Users may have one solution in mind while being unaware of other technologies or techniques that can help, says Colangelo. For example, they may not know that macro templates can make publishing memos quicker and easier. "Our job as technologists sometimes is to say to people, 'I hear what you are asking for, but have you thought about X, Y or Z to solve the problem instead?' "
The team first gained an understanding of the customers' objectives and needs, says Gobaud, and then proposed a way to improve the process and, with customer approval, started developing. "We used an agile development process and worked to get a beta version to the customer ASAP," he says. "We would then iterate and continue development while getting feedback from the users."
The program has been expanded to seven interns this summer, and Colangelo thinks that it just might inspire some IT students to go into government.
Already, it has reinforced Gobaud's goals. "I saw the amazing ability that technology has to revolutionize internal government operations and create a lean, effective federal government," he says. "Working at the White House cemented my career goal of becoming a government technology leader."
Lesson learned: Put some teeth in your internship program by asking managers to justify student positions, not merely fill them.
Value gained: New hires already steeped in company culture and corporate values.
In years past, We Energies, a utility company that provides electricity to parts of Wisconsin and Michigan, hadn't put much effort into its summer opportunities for students, typically starting the process too late to recruit the best candidates.
Recognizing that both the company and the students could be getting more out of the partnerships, We Energies revamped its program a couple of years ago to make a distinction between IT interns and student summer workers, according to John Brewer, service desk manager at the company. "We wanted to turn [internships] into a program rather than just a summer hiring exercise," he says.
The company now has a formal IT internship program that runs for two summers, with three to four students joining the program each year. Meanwhile, it continues to hire other students to work in less specialized summer jobs. The new program gives interns an opportunity to shine and gives the company an opportunity to hire top performers.