For the past two months, I’ve worked as an intern at Brightspot, producing content for the Brightspot website and Inspire Confidence. I feel funny using the word “intern” because it’s evident that every intern hired for this program means so much more to the company than merely a student employee. My friends were shocked to hear that I was given “real work” this summer, while they were running around New York City grabbing coffee and picking up their boss’s laundry. The amount of trust and responsibility I’ve been given has provided me with newfound confidence in my writing and interpersonal skills.
It’s difficult to pin down what makes working at Brightspot for the summer so special because there are so many factors that play a role in shaping the experience. The culture, the mission, the work itself—it’s hard to choose one particular part of this internship.
I interviewed the co-founder and CEO of Brightspot, David Gang, for further insights into the intern program, including how it developed and why it’s so important to the company. He also discusses the successes of the internship program, his advice to young professionals, and something he calls the “Mom Test.”
When did the internship program for Brightspot start, and what was the inspiration behind it?
We had our first interns the first full year of business in 2009. They included Timbo Shriver, Will Dittmar and Haley Gang.
The inspiration behind it was recreating the successful internship program we built at AOL Technologies. We had a great leader in Amy Hale and created a program with real value for both the interns and the company. We wanted to do that at Brightspot.
The vision for our program was to make sure every intern added real value to our company, and in exchange for that would have a work experience that added real value to their life. Our simple test was this: You have to be able to call your Mom and tell her or show her what you did with your summer.
How have the interns impacted Brightspot's culture and the company as a whole?
So many people have had bad intern experiences in their lives. They worked for a summer and didn't really contribute to the company. Nothing valuable came out of the experience. We stress the importance of making the interns be treated as full-time employees, not just a passing face at the company. This exchange of value brings life to the company and delight to managers when they see what is accomplished over a summer. We’ve had interns return for two or three years through college, and we’ve hired several interns on as full-time employees. Axel was our first full-time hire and is one of our top developers today. Deion and Kasey connected with us through our partnership with The First Tee and have been part of our company for two summers.
Do you have any specific memories/moments with the interns that stand out to you/exemplify the importance of this internship to you and the company?
Todd, Kaitlyn and Axel are all exceptional, long-term employees (more than 5 years). All of them came in from our intern program. We’ve hired 13 folks from the program and are hopeful that a few more come from this summer.
How have you seen Brightspot impact the students who go through the summer internship program?
I believe many of our interns leave the summer feeling like they contributed real value to our company and are proud of their work. They built a feature or helped deploy a major brand's new digital experience. Along the way, they get to contribute to our mission work and have some fun. What could be better?
What skills does Brightspot provide that make this internship different from any other summer internship?
It is our goal to make sure every intern contributes to the company in a measurable way. Nothing is throwaway work or an experiment. Each role is meant to matter, and I love August when I hear about the contributions made by both the content and development interns who have spent their summer at Brightspot.
What advice do you have for the interns at Brightspot and other students like them searching for a full-time career?
Work is part of life. Love life and love work. Focus on opportunities that get you excited to get out of bed each day. With any lens on life, you spent a large portion of your time at work. Love work and you will love life.
What do you want your interns to remember from their experiences here at Brightspot?
I want everyone to leave their time at Brightspot feeling like they were able to contribute to the company in a meaningful way, that they were treated well and had a great time.
What sets the interns at Brightspot apart from summer interns at other companies?
Our hope is that every intern leaves our company either enjoying their time as part of a new journey or wants to be a long-term part of our company. Why is that different? We believe in our mission and the value we bring to customers. For an intern, working the summer at our company gives you exposure to a culture you will remember as thoughtful, fun and purposeful. A place where you were respected and valued. Truly a great place to spend a summer and maybe even your first career job!