The Value of a Good Internship

There are some things you just can’t learn in a classroom.

Tech professionals can discover the mechanics of their field and hone general business skills in a classroom setting, but if they want to gain the specialized knowledge necessary to work in specific industries, it’s a good idea to consider an internship. While not all internships are useful, a high-quality program — one that mimics the work of a full-time employee — can benefit both the company and the intern.

According to Finance Online, 70 percent of companies offer full-time positions to their interns — and 80 percent of interns take advantage of that offer. Businesses gain a reliable employee with knowledge of their inner workings, and interns get to work at an organization they know and enjoy. Even before they’re offered a position, the tech industry is especially good to their interns — according to CNBC, some of the highest-paying internships are tech companies.

But what makes a good internship that sets both company and intern up for the future? To find some examples, Built In Chicago interviewed leaders from three local companies that are involved in their organization’s internship program.

everspring

Joaquin Fonte

Senior Vice President, Human Resources

Everspring partners with educational institutions to design online learning programs.

Tell us a little bit about the internship program at your company.

An internship with Everspring is not like your average internship — we can offer you a dynamic, collaborative and team-focused environment you won’t find anywhere else. You will be engaged in projects that will provide you with real-world, hands-on experience in the exciting world of educational technology. Your contributions will have a direct impact on our business and our partners. At Everspring, you won’t be seen as just an intern — you are a valued and respected member of our team. An internship with us will provide you the business experience you are seeking to supplement your education and help take your career to new levels.

What are some of the coolest projects your interns have gotten to participate in?

In preparing for this discussion, I caught up with a former intern, Morgan, who interned with our learning design function during the pandemic. She was able to work on actual course developments and worked directly with some of our university partners while assisting other instructional designers in her department.

One of her favorite aspects of the internship was the ability to develop her own final internship project. She chose to look at how we deliver different forms of training within the company and look for better ways in which they could be delivered.

Her internship with Everspring allowed her to work on real projects to advance her career.

How have your internship programs helped your interns grow professionally and kickstart successful careers?

Morgan was an educator with a master’s degree in teaching and learning with technology. She was looking to make a career change into the world of instructional design, but felt she was lacking some of the business knowledge and experience needed to make the leap. Her internship with Everspring allowed her to work on real projects for our partners that provided her the additional knowledge and skills she was seeking to be able to advance her career. Ultimately, Morgan was able to successfully transition from internal to a full-time hire, joining Everspring as an instructional technologist at the conclusion of her internship.

Randall Laurence

Trader Education Lead

Optiver is an electronic market maker.

Tell us a little bit about the internship programs at your company.

Optiver’s tech and trading internships are designed with a few principles in mind: Educate students about the financial world and Optiver’s place in it, help them grow their skillset with real-world opportunities and experience, and prepare them for a full-time career in the exciting world of trading.

Tech and trading interns each complete a separate classroom-style education at the onset of the internship. After that, tech interns join production teams directly and work on projects with a mentor. That means they are editing source code and rolling out upgrades to our production trading applications directly, even as interns.

Trading interns, meanwhile, spend the second half of the internship completing projects and trading in Optiver’s simulated trading environment. In this environment, interns own and operate fully autonomous desks. They set up workstations using Optiver’s applications, develop their own trading strategies, trade on live market data, track positions and profits and improve their strategies under the guidance of senior traders. We believe there’s no better way to learn how to trade than to actually do it — and there’s no better way to do it than in our training environment.

In many respects, interns at Optiver are indistinguishable from full-time employees.

What are some of the coolest projects your interns have gotten to participate in?

Trading interns often get to work on quantitative research projects designed around spotting a pattern in the market, proving or disproving the statistical significance of the pattern and then designing a strategy to optimize for the pattern. For instance, one internal project sought to improve the way we hedged interest rate products. Using principle component analysis, the interns worked to develop a model that described the overall portfolio risk — containing a variety of interest rate securities — and suggested the most efficient hedge. They were able to compare their strategy to a variety of alternative hedging strategies, comparing and contrasting the expected values, costs and variances of each strategy in order to choose the optimal recommendation.

How have your internship programs helped your interns grow professionally and kickstart successful careers?

Optiver’s internships utilize our full-time training programs as their core. They are integrated into production teams and work on production problems. In many respects, interns at Optiver are indistinguishable from full-time employees. They enjoy a tremendous degree of transparency and responsibility. Tech interns add features directly to our proprietary applications and roll out these changes into the market. Trading interns learn to manage an entire desk, start to finish, and trade on live market data in the same fashion as our production teams. All interns work hand-in-hand with full timers throughout their experience.

Perhaps most telling is that interns who receive a return offer don’t need to go through any additional training upon starting full time — they’ve already been equipped with all the education, resources and experience to start contributing from day one.

Colleen Mullin and Mallory House

University Recruiters

IMC is a proprietary trading firm and market maker.

Tell us a little bit about the internship program at your company.

IMC hosts a 10-week internship program each summer where interns get exposure to meaningful and challenging project work. Interns participate in various training sessions throughout the summer to learn more about the finance industry and, more specifically, trading and technology at IMC. Interns also get the opportunity to build strong connections with their intern class as well as with full-time employees through social events throughout the summer. We have internship opportunities in software engineering, hardware engineering, quantitative research and quantitative trading roles.

What are some of the coolest projects your interns have gotten to participate in?

For engineers, it’s smart error reporting. IMC maintains an internal dashboard that traders use to monitor the health of various trading systems. When a system needs to relay important health information which may indicate that the system is not performing as expected, it sends a message to this dashboard. Two interns worked with IMC traders to prototype AI-based heuristics designed to intelligently batch error messages to the dashboard and increase the manageability of the dashboard alerts more generally.

For trading interns, it’s researching volatility signals in gold futures. Gold is a unique product traded by the firm, as its pricing is sensitive to both macroeconomic and commodities sector trends. One intern was tasked with performing research and data analysis on GC market data and the resulting implied volatility signals — from both the product itself and the macro landscape — to determine potential opportunities to improve the firm’s GC volatility valuation. The project focused on using python-based analysis to identify these potential improvements IMC could make to its GC volatility valuation and subsequently GC pricing.

Our internship program offers an in-depth feel for our unique company culture and the work that we do.

How have your internship programs helped your interns grow professionally and kickstart successful careers?

Our internship program offers an in-depth feel for our unique company culture and the work that we do. The mentoring interns receive at IMC is also exceptional. Interns who work hard are prepared to hit the ground running when they join us full-time after graduating. We talked to a former intern and current graduate trader, and this is what they had to say:

“The most valuable lesson that I took away from my internship at IMC was the ability to form deep connections with fellow interns and employees. For example, I had the opportunity to develop a very close bond with my mentor during the internship — he was able to push me to build my specific strengths and mitigate my weaknesses. In addition, when I was considering full-time opportunities at IMC and other trading firms, he provided a very objective and unbiased perspective, helping me consider how my skill set would fit into the work and culture of each of my full-time options. Almost a year into my career at IMC, I’m incredibly grateful for his guidance. His advice allowed me to join a company where I knew I could make a strong impact with my background and knowledge.”

We also talked to a former intern and current graduate software engineer, who said this:

“Throughout the internship, I came to understand the technical and cultural values ​​and expectations at IMC. This exposure came both organically through project work and everyday conversations and feedback sessions with my mentor, who I still use as a resource today.”

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