Hi all! So, this is a post regarding my work as a mentor for the Outreachy Program. Mozilla participates in this program to help foster diversity in technology. The intern I am mentoring, Manel, is a talented techie and student from Tunisia. She has been working with on Connected Devices initiatives including working through data analysis for Project Haiku’s User Research Test #2, contributing to the CD Metrics Controller Library, and actively engaging in prototyping/ideation efforts from our teams that are a trademark of CD work.
It recently became the midpoint of her internship with Mozilla, and I would like to write about how having an intern during lean-style work and change as a constant is actually possible and can be enjoyable. In CD, lots of things are changing as we quickly iterate through new ideas, test them, and move on. The standard internship, where one is given one specific project to complete in X amount of weeks can’t fit into this mold. Instead, you need to be a little bit more creative to make the internship a great experience for both intern and team.
- Foster communication and encourage regular meeting attendance. When working in remote teams, as we do at Mozilla, and everything is changing- it can be very difficult to understand what is going on. Make sure that intern/team communication is happening daily and that the intern feels comfortable interacting with a variety of team members so they are not waiting on a single person bottleneck.
- Stress the idea that change, rapidness, and chaos is not to be feared. In the typical internship, things are very structured. An intern on a prototyping team that is constantly iterating needs to understand that intern projects will resemble full-timer work on these kinds of teams: the projects will likely be small, performed quickly, and not as polished as they may be used to.
- Disappointment is ok! On iterating and prototyping teams, many ideas and approaches emerge. An intern, like any full-timer, may find themselves getting attached to ideas and work. As a mentor, you will need to make sure that you communicate that part of working on this kind of team means that sometimes ideas and even work can get left behind- and that is a natural part of the process.
- Involve the intern in brainstorming sessions and other important team meetings. Part of the reward of having an intern involved is getting a fresh perspective and fresh ideas- and that is really valuable! Leverage it by never leaving them out of the process and siloed to only “intern tasks”.
- Being on an innovative, iterative team will teach the intern many lessons by giving them the opportunity to be hands-on in a way that typically only employees at start-ups or innovation labs get to be. They will leave with the technical and mental skills of getting things to work quickly, creative/design thinking and ideation, prototype mentality, cross-functional cooperation, client/user awareness, and much more- and hopefully a newfound passion for making new ideas a reality.
So, no matter what kind of team you have, an intern can always be an awesome part of it!