Our team at Sideqik has received a ton of attention for how we steward our time to grow the next generation of leaders and tech rock stars. People ask us why we take the time, so I wanted to share a little about what we do and why we do it.
Everyone has heard of internships. Technically, we use that term too. However, you’ll hear our team and past interns use terms like internships, mentorships, mentors, apprenticing or protégé program. Our goal is to make superheroes. Many successful people credit one or more mentors that made a huge impact in them achieving early success. Here’s how we approach them.
Hands on experience
What’s it like to intern at Sideqik? Rather than tell you what I think it’s like, here’s a short video from some of our past interns:
The world used to be different. I’m not talking about politics or religions.
If you want to do electrical work, you can always be a “handyman” but other than that, you have to work alongside someone more advanced. If you want to be an electrical engineer, you need an electrical engineering degree and then a certain amount of experience to take your professional licenses. If you want to be an electrician, there’s not a simple test. You have to work for a number of years apprenticing under someone more advanced to move up from an Apprentice to a Journeyman and then to a Master Electrician.
The ecosystem used to teach and apprentice the next generation even earlier than that too. Think about it. If your family were farmers, you grew up at an early age helping them. If your dad was a lawyer, you may have worked your way through junior high or high school at the front desk. You learned very different things than what any classroom could teach.
Overcoming the skills gap
We see a huge skills gap in America, and it exists not only in manufacturing but also in technology, marketing and business development. Many students graduate from tier one schools with tons of knowledge but very few real world skills, and it’s years before they’re able to add substantial value to a company. In other cases, people are ready to jump right in but simply lack certain tools or particular skill.
As an example, our office is on the Georgia Tech campus. We’re huge Tech fans and it sets one of the best foundations for developers in the country but the CoC program does not teach Ruby and most students have not worked on sizable team based development projects.
For others people, they graduate only to realize that they’ve studied a field they will not enjoy working in and yet they do not have the track record to move into something new.
Taking the time to teach
Why do we take the time? There’s not a simple answer to this one. For many of us, we feel called to. For others, it’s a way to do for others what someone did for us. Ask our team. They’ve got some incredible stories about why each of them stewards their time.
Personally, a number of people took intentional time with me growing up and during my career. I still remember being an 8, 9 and 10 year old visiting Bell Labs with my dad. He worked on the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), the original cell phone network, and I even at that age I saw first hand what the “real world” looked like. There are a handful of people that I can look back that took time to help me grow to the next level. They took time where they did not have to and did not benefit them directly.
One of those is M. Salahuddin Khan, Navteq’s CTO and then global head of marketing and strategy. He took extra time to hear my thoughts, teach me about the constant changing pieces involved in running strategy and product for a global tech company, and how to actually lead teams. Another one was Donald Wisniewski. Don served on a board for me with the International Game Developers Association. We became friends and before I knew it, we were meeting monthly for dinner. I credit him for much of how I approach business and our current team. We simply do not have time to for me to mention the others or and what they have taught me.
Stewarding grows ecosystems and people
Our team believes in stewarding what we’ve been given. Many people believe in donating resources to causes they support. For us, that also includes our skills and our time.
We’re intentional about it and make it a priority in our lives and at Sideqik. This also lets us stay focused on growing the company. After all, the high growth environment provides the best place for us to teach others and some incredibly fun things for people to be part of.
Specifics internships teach
Whether an internship is paid, for credit, unpaid or not-for-credit doesn’t change its value. The right internship is an investment in your future, and often paid internships have people doing menial tasks. Let’s face it, if you’re going to take the time for an internship, you want it to give real value.
Our team at Sideqik makes sure all of our internships are educational. We’ve structured each track and tailor it for each person. We want to make sure that people learn a ton. To us, that means everyone learns and receives
- real world experience
- networking experience and skills
- time management
- cool technology
- a portfolio to highlight what value you add to others.
Taking the next step
If you’re around Atlanta, we’re always looking for the best people to join our team. Check out our careers page to see if anything looks interesting. You can also find us at tons of events in the area.
We’d love to see more companies and teams taking this approach to internships and apprenticeships. Let me know what’s working for your team and what’s not. We’d love to see others replicate what we’re doing in Atlanta, and I’m always looking for new ideas on what’s working well.