Imagine being able to bring in great new hires — whose competencies have been vetted, with fresh ideas and bright eyes — into project-based roles to fill your company’s timely and specific needs? That’s what Autodata uncovered partnering with Western’s internship program over ten years ago, and continues to find with each new class of hires.
“At the time I was hired, Autodata was slated for growth,” says Madeline Ng, now-Senior HR Business Partner. “We were about 120 employees — much smaller than we are now — and I remember thinking ‘How am I going to keep up with all of the roles I have to fill?’ Especially when it came to technology. I thought to myself, ‘There’s a feeder school right up the street. We need to tap into that.’”
Ng would know. After all, she once ran the internship program at Western.
Internship has become such a part of the Autodata culture, she jokes, that should an intern get lost on their first day of work, a member of the team will know where to redirect them for assistance.
This mentality speaks to the entirety of their team, who all shifted gears in some respect to integrate internship into their organizational innovation strategy. They also recognize that this major shift in perennial hires has been a competitive advantage for a number of years.
There was a time when the largest employer of Western interns was located outside of London. Autodata now leads an increasing trend to provide outstanding internship opportunities for students within the region. “I remember thinking that by participating in this, we were directly impacting supply and demand of particular skill sets, so that was rewarding,” Ng reflects. Now, as one of Western’s most active internship partners, Autodata is hiring and developing tech talent right in London’s core. In their first year at their downtown office, 100% of their first-choice candidates accepted their offers.
“Competition can be a good thing. I think it causes us to look at what we offer employees,” says Keith Murray, Chief Operations Officer. “Like moving to a new building downtown, right where a lot of these students live. We really have to give thought to what their experiences will be here to attract and retain the best.”
“We’ve had cases where our interns take initiative and are leading other resources. We’ve had great luck with the general stream of interns – you have some that have been superstars and rise to the top,” he says about the standards set by students in the program.
For VP Engineering Jim Kalopisis, his main source of pride throughout the internship term is that these temporary additions to the team make a permanent mark, and come away with experiences that inform the rest of their career trajectories.
“There’s a certain level of anxiety as a student that comes with entering the ‘Real World.’ What is everybody going to expect me to know that I might not? So I’m very confident that after the 16-or-so months that the interns spend here, they come out much more confident in themselves, their abilities and their perception of what’s out there for them.”
Kalopisis goes on to say that “we have a lot of great stories, ranging from interns actually leading small offshore teams themselves, all the way to interns developing machine learning algorithms that were actively contributing to the open source software community.”
He also insists that for the interns, it’s both an opportunity and a challenge. “Nobody’s holding their hands. They’re expected to contribute like a new hire would. It’s a real job.”
Murray remarks that for any business, onboarding new hires can be difficult. “It’s hard to incorporate one or two people into your project or your business unit. So the fact that we have delivery leaders and project leaders that are interested in bringing on three or four interns every year is testament to the value that they’re bringing to the team.”
To learn more about student talent, register your company to showcase at this year’s Tech Talent Exchange on March 10!