Xtern continues to win hearts and minds despite unprecedented 2020 challenges
The uncertainty of the pandemic initially forced TechPoint’s flagship talent program—Xtern: the ultimate tech internship experience—into limbo. Of course, we know now that it was a pipedream to think summer internships would proceed normally. At the time, however, it seemed hard to believe that life wouldn’t be back to normal by Memorial Day.
Once the bleak future for in-person summer internships became clear, TechPoint’s five-person talent team sprang into action. Within the span of fewer than six weeks, the team reimagined Xtern, finding fun and creative ways to shift a program deeply rooted in rich, in-person experiences into a remote one conducted entirely online. The 2020 Xtern Program was unlike any that has come before, and any that will come after it.
“I am very grateful to have been part of the Xtern program this summer,” said Lakshmi Galla, a Purdue University student who interned at SEP. “After my first internship got canceled, they [TechPoint] connected me with another opportunity with minimal effort from my side, which I am thankful for. If not for their timely intervention, I would not have gotten the amazing experience with my employer.”
According to a national study by talent-acquisition software company Yello, 35% of students who accepted summer internships learned the internship was canceled. Locally, Indiana INTERNnet found that 37% of the 181 employers it surveyed canceled plans to hire interns this summer, while 48% still planned to but with program changes.
As employers focused on shifting their work to online collaboration platforms, Xtern did the same with the intangibles—the aspects of the internships that make them memorable and invaluable to students who are looking for a community as well as a professional experience.
“My time at Formstack exposed me to the day-to-day life of working as a software developer at a company which has been so beneficial to me. I feel so lucky to have worked with such an awesome host company, and I owe it all to the Xtern program,” said Butler University student and Formstack intern Jaylah DeGout.
“I would say that the program is a great way to get to know the Indy tech community, network with a bunch of really talented people, and have fun doing it,” said Aneil Marathi, a senior at Texas A&M University who interned at Rolls-Royce Corporation.
Throughout the 10 weeks of the program, Xtern still managed to show off many of the unique attractions the City of Indianapolis has to offer, as well as what being a part of the growing tech community in Central Indiana can mean for young professionals. The 2020 Xtern Class was introduced to the local music and food scenes, community and industry leaders, professional coaching and development, financial advice from a celebrated financial guru, and countless ways in which they can personally get involved in making the community a better place for everyone.
Even though she has never actually been to Indianapolis, SEP intern and Carnegie Mellon University student Lisa Lo—who lives in Kendall Park, New Jersey—is excited about the possibility of moving to Indianapolis after graduation. “Xtern, I have no idea how, led me to an internship at a company that honestly was probably one of the best first industry experiences I could ask for,” Lisa said.
In a survey conducted at the end of the Xtern program this year, 91% of Xterns are likely to recommend Xtern to a friend and 95% of Xterns ranks their impression of Indianapolis Tech as positive or very positive. Surprisingly, 98% of Xterns agreed that the company they interned with this summer made them feel welcomed and included them in the overall team and company culture. This aspect of the program is what TechPoint and Xtern staff most feared would be lost in the remote work environment, but tech companies participating really wrapped their collective arms around these interns.
“As an Xtern, I would recommend this program to anyone who is eager to learn more about Indianapolis, make new friends, and expand their professional network,” said Ruchal Desai, a junior at Indiana University who interned at a new High Alpha portfolio startup company called Relay.
In response to a question about the lessons he learned during his Xtern experience, Aneil Marathi encourages others to “seek out a community of peers in everything that you do!” He continued explaining that “six months ago, I had no idea that a program like Xtern even existed. In the next stages of my career, I’ll definitely seek out similar programs that surround me with driven, talented people that I can grow alongside.”
It is because of the the positive feedback from Xterns themselves that TechPoint is eagerly planning for the 2021 summer program. “We hope these strong results give companies considering their 2021 internship strategies the confidence to really lean in and engage with us,” said Merillat Flowers, senior director of college to career talent programs at TechPoint. “Now we know it can be done and done very well, thanks to both the Xterns and their employers who pioneered the virtual experience together with us this summer.”
The recruiting process for summer Xtern 2021 begins September 1, 2020, and runs through October 12. Whether or not the program will again be conducted virtually or in person will depend upon the status of the pandemic and the preferences of the companies and interns themselves. Visit https://techpoint.org/xtern/ for more information and to apply or to contact TechPoint staff about participating in the program as an employer.