Product and Tech
This summer, Mentimeter launched a Trainee Programme to run alongside the long established Internship Programme. Here, Programme Coordinator - Lena Wiberg - reflects on the process, the challenges, and the successes of the programme.
About the author: Lena Wiberg is an Engineering Manager at Mentimeter.
When I accepted my position as Engineering Manager, one of the sprinkles on top of an already exciting position was the idea of creating a structured way of working with “young talents”. It is something that I have worked with (or tried to implement) in previous workplaces, in a number of different ways and with varying results. But it has always been something close to my heart. I mentored higher vocational education students on work placement for many years and later on took on interns in my departments. It is a great learning experience for the mentors, it is a fantastic way of injecting new ideas into an organisation and you help junior people get a good entry into the profession in a real world situation.
Mentimeter has already established a way of working with Summer Internships for Engineering students from relevant technical programs, which you can read about here. A number of students have also done their thesis work in the company and the vast majority stay with the company afterwards. Safe to say - a lot of groundwork was already in place. What I could bring to the table was expanding that into something that could potentially embrace also the higher vocational education students and career-shifters. Basically, taking a proven concept and seeing how we could adjust it to allow us to bring different types of junior talent onboard.
We invested a lot of time and energy into researching different ways of approaching this. There are so many exciting opportunities available out there and at some point in time I felt like I was almost drowning in alternatives. In the end - we realized we should practice what we preach and stick to the “Work Smart” value. We had an approach that we knew worked well and we thought a good version 1.0 could be found by just tweaking it a bit. Plan was to set it into motion this fall.
"The Mentimeter trainee program has raised my level of competence in several areas. As a novice engineer, I’ve learned to challenge new things, not only by building self-leadership skills in working with given new and existing tasks, but also through improving problem-solving, collaboration and communication abilities." - Rithreaksa Khourn, Fullstack Engineer
Then came the avalanche of applications for the Summer Internship. We opened one position in UX, one Product Manager position and one engineering role for three to five engineers. A good sized product team. What I had in my lap when the applications closed was almost 150 applications for 5-7 positions. When sorting through them I realized we had a lot of interesting applications from candidates that would have been perfect for the program I was planning for the fall. We discussed pros and cons in the product department. We talked about limitations such as did we have enough mentors, did we have any interesting projects lined up, did we have space in the office. We decided we wanted to give it a shot.
I can confess, I was a bit stressed that my plans changed. I had planned for a lot of sessions and check-ins and structure that would just not be ready on time. For an old test manager with high expectations of control, it is very scary pushing the start button when you only feel 85% done. But some risks are worth taking in comparison to the risk of losing potentially great candidates.
"We were five career changers starting this journey together and we are all still here today. We have learned so much and proved that it’s never too late to change your career and approach your dreams." - Joel Harde, Frontend Engineer
After an exhausting period of interviews and planning, June 14th, both interns and trainees entered the building. Our seven interns formed one product team, as previous years, while four engineering trainees and one UX trainee formed the trainee team with our Product Manager Josefin as acting product manager for the summer.
Their first weeks were an intense mix of onboarding, setting everything up, team building and some bug fixing to get acquainted with the code base. During the summer, both teams worked on similar projects with similar setups. Each person had a mentor that they met with regularly and a line manager checking in with them.
"Working as a UX Designer in the trainee program at Mentimeter was an amazing learning experience. I got to experience what it’s really like to work in a cross-functional product team, collaborating with engineers and a product manager. This was an invaluable experience and something that I didn’t learn in design school." - Max Lindevall, Associate Product Designer
When the interns went back to school, our trainees moved into an individual track where each person was integrated into one of our regular product teams where they got to try their hands on a different type of work, depending on their interest and whatever challenge the backlog of that team could offer. During this later phase we made sure to collect weekly feedback to make sure we set everyone up for success.
I’m happy to say, all five have shown to be just what I hoped for. Great cultural additions, energy boosts and technical growth. When the trainee program ended on October 14th, all 5 trainees graduated with flying colours and we don’t even have to be sad to see them go since they have all chosen to stick with us afterwards.
Next up for me: Collect feedback from everyone involved, reflect, iterate and see in what shape and form version 2.0 will emerge.
To Joel, Johanna, Elizaveta, Max and Reaksa: Thank you for everything you’ve taught us these four months and thank you for choosing to stay with us.