Finding the right mentors in tech to develop your career is a significant reason that people look for internships to get their careers started. While academic studies are important for building the background needed for this type of career, the value of hands-on experience cannot be overstated. However, a potentially unappreciated aspect of a successful internship occurs when these opportunities are complemented by the steady guidance of mentors in tech. Beyond just sharing technical insights, mentoring fosters a profound connection that nurtures growth, sharpens skills, and bolsters self-assurance. This blog post delves into the invaluable role of mentors in summer technology internships, clarifying how well-designed internships that focus on mentoring not only enrich interns’ learning journeys but also bring substantial benefits to the organizations that welcome them. Through mentorship, interns gain a supportive space to thrive, while organizations cultivate fresh talent, new perspectives, and a chance to shape the future of their industry.
Sentient Digital, Inc. and its subsidiary, RDA, offer summer internship programs that promote mentoring, illustrating best practices for tech career mentorship programs. If you want to create a similar program at your company, or if you want to know what an internship can offer you, read on.
Why Mentors in Tech Matter
Starting your career in the technology field can be both exhilarating and overwhelming, as the need for a multitude of skills and experiences becomes apparent. In this dynamic realm, finding a mentor early on can significantly influence your trajectory and set the stage for long-term success. Mentors bring a wealth of experience, insights, and perspectives that studying for a degree program or taking a coding bootcamp just can’t provide.
A mentor can provide clarity on which technical skills are in high demand, share industry trends, and help you avoid potential pitfalls. They can provide personalized insights based on a candidate’s particular skills and interests. Beyond technical expertise, mentors can also share soft skills that are needed to maximize professional potential, such as effective communication, problem-solving, and teamwork.
Improving networking is another hidden advantage of mentoring. Mentors can help interns to build their professional network. Through a mentor’s existing connections, an intern can access a broader professional circle, opening doors to partnerships, collaborations, and even job opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach. Additionally, a mentor can offer constructive feedback on an intern’s other projects and ideas, which can promote professional growth.
How Mentoring Is an Important Aspect of a Successful Internship
Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of a successful internship is the mentorship is the support and encouragement that mentors provide. Experienced employees may have faced challenges and setbacks throughout their careers that have taught them lessons that they can pass along to their mentees. Mentoring interns can benefit your organization and industry as it affords the mentor the opportunity to instill best practices, ethical standards, and other values in the next generation of workers in your field.
Getting to know the interns’ work styles, personalities, and goals by mentoring them can also help the mentors to determine whether the interns would be a good cultural fit for the organization.
Why and How to Structure an Internship Program Around Mentoring
While mentoring can make an internship program more effective in any industry, mentors in tech are particularly important. Professionals in the field can shape the careers of interns through mentorship. This mutually beneficial relationship not only accelerates interns’ professional growth but also enriches the organization by cultivating a pool of skilled, motivated future employees.
By sharing their knowledge and insights on the intricacies of the field, mentors can provide valuable context about real-world projects, industry best practices, and the application of theoretical concepts in practical scenarios. This will build upon the interns’ education and help them to become more confident in performing their new responsibilities. Interns can gain a better understanding of the organization’s culture, values, and expectations through conversations with a trusted mentor, compared with just observing and trying to figure these things out on their own.
Adding a mentoring aspect to your internship program provides interns the opportunity to ask questions, seek advice, and share their concerns. Having a mentor can help interns to voice their ideas, facilitating knowledge exchange between generations and fostering a culture of innovation. Mentors can also help interns to reach their goals by tailoring their training or tasks to the skills they want to develop further.
How To Set Up Your Internship To Focus on Mentoring
Planning in advance is key when structuring an internship program that deliberately facilitates mentorship. First, identify potential mentors within the company who have both technical skills and mentoring skills. Try to match mentors and interns based on shared interests and objectives. Set clear expectations for both mentors and interns, in terms of when they will meet and what their objectives are.
Encourage mentors to challenge interns with projects that align with their career aspirations while contributing to the organization’s goals. Make sure to allow interns to provide feedback about the program in order to continually improve the mentorship experience and internship overall. By structuring a mentoring-focused internship program that empowers experienced employees to guide interns, organizations can facilitate both the interns’ professional growth and the company’s long-term success.
Sentient Digital and RDA’s Summer Internship Program
Sentient Digital and RDA provide summer internships with a significant mentoring component.
Background on Sentient Digital and RDA
Sentient Digital is a technology solutions provider that serves government, private sector, and military clients. RDA is Sentient Digital’s subsidiary, with a particular focus on systems engineering and antisubmarine warfare. Our subject matter experts put their passion into practice every day to make sure that technology works for our clients’ objectives.
Internships at Sentient Digital and RDA
Offering internships provides benefits both for our company and for the interns. Our interns gain valuable practical experience for building a career in STEM. Our company gains both the work of the interns during their internship and also the potential to hire them following their internship. We make sure that the kind of work that our interns do is the kind of work we do. Just having interns doing filing or getting coffee for the office would not be the best use of anyone’s time; we want to make sure that interns build their experience and engage in work that truly adds value. We ensure that we offer substantive internships that also allow the opportunity for mentorship.
How Our Internship Program Is Designed for Mentors in Tech To Thrive
The internship program begins when we intentionally recruit interns who align with our mission and values. We assign interns meaningful tasks that contribute to real projects, ensuring they gain useful experience. Mentors bring expertise and enthusiasm to guiding interns on a daily basis. Our managers take a proactive approach to the success of the internship experience. Interns receive daily mentoring, undergo weekly management reviews, and present their progress to the team on a monthly basis. Our paid internship program illustrates the value we place on our interns’ contributions. The design of our internship program ensures that interns receive not only compensation but also mentorship, skill-building, and a chance to make a genuine impact on our organization. Finally, the internship allows Sentient Digital and RDA “to see if the intern is a good, long-term fit at RDA and vice versa, with the potential to hire when they graduate,” according to Jon Dionne, General Manager and Director of the Mission Software Solutions.
Our Summer 2023 Interns Worked On Projects That Supported Our Clients’ Mission
During the summer of 2023, RDA hosted 2 computer scientists and 2 EE (electrical engineer) interns, all of whom were rising seniors in college. They worked full-time at the RDA Virginia or Pennsylvania offices and were each assigned a one-on-one mentor. The work they performed directly contributed to RDA’s main programs, including enhancing GUIs, developing a new C++ signal processing library, updating processing routines, designing, populating, and testing PCBs, and working on data analysis and signal processing. The interns built their communication skills by giving three presentations: first to peers, then to management, and finally to senior leadership. The interns also had opportunities for offsite learning and business travel.
RDA’s Engineering Development Manager Greg Niehaus explained, “The interns made a great contribution to our products. They had an excellent opportunity to learn and hone their skills and are well-prepared to join the workforce next year–hopefully with RDA.”
Whether Looking for a Meaningful Internship or to Move Onto the Next Step of Your Career, Consider Sentient Digital and RDA
If you are looking for a company that values mentorship and furthering your career growth, Sentient Digital and RDA could be a great fit for you. Whether you are at the starting point of your career or seeking a more experienced role, if you value curiosity, innovation, and a people-centric culture, we are on the same page. Check out our current job postings page to look for opportunities appropriate to your skillset.