Effective Uses of Interns in IT by Tamara Wilhite

By Tamara Wilhite

Interns are students or recent graduates. They work for a reduced or no-pay rate in exchange for gaining experience. Views of interns range from annoyances to be managed to free labor to be abused. Make work tasks fail to add value and can teach interns that this is not a good place to work. Demanding that interns do custodial work without even the pay rate of a custodian is demeaning. Assigning secretarial, phone or assembly duties without the accompanying salary can be a violation of labor laws. Fetching coffee and picking up packages is low value but easily assigned work.

IT departments are often left with interns for which they have few easily and legal uses. Yet IT is rich in effective uses for interns that benefit both parties.

  1. Do you have web forms intended for customers? Have these forms been tested? Allow interns to test these forms for robustness and ease of use.
  2. What are customers saying in your user forums? Assign interns to do polls in user forums. This can be setting up actual surveys or taking a sample of customer comments and rating the overall opinion by the percentages positive and negative. Forums that are mostly negative can then be canvassed by customer service or public relations for actions to take.
  3. How is your social media campaign perceived by a young, IT literate demographic? Hint: your IT interns fit the bill and create an instant focus group. Let them review and rate potential social media content for marketing or IT.
  4. Is there an app for that? What your app does may not be how it is used. Let interns test the app for ease of use. Then ask them what else it could used to do. If they can find more potential uses for the software application, the company gains new markets for its existing product.
  5. But it’s in the instructions! This is a simple answer to the complex problem of poor communication of how-to instructions. Ask interns to read instructions and then follow them. If interns have trouble doing what the instructions say to do, bring in technical writers to fix the documentation.
  6. As the internet grows, expands, and changes, links can be broken. Ask your intern to surf the internal intranet and your external website and report broken links is second nature to this generation and can be done regardless of IT skill. For those with software or web design training, an initial diagnosis of website bugs can also included.