How I built the Intern-Stellar team for WordsMaya

For a start-up to succeed, a good team is mandatory. Capable team members are priceless (read very pricey!). You need not read ahead if you have enough money. But for the start-ups I know (and also my own start-up), a good team without money is a conundrum. Hiring the right interns in the only solution I have found during my two-year entrepreneurial journey.

I have worked with 15 interns; have hired six more for the summer. These interns have performed all the tasks possible like content development, graphics designing, web development, operations, sales and marketing and have worked part time/full time, remote/ from Pune, from home/in office.

My learnings along the way are,

  1. They are waiting for you: There are enough good interns out there; you just need to reach out through right channels. I have used online platforms like Internshala, Letsintern and also have taken part in offline intern fairs organised by colleges.
  2. You get what you ask for: I once committed a mistake of hiring a dumb person, because I had set my expectations very low based on the difficulty of the tasks at hand.
  3. They have nothing to show on their resumes: My best interns have failed in their exams. They are rebels, outclassed by our education system and so are perfect as start-up interns.
  4. Search for their souls: Reject applicants who are interning for a certificate, money and work experience. The best ones are thirsty for knowledge and hungry for work.
  5. Test them thoroughly: I test their inherent intelligence with hard assignments and grilling interview questions and also test their commitment through the initial 1-week probation period. The interns who survive this are right for the part.

If you get the right people as interns then,

  1. They will work hard: Even if it means standing under scorching sun and selling to unknown people at your stall
  2. They will bring fresh ideas: Some of the best ideas which gave boost in WordsMaya sales have come from interns
  3. They will be with you longer: WordsMaya’s most creative writer interned for one year from Varanasi and is joining WordsMaya full time after her final exams.

But hold on,

  1. Know their limits: They are still young, immature and confused. You should know how to guide them, monitor them and get the work done.  If they were so good with limitless potential they wouldn’t be interning with you.
  2. Put some restrictions: They thrive under freedom and autonomy. Little flexibility in timings and chatting on WhatsApp should be allowed, but you should set the discipline and boundaries.

If you have more questions related to the intern-stellar team I formed at WordsMaya, I would be happy to answer to your comments below.

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Comment by Mayank Saxena on May 6, 2016 at 2:42pm

Hello Sir,

Greetings from team 'The Brand Story'.

'The Brand Story' is a start-up brand consultancy firm steered by creative brand enthusiasts that believe every brand has a STORY.

Our job is to help people and businesses build these stories. Beautifully & Effectively.

We would like to seek an opportunity to meet and take this discussion further with you.

We are committed to supporting your brand holistically and assure you the best of services.

Kind Regards,
Mayank Saxena
The Brand Story
Mob: +91 9890123733

Comment by Harshad Bhagwat on April 29, 2016 at 1:44pm

Yes Keerthi, I also face problems related to discipline and accountability.  

Comment by Keerthi Kadam on April 28, 2016 at 8:31pm

Yes Harshad, they were average folks. I think, while hiring interns it is important to understand if they have good communication, their inclination for learning & delivering, and their attitude in term of procrastination. I am an employer who likes to be around all the time asking for updates, I like to give people their freedom to work but I think a little discipline there goes a long way. 

Comment by Harshad Bhagwat on April 28, 2016 at 5:09pm

Keerthi, in your case, I think the interns were just not intelligent enough to learn quickly  and contribute. I would say they were bad hires, which is a common phenomenon during recruiting employees also. 

Comment by Keerthi Kadam on April 28, 2016 at 10:19am

I think the trick to keep things on track with Interns is- Discipline, like you mentioned. I am not a techie so I couldn't train them personally. I outsourced the training (tech) part, we had trainers who came in everyday in the morning and trained them for a few hours. Although my interns were committed, they took a lot of time to learn things and deliver features full of bugs. It is difficult to point out which intern in the team will excel and prove to become an asset in the long run. 

Comment by Harshad Bhagwat on April 27, 2016 at 7:20pm

Sorry to hear that Keerthi. My experience with interns is different. But of course, they need not stay longer. I found that to be a good solution at least in the short term for your non-core functions. It depends upon quality and motivation of interns as well.

Comment by Keerthi Kadam on April 26, 2016 at 12:49pm

Very nice post, Harshad, I have tried to build a team with interns for my Startup- Eventually I realized I spent more time and money on building a team that was never going to be mine. I built it for some one else :( They left when they got trained. Every day motivation, all the flexibility in the world and very good treatment only ended with losing the team. I now think I must have just given my project to Freelancers. Didn't have a good experience working with Interns. 

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