An internship period for the undergraduate youth is a critical tool for their successful future career. In building the “right” foundation for such a career, they require the “IDEAL” exposure and guidance. The undergraduate, the organization and the administrators of the university really need to understand the objectives and the goals of an internship programme.
Several areas of concern arise for an intern during this period such as:
- What do companies expect from an intern?
- What kind of experience and exposure should be given to the interns according to the lecturer’s expectations?
- What do the universities expect from an internship?
- The common issues faced by interns
In recognizing these issues and addressing them, the interns at 99X Technology organized “Intern’s Summit 2012”which was held on the 17th October at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Center Auditorium. This summit was first of its kind in Sri Lanka with the main objective of creating platform where undergraduates, university lecturers and industry professionals could discuss the pain points of internship programs and how to tackle them effectively as well as how to get maximum use of their internship program.
The forum featured a distinguished panel comprising of Mrs. Vishaka Nanayakkara – Head, IT & Electrical Engineering, Northshore College of Business and Technology, former head and senior lecturer, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Lt. Col. Dr. Chandana Gamage – Senior Lecturer, University of Moratuwa, Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwe – Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Engineering, University of Peradeniya, Ms. Naomi Krishnarajah – Head, Department of Computing, Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), Dr. Shiromi Arunatileka – Senior Lecturer, University of Colombo School of Computing and Mr. Syed Rehan – Senior Lecturer – Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology (APIIT).
The intern summit was opened by Mr. Mano Sekaram, CEO of 99X Technology talking on the subject of “What companies expect from an intern”. He shared, that an internship is more about learning the scales of the industry and getting a broader view of focus, to bring about a new wave of thinking to the organization.
He said “Companies are looking for people who can make a difference and who have the ability to change the company”. Mr. Sekaram also spoke about areas such as communication, mastering concepts , ethics and values, networking, adaption and dependability being the core competencies that interns should absorb from such an internship program.
After which, the panel shared their views and opinions on what internship is and what an intern should take back from their internship. Dr Chandana Gamage initiated the discussion by bringing out a proverb which says “Don’t test the depth of the waters with both your feet” and continued to say that “Internship is like testing the depth of the waters with one foot”. Further Mr. Syed Rehan added to the comment, saying that interns should also look to learn about new technologies and trends.
Ms. Naomi Krishnarajah also expressed her views saying that the internship is about learning and adapting to the culture in the corporate world and how interns could apply what they have learnt during their academic period to the practical environments. They would also get a chance to work with their role models and should digest all the good elements of their superiors in order to make great leaps in their careers.
The moderator of the event Mr. Hasith Yaggahawita, Technology Manager, 99X Technology pitched a question to Mrs Vishaka Nanayakkara; “the social experience is valuable but when an intern goes for an interview he/she is generally asked about their technical skills”. She answered that it is the intern’s ability to understand the background of the question and then focus on answering it with what you have learnt which matters. The importance of the internship in her view, is the practical exposure that they receive in the corporate environment and she further emphasized on how the internship is an ideal way to “make mistakes and learn”.
Dr. Shiromi Arunatileka commented that she receives many complaints from interns during their internship about how the students are either overloaded with work or they don’t have any work at all. In her opinion, something always could be about the overload of work but when there is no work given, it tends to become a problematic situation. Interns should have a positive attitude towards work and Dr. Arunatileka said there is “no such thing called a boring internship”. Both parties, the intern as well as the company should have equal commitment to this initiative in order to make the internship period a success.
Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwe said that the intern themselves should be clear about what they want from the internship and not be bogged down to developing technical skills during this period. Interns need to acquire “the process” rather than technologies as they keep changing over years.
The forum then opened to questions asked by the participants with regard to areas such as recruitment, how to handle difficult situations, how to deal with problems in the corporate environment, etc. The panel advised them to understand the environment and not to be afraid to take calculated risks and to bear in mind that they are working with other people, their actions have an impact on the others. Consultation and immediate action could be taken as initiatives by interns to solve their problems.
Moditha Dharmasiri, a software engineer at 99X technology shared his experiences on internship with the audience at the summit and how it gave him the stepping stones in his final year studies and career.
Further to emphasis how an intern can get maximum use of their internship, a interview role play was conducted covering areas such as customer and open source project exposure, process adaption, social image of the intern and community participation. This was just one way to give an insight so that interns can have a broader perspective of opportunities that they can create during their stay in the corporate organization.
At the end of the program the audience and the panel was invited for fellowship and dinner.