Three lessons from our 3 student interns

 Aug 13, 2018 2:00 PM

Hiring summer students is not easy for small businesses. It takes time for students to learn about what we do and how we do it. Students have their own schedules, with planned family vacation, school registration dates and other commitments that may affect their schedules in ways that are not always aligned with the needs of the business.  

At Challenge Factory, we take our role as summer employer seriously. Our students have specific learning goals, are exposed to new opportunities and are given real-world work to complete. Since so much of our work is done with flexible hours and often in remote locations we ensure students have enough support, contact and interaction to remain engaged in their work. Our students learn about their skills, what affects their productivity, what types of work they enjoy and how they react when having to give and receive feedback.  

This year we have a remarkable group of students – and have learned something new from each of them that is key to the future growth and development of the company. 

Meeting with Kitchener MP Raj Saini

Lesson from Alex:  Communication, cultural fit and explicit intention make distributed teams possible for companies of any size. 

Marketing Intern (4th year Communication Studies student at Wilfrid Laurier University) 

Alex is our first student to be based outside of Toronto. Before Alex started, we knew that using video chat and other productivity tools would be important. We worried that Alex would feel left out of the activities that were taking place at our Toronto-based office. But Alex has surprised us. She is an engaged team member and an integrated part of team projects. She is not out of step or disconnected with the rest of the team or the work being done. She is creative and clever. 

Alex has taught us that, as a company, if the fit is right, we are ready to take on team members who live outside of the Toronto area. She’s challenged an assumption that we do not have enough formal processes in place to ensure remote workers can be productive. She’s enabled us to build a profile of characteristics, beyond job related skills, that we know are important for any new remote member of our team. 

In a workshop for Homeward Bound at Woodgreen Community Services

Lesson from Ben: Employees with multiple gigs face specific challenges while offering employers access to flexible talent. Employers have a role to play in collaborating, co-operating and demonstrating flexibility. 

Research Intern (2nd year Economics student at University of British Columbia) 

Ben has been working at Challenge Factory while juggling two other summer jobs. His job with us leveraged his diverse talents and interests. He has edited upcoming publications, assisted with client facilitation, and conducted qualitative and quantitative research on hard to measure topics related to corporate culture and interpersonal dynamics.  

Like so many others in today’s world of work, Ben’s work schedule fluctuates each week. His other employer communicates the weekly work schedule on Sunday evenings for shifts starting Monday morning. This situation is not ideal – neither for Ben who can’t predict or plan any work or personal event more than a few days in advance, nor for us since we never know when Ben will or will not be available. But it is informative. Our work at Challenge Factory focuses on how Five Drivers are shaping the future of work  – and assisting policy makers and organizations to recognize the difference between leveraging a freelance economy and perpetuating conditions of precarious employment are a part of our ongoing conversations. In addition to the great work that Ben is doing for us, he is helping us better understand how new models of inter-employer collaboration can create better working conditions for everyone. 

Enjoying lunch at Insomnia in Toronto.

Lesson from Lucrezia: Communicating what we do to anyone new to Challenge Factory is enhanced when we use clear, specific language. 

International Intern (M.SC Psychology Student from Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan). 

Lucrezia is completing a for-credit work term focused on applying her background in psychology to the world of work. In Lucrezia’s first week on the job she attended partnership meetings, research reviews, client consulting sessions and internal service development workshops. She is smart and brings valuable professional expertise. 

Challenge Factory’s work is complicated. We deal in trends that are just emerging. Our team needs to be quick thinking and able to make multiple connections across a variety of data points in real time. Lucrezia demonstrates all of these skills, when working in Italian. While she is very focused on closing the gap between the sophistication of what she has to say and her command of English, we are finding significant value in working together in these early days. It is forcing us to slow down, to simplify and to ensure we are being precise in our language and it is making us better. We’ve changed how we conduct meetings to ensure we pause with moments for reflection and review before soliciting feedback and input – and we are reaping rewards far beyond enabling Lucrezia’s intelligent voice to be heard. Lucrezia’s questions, suggestions and perspectives are making us better communicators of complex concepts, models and outcomes.  

Summer Students and the Return on Investment 

Our students leave a lasting effect on Challenge Factory as we, in turn, hope to leave on them. We are grateful to have been part of their career journey and look forward to seeing what comes next for each of them as valued Challenge Factory Alumni. 

Challenge Factory is looking for Fall Interns. If you know a student who is looking for a graphic design/marketing or research co-op or internship let us know! 



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