This time last year, like most of the Indiana tech sector, SEP was just beginning to understand that this novel coronavirus was not a momentary setback to routine business operations.

“I got a call from Mike Langellier at TechPoint,” said Raman Ohri, SEP CEO. “And we talked about how thousands of interns and even TechPoint Xterns were losing their summer positions. Companies grappling with the threat of COVID, had shut down their offices and didn’t have the bandwidth to carry out their internship plans.”

SEP hadn’t dropped its Xtern plans and in fact, brought on additional ones to help those who had lost their positions. Then they went a step further than most companies. Twenty-one days after Raman and Mike’s phone call, SEP hired a full team of Xterns who had been displaced and added senior leaders from SEP who could lead and mentor them, and turned them loose on a project for one of SEP’s global clients.

“This client has a physical product that interacts with mobile phones via Bluetooth, and has seen them experience the same frustrations we all have with this technology. They wanted to explore better ways to support their customers around connection, but couldn’t spare any capacity to tackle this,” Raman said.

“We’ve had great experiences with the Xtern program, so we knew we were going to get high-quality candidates. We interviewed five Xterns who’d lost their internships and they turned out to be ideal. We hired them and formed a team around them. It was akin to TechPoint’s S.O.S. program but hyper-focused and specific to a client need,” Raman explained.

The team created several prototypes that showed the client different ways to pair devices for non-technical users.

Brad Snodgrass, a Delivery Lead at SEP worked closely with the new Xtern team, said he was impressed. “We saw this group of strangers quickly become productive together. Some gravitated to leadership roles, some preferred to stay technical, but they all came ready to learn.”

So impressive, in fact, that one of the team members was hired full-time after graduating from Butler in January and another Clemson PhD student is set to come back this summer.

Raman said he’s not planning to spin up another, extra Xtern team this year, but he definitely got some new ideas from this experience. “Our intern program has always been robust. We hire top-end students and turn them loose on real-world projects for our clients. This experience showed a new way we can create value for our customers and deliver a great learning experience for interns.”

And yes, Raman wants first dibs on hiring the rest of that Team of 5.