Internships With A Difference

When we think about internships, I like to imagine the movie The Internship — taking place in fun environments, playing quidditch and solving fun challenges with your peers. However, if we’re honest, internships are either monumentally dull or offer very little value to the company or the intern. Employers are busy and often see the interns as a distraction, making them do mundane tasks and counting down the time until they leave. Internships often have young people feeling out of their depth. When they are not given the attention and support they need, they might feel disillusioned yet still driven by the realisation that they need a job. Is making countless copies building your character? Of course It’s not.

The Challenges With Internships

I have spent over two decades employing graduates, and the single biggest frustration is not being able to differentiate graduates by anything other than their transcripts. Sometimes I get excited when I see a covering letter, but even this is not a lot to go on. As an employer, selecting an intern can be a considerable risk simply because we often have no choice but to sift through dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes looking for anything that stands out. For the most part, we end up selecting students with the highest grades. This can also be a red-herring because, as we’ve learnt the hard way, these individuals aren’t always the right fit for the company. They might not offer the right value either.

Our interns don’t just make games. They engage will all areas of the company to get a well-rounded experience.

Re-Imagining The Typical Internship

At Sozo Labs, we wanted to break this cycle and turn the traditional model on its head. Unlike the movies, we don’t have the same budget as companies like Google. And as much as we would like to offer the intern-equivalent of the Amazing Race, it’s simply not feasible.  

Instead, we’ve created a structured 3-week internship program that actively engages students and helps them experience all areas of the company. Our programme is designed to give them first-hand experience of what it means to work in a start-up and what the world of immersive tech looks like beyond just developing games.   

Our intern from last year, Jo Busser, made ‘Just rope for the best‘, which sees players trying to save people from a burning building.

The interns leave with real experience and a showcase game they build, which they can use for their portfolio to differentiate themselves from their peers when applying for their first job. Instead of the usual: “Hey, look at my marks”, we change the conversation to look at what I have done. And who doesn’t like a game, right? They also leave with new skills, both the Unity course they do in their first week and practical skills and career advice from their Sozo mentors. Many students aren’t aware that immersive tech is a viable career path. There is often astonishment when they learn about the possibilities available. Opening their eyes to this exciting field isn’t just great for us as an organisation but the industry as a whole.  

Interns Aren’t A Burden. They Can Bring Value!

For Sozo, internships haven’t just been rewarding for both sides but it’s also been surprisingly low impact for us as an organisation. We include the interns into our daily schedule, pull them into relevant meetings, put them on a publicly available Unity course and then let them apply the learnt skills in developing a game. Other than the few hours our mentors spend with the interns, the remainder of the program puts the onus on the student to put in the work – but the more they put in, the more they get out, and the more it benefits them in the long term. It also allows us to observe the interns, which we do through reviewing their engagement with team members, how they contribute to the various sessions they attend, their adoption of Unity and the time and commitment they put into their games.  

One of our recent game jam topics was “Two Buttons”. Our intern, Adam Sendzul from Stellenbosch University came up with ‘Magic Mess‘, a game described as a “top-down tower-rotating shooter“.

One of the most unexpected delights of this program is the interactions our two mentors have with the interns. Besides supporting them through the process and ensuring that they experience everything that happens at Sozo, they are also recent graduates and are thus able to share their personal journey with the interns. The interns get incredible inspiration from these discussions, and perhaps the biggest surprise for them is the immense potential an immersive tech career has to offer!  

If you are a second, third or fourth year student studying towards a BSc or BEng degree and would like to explore doing an internship with Sozo, please reach out to us, and we will let you know when our next cohort is.   

Immersive technology has the power to engage and delight your users.