Silicon Valley Talent Search Flies South for the Winter
Competition for talent is fierce here in Silicon Valley, where every CEO worth a dime knows a start-up’s success hinges on having the right people on your team. We continually compete to attract the best and brightest —even when it comes to interns. But local students are in limited supply and only available for the summer months. So, what’s a company wanting a steady stream of interns year-round to do? We needed another summer and we found one halfway around the world—in New Zealand.
The Talent Turbo Boost
There’s no debate that interns offer companies a valuable talent turbo boost. We know these highly motivated and energetic computer technologists crave a chance to test their skills in the real world. We give them that chance and in exchange they give us everything they’ve got. The extra manpower allows us to keep our senior engineers focused on long range, strategic projects. It’s a win-win for everyone. Most Silicon Valley startups look to nearby Stanford and Berkeley for interns to supplement their ranks every summer. That’s a great option during the North American summer months of June, July and August, but local students aren’t (typically) available the other nine months of the year.
Timing Is Everything
Unlike most Americans, I know first hand that New Zealand offers more than breathtaking landscapes and pristine pastures of sheep. (As if that wasn’t enough.) I lived there back in 2010 and continue to visit often. In addition to the other summer, New Zealand has a unique entrepreneurial spirit. Because it’s an isolated island nation, the people have a deep commitment to independence and that’s reflected in their enthusiasm for innovation and technology.
Lucky for us that when it’s cold and dreary here in Northern California, it’s summer on the other side of the world —in New Zealand. Just when our engineers need that extra talent turbo boost I talked about, New Zealand’s engineering students are thinking “What should I do this summer?” The timing was right. So, we looked to New Zealand for a fresh crop of summer interns —in December!
First, we reached out to New Zealand’s premiere information technology association —the Institute of IT Professionals NZ. They put us in contact with the right people at the University of Auckland and at Victoria University of Wellington to find promising computer technology students. We did a little advertising around their campuses (“Spend your summer working for a startup in Silicon Valley.”) As part of our “InternNZ” program package, we offered a 3-month paid internship, roundtrip airfare, administrative support to take care of work visas and to help find housing. In exchange, all the Kiwis had to do was give up a brilliant New Zealand summer break (December, January, and February) for a California winter filled with inspirational work. We thought it was a pretty good deal —and apparently so did they. More than 30 students applied for our three internship positions.
We reviewed the resumes for relevant experience and had many Skype interview calls. A couple of weeks later, we had our interns -- two from University of Auckland and one from the University of Victoria in Wellington. They packed their bags and flew halfway across the world to experience first hand Silicon Valley high-tech nirvana —or perhaps “nerdvana”.
A manager was assigned to each intern to introduce them around the company and plan out their assigned project. We designed the projects to be self-contained to ensure they would leave with a true sense of accomplishment. This also made it possible for the interns to present the results of their work after the three-month summer/winter internship was over.
Our first Kiwi summer/winter Internship program was a total success. The Kiwis gave us everything we hoped for and more. Of course, the extra manpower freed up our engineers to extend “coding time.” That was to be expected. But the entire experience also gave us a renewed appreciation for the amazing breadth and depth of talent in the world —a world that is far larger than the often insular Silicon Valley might have you believe. Talent abounds if you look in the right places and sometimes the best way to find it is by widening your horizons.
Craig Elliot is co-founder and CEO of Pertino.
This article was originally published on wired.com