Behaviour Interactive and our Fully Remote Internship Program
It was January 2020 and the recruitment for this year’s summer internship session started like it did every other year: online job postings, campus events, technical evaluations, interviews, offers and new hires. The COVID-19 crisis loomed in the background, but we had no idea what the next weeks and months would bring.
March arrived and, for the most part, things were still business as usual. By the middle of the month, however, the magnitude of the situation became clear when the WHO declared the global COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
For many of us at Behaviour, March 13 was our last full day with our beautiful office views of Montreal’s Little Italy neighbourhood. Despite the challenges, our IT, HR and Communication teams were able to get more than 650 employees working remotely within a few days.
At the same time, schools all over the country shut down and began to hold their classes online. Many companies opted to cancel their internship programs due to the safety risks and repercussions of the pandemic. Internally, we too began to wonder if our internship program would be able to handle the transition to a remote setup.
We knew that even the most seasoned employee would have some trouble adjusting to this new reality. From communication and technical issues to blurred work-life boundaries, the shift to telework brings a new set of hurdles to surmount. Our interns would not be immune to these issues as, for many of them, this would be their first experience working remotely.
Our philosophy regarding interns is that they should feel as much like a permanent employee as possible. It was logical for us to afford them the same trust through the remote internship option and we knew we had the resources in place to support them. And since we consistently target the most driven and competent young talent, we were confident that this year’s group of interns was up for the challenge. With this confidence, we fully committed to implementing Behaviour’s first work-from-home internship session.
The plan was clear: maintain a constructive and successful experience for each of our interns despite this new and complex reality. Of course, we didn’t get there without a few bumps in the road such as concerns about ensuring confidentiality at home. With this new configuration, we were suddenly confronted with a host of problems and questions that we hadn’t faced before.
In their own way, the challenges added to the overall educational experience for our interns. Daniel Wiktorczyk (summer programming intern and soon to be full-time employee) gave us some insight about his remote internship experience at BHVR: “Having never worked remotely in the past, it definitely took some time to adjust my work-life balance at the start. With almost two hours a day freed up from not having to commute, I eventually started to schedule time around work to go outdoors, be active, and to spend time with family and friends. If I could go back, I would have planned this schedule out sooner, and adapt to this unique work-life balance that comes from remote working.”
For us, safety and emotional well-being come before anything else and it was crucial that each intern felt comfortable and well-supported. In order to ensure our teams could provide our interns with the best welcome possible, we decided to stagger their start dates to allow for a more seamless onboarding experience. We carefully assessed each intern’s individual situation to guarantee their successful ramp-up: would they have a quiet place to work at home? Would they be able to work with their own PC or would they need special equipment to meet the demands of their project? We made sure to be as detailed as possible in our planning to ensure that each intern had the necessary resources. This included meetings with team leads, documentation about the projects they were on, and simple weekly check-ins to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Here’s what Danlu Fei, (Game Programmer from our summer cohort) had to say about her internship with us : “When I first found out that the internship would be fully remote, I had mixed feelings: I felt sad about not being able to experience the environment at the office or meet my colleagues in person. At the same time, I was happy about the convenience of the remote internship option. I had initially thought that working remotely would lead to less efficient communication, but in fact, I noticed almost no difference in my ability to communicate to my teammates virtually. The onboarding process in my first week was perfect and I was surprised by the amount of helpful information that was provided to get me successfully integrated. The remote pizza lunch on the first day was also a great surprise! My advice to future interns: keep up to date with your emails prior to your first day, as you will receive a lot of helpful information. In short: be proactive!”
The processes and means have changed, but our ability to provide a challenging experience and a working environment conducive to success and growth remains the same. Although it’s difficult to know how the pandemic will evolve, some teams have started to plan physical meetups (that respect social-distancing protocols, of course!) around the city to allow everyone to get better acquainted. And when we can’t see each other in person, virtual pizza lunches, board game nights and Happy Hours will do the trick.
Our remote Fall 2020 intern session is now underway after a successful recruitment effort and this new group is already benefitting from the insights and experience we’ve gained so far. If you’re interested in joining us for our Winter Session in 2021 (believe us, it will be here before you know it!) make sure to keep an eye on our website and/or your University Coop page for the specific dates to apply.
For any questions on our internship program, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org