Flipping the internship with the @ Company
In the summer of 2021, The @ Company (The At Company) partnered with Riipen to deliver a number of highly successful internships. The students that participated in these internship programs built three mobile applications, two that are preparing to launch and one that is already available on the Apple App Store.
We sat down with The @ Company team to explore how their internship programs have evolved over time and their approach to working with students.
Empowering meaningful work
The @ Company describes itself as a flat organization where no one needs to “earn” the right to contribute their thoughts and ideas. Instead, from the moment you join the team you are invited to participate fully. Everyone is empowered to pursue work that they find personally meaningful and to take on opportunities that allow them to build on existing skills or learn new ones.
This structure extends to every individual in the organization, including interns. Students are invited to work alongside the team as if they were full-time colleagues, helping to make the organization’s products and approach smarter and better.
The first internship program
At the start of 2020, the pandemic caused a number of closures which left many students scrambling to replace cancelled or deferred internships. A virtual company since its founding in 2019, The @ Company was well positioned to open up some internship opportunities.
The @ Company had been focused on building their platform, the @platform, and by the summer of 2020 were ready to begin working with app developers. They knew that working with students would provide a wonderful learning opportunity for the company and students alike. Additionally, the team was happy they could help a handful of the students who found themselves internship-less as a result of the pandemic.
The first summer The @ Company launched their internships, their students were sourced from an open call posted to LinkedIn. There were a number of other strategies the team planned to use to find interns, but due to the overwhelming response on LinkedIn there was no need for additional talent sourcing.
The team set out to hire four or five interns but ended up selecting seventeen, giving them more interns than staff. The number of interns was far greater than originally planned, but each of the students brought great value to the team and taught as much as they learned. Some of the interns from the initial cohort of the program even stayed on to support the team and one intern was even tasked with onboarding and leading the next year’s group of interns.
A Riipening partnership
Though each of the seventeen interns in the original cohort was a huge benefit to the team, there was a lot of time spent interviewing the students and figuring out how their skills and interests overlapped with The @ Company’s opportunities. Entering their second summer offering internships, the team sought out a better approach to sourcing and interviewing candidates.
When introduced to Riipen, The @ Company recognized similar values and priorities that they keep top of mind within their own team: a desire to create rich, rewarding, and useful work experiences that allow people to grow in challenging and fun ways. They were drawn to the unique project-based approach of Riipen’s platform that provided students with meaningful hands-on experience. Riipen’s expansive network of over 420 universities and colleges provided easy access to a diverse pool of talent that alleviated The @ Company’s biggest challenge: sourcing quality talent in a quick and efficient way.
“Riipen allowed us to skip a few steps ahead in the vetting process and connect with students we knew were not only interested in the work we’re doing, but who wanted to step up and take on meaningful roles,“ said Barbara Tallent, The @ Company CEO.
Through the Riipen platform, The @ Company hired 8 interns hailing from schools across Canada including the University of Toronto, McMaster University, and the University of Saskatchewan. Not only was the team able to source students best suited to their projects, but the students were able to find opportunities that genuinely interested them.
“My experiences with looking for internships was anything but fun. I ended up applying to over 500 internships. That period of my life was extremely dreadful and the internships I would get interviewed for were not in my best interests so my time was constantly being wasted,” said Hakeem Awbrey, one of The @ Company’s former interns. “If only I had Riipen during my search so I could find legitimate opportunities from employers that actually want interns and have amazing things for them to do. Riipen is a win-win for both parties!”
The @ Company experience
The internship experience at The @ Company is built off of their belief that everyone should be empowered to contribute to meaningful work and determine their own path for growth. They do this through a number of different initiatives that create a unique experience for their interns.
From the very beginning, interns don’t come in with set projects assigned to them. Rather, they are given the opportunity to decide what interests them and what they would like to work on. With no direct manager, interns are provided with support and resources but only when they need help. Otherwise, they are free to self-manage and dictate how they would like their placement to go.
To keep everyone in the loop, projects were presented during weekly or bi-weekly demo days. Not only do interns get feedback and face-time with the company founders through these pitches, but demo days may be live-streamed to large audiences. Interns not only get experience building a project but also pitching their ideas multiple times throughout their placement.
“The Riipen interns from Canada blew us away, both with their creativity and self-initiative, as well as their work ethic and cross-team collaboration,” said Barbara. “One of the interns from Canada joined another student project in Scotland and a viable new mobile app came to life.”
Mobile apps and lasting impact
Through their unique internship program design and affording their interns with the autonomy to identify and pursue projects of interest, the team saw incredible results.
Hakeem Awbrey worked with The @ Company as part of their inaugural cohort of interns. Upon completion of his internship, Hakeem received a return offer to join the team on a full-time basis and now supports the team on marketing strategy and community initiatives. Additionally, Hakeem had the opportunity to run the internship program, pulling from his own experiences the summer prior to craft a program that was new and improved.
The interns from the summer 2021 cohort were primarily sourced through the Riipen platform and were joined by a few others from Scotland and the U.S. Here’s a look at some of the mobile applications the interns developed during their placement:
- @flock is a communication and collaboration tool for families and/or housemates
- @spacechat is a secure chat app for making new friends and lets you retract all messages if you don’t feel safe
- @find is a secure location sharing application
- @vento is a calendar and event tool made for college students
@vento is available in the Apple App store, @spacechat is currently in Test Flight and is getting closer to its launch. @flock and @find are well into development with plans to launch in the future.
Xavier Chanthavong, a Riipen Summer 2021 intern, moved into a part-time position with The @ Company and created at_app, a tool that helps developers learn and build apps using the @platform.
Real-world projects, year-round
In the Fall of 2021, The @ Company again partnered with Riipen and was selected to work with University of Massachusetts Professor, Dr. Kenneth Fletcher. Each year, Professor Fletcher works with a group of seniors and their final class project is to develop a minimum viable product or MVP. The @ Company worked with his students from September to December and the result was MVPs of four mobile apps:
- @pass, an end-to-end encrypted password manager
- @binge, a way to privately share, review, and recommend movies/TV shows with friends and family
- @diy, a journal of your vehicle history in one place. Share publicly or keep private.
- @honeydew, an app for sharing and managing household chores
Thank you to The @ Company for sharing their story with us. To learn more about the company, you can visit their website.
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About the author:
Michelle Wong is a Toronto-based marketing and communications professional leading content marketing efforts at Riipen. She is a technology, social media, and marketing enthusiast with a passion for making connections and building community. She is an advocate for personal development and can often be found searching for new music, binge watching K-Dramas, or reading a good book.