if” the program would move forward and more about how quickly they could pivot an entire internship program to a remote environment. 

“We have a lot to offer interns”, says Kathleen Merto, University Recruiter. “The work they get to do here is impactful. Not only do they get to put their work into production but they also get exposure to our leadership team doing presentations for our CEO and CPO. They get to work with managers, mentors and teams that really help them grow into their profession. We knew we had to move forward.”

She knew there would be challenges to face but the benefits far outweighed the obstacles. 

This was a time so many new college grads were being turned away. 

Many companies opted to cancel their programs so a big portion of new grads were finding out that their internships were being canceled. “I was proud to call our interns and share the news that we were not resigning offers, we’re moving forward 100% remote!” Kathleen happily explained. 

In a time of crisis, we were able to keep our interns on track toward their goals and that mattered more than any of the challenges that would be faced.

In order to adjust accordingly and take this program into a virtual environment, Kathleen had meetings with every intern before the program started. She wanted to find out “What, to you, would make your remote internship successful?” 

The results were consistent and ones we could deliver on. 

“They cared less about the team lunches and the various events we had planned. What they were concerned about was that communication would still be there, their ability to do meaningful work was still possible and that this wouldn’t impact their chances of getting a potential return offer.” 

With this information, Kathleen worked hand in hand with the early talent team, the hiring managers, and the non-technical mentors to game plan for a successful remote program. 

“This required a lot of meetings. I met with every intern and every hiring manager to discuss needs and hear concerns should there be any. I’ve continued to do check in’s with everyone and created designated Slack channels so we have the ability to connect when needed.” 

Kathleen stated that while there was more upfront work, logistics to consider, and a little hand-holding required by the managers, things have worked out really well. 

While the news of going remote was unexpected, interns have shared that the experience has been a close second to being in person.

“We’re currently at our midpoint mark right now and both interns and hiring managers are really pleased with how this is turning out.”

While specifics can’t be shared just yet, can we say that 100% of interns that were eligible for an offer accepted. 

“There is a lot of uncertainty during these challenging times, but the interns are not just surviving, they’re actually thriving!” 

One intern wrote, “I can speak on behalf of all the interns when I say that everyone is very satisfied with this program, especially the work on the projects. I have a few peers that are interning at other places where they are not happy. I am grateful.” 

This has further validated the decision to pivot to a remote internship program and helps hiring managers and mentors alike recognize how valuable their efforts are.

When asked of Kathleen what she felt the top contributions were to pivoting to a successful internship program she shared this: 

“Hearing from the interns first helped us realize what was important and what we needed to plan for.” She added that at the end of the day, they are her clients, and understanding their needs is crucial in meeting them. 

She went on to say that communication was key to keeping everyone informed and engaged. The check-ins alone were helpful but the slack channel where hiring managers and mentors could ask for tips and share insight has kept everyone committed to the development of their interns.

Lastly, Kathleen was keen to express that none of this would have turned out as well as it has, had the whole team – interns, leadership, hiring managers, and mentors – not shown up with an open mind ready to succeed. “They were fully on board even when they knew it would require a bit more work on their end.” 

Despite a pandemic, the Early Talent Team was able to stick to our mission: 

Empowering the next generation of the big data community through internships, entry-level talent, career development, partnerships, and continued education. 

Learn more about the Early Talent program at Cloudera on our University Recruiting page.

Rory Ruedas
Rory Ruedas

Talent Branding Specialist

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