Students sign up for summer internships to get a feel for the kind of working environment they hope to become part of after graduation. Sometimes they learn a lot-about filing old press cuttings, buying sandwiches, and informing callers that the boss is "in a meeting".
Undergraduates who join the very popular internship programme at Microsoft may not get quite the same range of experience. In fact, they will be expected to learn about the software industry, and to make an active contribution to ongoing projects.
"We welcome interns as part of the family and let them work as part of the team," says Adam Anger, senior director for the business and marketing organisation at Microsoft Hong Kong Limited.
This begins with a special orientation lunch at which newly arrived interns are introduced to the company's management team and many of the employees. That is followed by two days of training, which cover the basics of corporate structure and product knowledge. Then, each intern is assigned to a department, and a manager is nominated to act as a coachfor the rest of the summer.
Some of the 15 interns accepted will join the sales or marketing division; others will be given more technical roles. Whatever the case, they will be a functioning member of the team. "Our interns are actually integrated into their respective departments, work alongside full-time employees, and get real-life experience by working on actual projects," says Mr Anger.
Johnson Har, who is currently studying for an MBA, found he was thrust straight into the action. "The very first day, I was asked to join a management meeting, which I certainly had not expected," he says.
Mr Har is currently working on several projects for Windows Vista, one of the major product launches to take place in 2006. One part involves internal marketing to create awareness and excitement. "It is a great environment because they welcome my ideas," he says. "If some don't quite fit a particular situation, my manager helps to think the idea through and redefine it."
Vincy To, a second-year computer science student, says the internship has really widened her career options. "I am used to more technical work, but being in the marketing department has shown me how exciting a career in this area could be," she says. So far, Ms To has had the chance to organise events, make site visits to places like the exhibition centre, and deal with various agencies. "It is a very good role for people who want to experience sales and marketing work first-hand," she explains.
The internship programme was launched last year and runs from June to August. Besides giving students the chance to gain practical work experience, it also allows Microsoft to identify possible future recruits. The programme is open to applicants from five local universities, which actively help in finding the strongest candidates. Anyone interested can find out about the company during a series of campus visits. "These give us the chance to learn more about the students and establish contacts with Hong Kong's future talent," Mr Anger says.
He notes that some of last year's interns have recently returned to take up full-time roles. "People who join us should expect to be challenged, but also to grow," he adds. "If they have the passion to do great things in their careers, then I think Microsoft is really the best company on earth for them."
- Interns benefit from being an integral part of the team
in a real-life work environment
- There are opportunities to work on actual projects and
contribute suggestions and ideas
- Each intern is assigned a manager who provides advice
- Experience in sales and marketing roles gives a broader
perspective on the company's different activities
- Interns are selected from five local universities and
may be offered full-time positions after graduation