A Virtual Summer With FortressIQ

When we first started planning our summer internship program, there was no pandemic and thus, no social distancing requirements. Just after we kicked off the recruiting process, it was clear to us that the impact of COVID would extend into the summer and likely longer. Businesses started rescinding and canceling their internship programs, and we were seeing reports that close to 75% of summer programs were impacted, including planned remote workers. For a program like this, there are benefits for the students themselves as well as the company, especially given our size. Fortunately, we were agile enough to quickly revamp our program and deliver an entirely remote experience for our summer interns.

"All of my friend's internships were canceled this summer, except for mine."
— Thomas Reznik, Undergraduate Computer Science, University of Redlands

In total, we were able to bring on seven students for our premier virtual paid internship program. Because of the shift to remote work, we even have students participating from out of state. And our goals remain the same - to provide students the opportunity to learn how AI and technology applies in the real world while experiencing life at a San Francisco startup.

"At first I thought it might be a little different to work remotely, but it was no problem whatsoever after the first week of the internship. The experience is the same as working on site."
— Mihir Patel, Graduate Software Engineering, San Jose State University


Recruiting & Onboarding

The process of recruiting students started and ended entirely online. All candidates applied digitally, and managers reviewed resumes and profiles to narrow down the list just as we do for recruiting full-time positions. Since so many companies had canceled their programs, we had a much higher volume and interest, with some candidates applying to more than one position. 

"The interview process consisted of a preliminary call from recruiting, followed by a 1.5 hour zoom interview in which I spent 30 minutes talking to 3 different individuals from the customer success team. I felt super welcome throughout the interview, and I left feeling like I really wanted to join the FortressIQ team."
— Binat Gousinov, Undergraduate Business Economics, University of California, Los Angeles 

Just as we do with our regular recruiting efforts, candidates that are selected for first-round interviews complete a phone screen with the recruiting team first and then passed along to the hiring manager for an additional phone interview. A second-round interview is completed over Zoom with the hiring manager and select team members. In total, we placed students in several departments covering customer success, data science, DevOps, security, quality assurance, and marketing.  

FortressIQ welcome package for summer interns

"As I progressed through my interviews it became clear that the data science team was evaluating me on my approach to solving problems, not on what tools I knew how to use. The interview process taught me that the goal of a technical interview should be to showcase the way I think and the different techniques I use to solve problems, not necessarily whether or not I know how to use a specific tool or solve a specific problem."
— Sam Truax, Undergraduate Applied Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley


Delivering an Online Experience

Summer internship programs offer an opportunity to learn and apply practical skills that would otherwise require the previous professional and technical experience. We wanted to make sure that even while working from home, our interns were able to get direct exposure to advanced software and programs used at FortressIQ. Working with team leaders and management, they were able to expand their knowledge and get their technical feet wet in multiple areas, including automation, functional testing, text detection, and machine learning.

"For the past three weeks I have been working on a project involving NLP [natural language processing], OCR [optical character recognition] text, and predictions. I have been working closely with my mentor and a couple of others on the data science team."
— Seaver Dahlgreen, Undergraduate Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

This experience has granted interns the opportunity to approach problems where the solution is unknown, which is a critical skill in academics and the tech industry. In addition to hard skills, the interns have also sat in on customer and team meetings, set up informational interviews with FortressIQ staff outside of their specific departments, and gained insight into FortressIQ's mission and goals. 

"While I would prefer to be working side-by-side with the rest of the data science team in the office, the remote internship experience has been excellent. My team has made it clear what I should be working on, and I can reach out over Slack whenever I need help. The positive atmosphere at FortressIQ has also allowed me to connect with other people outside the data science team."
— Sam Truax, Undergraduate Applied Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

For several students, this was their first time participating in a summer internship program. Although we wanted to give them a chance to work in the heart of downtown San Francisco, adjustments were made to figure out how to provide the best remote experience possible. The managers were incredibly supportive, holding daily check-ins, weekly meetings, and encouraging participation in our intern buddy program. The buddy program was designed to give extra support in the form of a department mentor, which provided more opportunity for formal and casual virtual facetime.

"From my perspective, FortressIQ is a great place to work remotely. The communication has been smooth and well thought out."
— Hunter VanDyke, Undergraduate Computer Science, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga


Preparing for a Digital Future

This experience is unprecedented for everyone. As businesses across the world prepare for the unknown, I'm thankful that FortressIQ was still able to offer students an opportunity to learn and grow this summer. We successfully transitioned our strong and supportive culture to a virtual platform while enabling our interns to foster relationships with the FortressIQ staff. 

"Everyone I've spoken with is always eager to talk to me, whether it be in technical advice, life at FortressIQ, or career advice. It's also been fun to attend some online social gatherings, including a virtual movie night as well as the weekly Zoom water cooler socials."
— Seaver Dahlgreen, Undergraduate Electrical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Not only did we want to give everyone real-world experience in the B2B enterprise space, we also wanted to make it a fun and enjoyable summer for everyone. Our caring staff designed events to encourage more casual engagement, as well as created exclusive events for interns and their managers. 

"Although I never met anyone face-to-face, I was able to build strong relationships and create a meaningful impact during this experience. Thank you FortressIQ!"
— Elizabeth Mitelman, Undergraduate Business and Marketing, University of San Francisco 

Over the last three months, our interns have been immersed in the exploding AI industry. Exposure to AI, tech, and startup culture has provided them with unique insights on what to expect after academia. I'm pleased to see that they've made such a positive impact in this short time. Their contributions to the company are known and visible, but I'm more excited to see such personal and professional growth in each of the interns. By creating such a unique environment to explore challenges and become engaged in helping us solve problems for the world's largest companies, we were able to deliver something special with our first summer internship program.

Are you interested in career opportunities at FortressIQ? Click here to see our open positions.