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This summer, Skai ran its first formal internship program in San Francisco—the location of its Americas headquarters. Candidates submitted applications for a paid position to get hands-on experience working alongside industry-leading talent and innovators in tech. The four chosen Marketing Technology Interns worked for three months with several Skai business units, collaborated on high-impact projects, and were mentored by skilled professionals across the company. 

This inaugural year was launched as a pilot internship program which Skai hopes to adopt more widely in years to come. 

 from the Ocean Beach cleanup day with interns and Skai employees

A focus on diversity and inclusion 

“Tech companies don’t always reflect the demographic of the local communities in which they operate,”  says Stephanie Herndon-Rasse, Sr. Director Technology Services @ Skai, who oversaw the summer program. “Our goal was to reach local college students from the community so they could see firsthand what it’s like working at a rapidly evolving tech company, and of course, leverage the internship experience for future opportunities after they graduate.”

The program’s objective was to attract underserved, diverse talent interested in working in tech. To better meet this goal, Skai partnered with The San Francisco Education Fund, whose mission is to “harness the power of the local community to give public school students, particularly those from underserved communities, the support they need to succeed by providing volunteers, educator grants, scholarships, and school-company partnerships.”

Specifically, Skai worked with the Fund’s Maisin Scholar Award Program which helps San Francisco public high school graduates afford college and achieve their education and career goals. Maisin Scholars are primarily first-generation students that grew up in the Bay Area, which is why this was a perfect fit for our organizational initiatives. As the Ed Fund CEO Stacey Wang shares, “Maisin Scholars are nearly three times as likely to obtain their bachelor’s degree within six years compared to their peers nationally. We want to ensure that these scholars who work so hard to persist in college also have real life work experience so that they are ready for the real world upon graduation.”

“Our partnership with SF Ed Fund was critical in helping us attract and select intern talent. We owe a big part of the success of this program to the support of SF Ed Fund. We plan to continue this partnership and look at other ways we can support students in our community,” said Herndon-Rasse.

What they did

The interns worked on various projects such as data mapping, developing API based reports, spend analyses, keyword research, building presentations, and a slew of other duties. These tasks spanned many different teams across Skai, including Technical Services, Client Success, Marketing, and Expert Services. The intern team had significant project and team rotational opportunities to gain broader exposure in the organization. 

Additionally, as part of the program, interns were invited to an Executive Roundtable Series where Skai leaders addressed different divisions to hear about their roles, how they built their careers, and more about Skai’s technology point-of-view. Through these chats, the interns could explore other parts of the company, especially because many of them expressed interest in simply learning more about the different job opportunities at a tech company like Skai

“We heard via the final intern presentations that this was one of the most valuable parts of the program,” says Jim Wasenius, Skai’s Sr. Director of Client Success. The ability to hear directly from a tech company’s leadership about their career paths, challenges they overcame along the way, and advice on how to approach new opportunities in life gave the interns major insight into how our executives got to where they are today, and apply that to their own future.”

How it went

For their final week, the interns were asked to put together a summary presentation to share what they’ve learned through their experience interning and highlight key learning and insights.

In his final presentation, intern Zahir Mammadzada highlighted the benefit of just learning some of the other jobs at a tech company besides software developers. “The opportunity has been to be exposed to this field. We don’t usually learn what, for example, HR does or what other roles do… Nothing can replace exposure. That’s the biggest takeaway.”

Mammadzada delivering his final presentation

Recapping some notable feedback from the presentations: 

  • The team loved being physically in the office and found it very valuable
  • The consensus is the team enjoyed working on different projects from different teams rather than being assigned to one specific team
  • The Executive Roundtable Series was a huge highlight
  • The projects we gave them were very stimulating and engaging
  • As a group, they enjoyed the opportunity to enhance what they were learning in school with on-the-job experience

“Overall, we are pleased with our inaugural internship program,” says Jennifer Christiansen, Skai’s Global Director, Education Services. “Ultimately, it gave Skai a chance to give back to the community and help some very deserving young people a chance to learn what it takes to break into the technology industry.”

Based on the success of this year’s pilot program, Skai and the San Francisco Education Fund plan to continue offering internships in the future and possibly expanding the number of interns and their scope of duties.