This is Part 12 of the Global Bicycle Inc. (GBI 2.0) story, as related by an intern. The full series begins with Global Bicycle Inc.: An Intern Adventure.
Part 12: What I Learned, What You Can Do, A Final Thank You
Part way through the internship, I had to help give a presentation to the West Michigan CIO Council. These CIO’s donate money to the internship program to help fund it. Partway through the presentation, one of the CIO’s said, “this is very interesting, but what did you learn?” (I paraphrased, he said it a lot nicer.) In the spirit of that, here it is.
What I learned:
-Advantage over other students: I got to see both the technical side (configuration, research, documentation) and the business process (how it all fits together).
-Integration is key: They who understand: succeed. They who do not: fail. Are you going to remember every integration point. No. What will you remember? To look for them.
-Certification: if you deal with the ERP system at all, take the TERP10 certification. Will you remember everything? No way, the binder they give you is 4 inches thick. What will you get? A deeper understanding of how your part fits in with the whole. And you get a cool 4 inch binder to look things up in that you forget.
-Knowing the business process is also key: You must understand where the inputs come from, what happens to them, and where the outputs go. Will you remember every business process and what happens at every turn? No. What will you remember? To look for them.
-Teamwork: while sometimes overrated, is generally the norm. If you don’t know how to interact with people, and you don’t want to do programming from your dark, dank basement for the rest of your life for some off-shore company, learn how to interact with people. Fast.
-Documentation: To be blunt, it sucks, and no one likes to do it. Woe unto them however, that do not. Not only do it, but do it well, and maintain it. Otherwise, it is pretty much worthless and you have to spend all kinds of time re-figuring out something you already figured out but forgot how to do.
What you can do:
There are several items you, the readers of this blog and important individuals in industry and the working world that you are, can do. First off, support SAP’s University Alliances. It truly is a great program. The entire focus is to educate qualified students to enter the workforce upon graduation (hint: this helps you). If there is some skill you’re not seeing in your entry level talent that is vital to your company, talk to University Alliances. Make a case for it, and see to it that it gets incorporated into the curriculum of the university system.
The second thing you can do is to hire interns for 8 month internships. In my personal opinion, the 3 month internship is almost as close to useless as you can get. The 8 month internship offers exponentially more value than the 3 month internships-both for the company and the intern. It takes 3 months to understand the company, figure out what’s going on, and start to deliver more value. I had an internship that began as a summer internship and then extended into a part time internship during the following fall semester. I realized more value during the 3 months of the semester when I only worked 18 hours a week, than when I worked 40 hours a week during the summer. That has nothing to do with my drive, ability or aptitude; it’s simply the nature of the beast.
The third item you can do is make sure you have a good, robust intern program. During internships, the intern is interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing the intern. Your spending a good decent amount of money on the intern, so why not make the most of the investment? Make sure the intern program has activity’s and meetings with upper level employees-show the intern what the company has to offer. If you do not take this opportunity to make the best impression on the intern, they will get a job someplace else after graduation. That’s exceptional talent you just missed out on and gave to your competitor. Will you get some rotten apple interns? Yes. Will you get some golden apple interns turned star employees? Yes, and they will more than make up for the rotten apple interns and the expense of the intern program. The companies with the better intern programs get the better interns, and thus the better entry level talent.
The fourth thing you can do is to support your local university that teaches SAP. Speak to classes, network with students; offer a scholarship or a meeting with company executives. Help build those connections with students. The more you invest in the students while they are in the college setting, the more qualified entry level talent you will have the ability to hire. There is so much talent out there that your company could get based off of this system. The ERP Initiative at Grand Valley State University is exceptional for giving students the opportunities to make connections with upper level executives at companies. The value is seen in that graduates are continually receiving job offers from big name companies: Accenture, SAP, Steelcase, Dow Corning, Wolverine World Wide, Consumers Energy, the list goes on.
A final Thank you:
To those intrepid individuals who put in just as much work and dedication to this project as I did:
-Dr. Simha Magal: I’m still a little sketchy as to why you hired me, but i’m sure glad you did. I most definately would not be where I am today without the chance you gave me.
-David Herrema: a former intern who laid the groundwork for the work that followed
-Eric Koch: a former intern who laid the groundwork for the work that followed
-John Morrissey: the intern who solved errors when the rest of us were ready to pull out our hair
-Phillip Claus: the intern who wasn’t really on this project, but pitched in anyways when there was just so much to do.
-Kevin Coolman: the intern who went blindly into the night with me when we were first given the project. There is no way I would have been able to accomplish all we accomplished in the first 3 months without his help.
-Alice Yamada: the intern who probably reviewed more exercises than any one. And who always spotted the grammar mistakes.
-Mike Martin: the intern who jumped blindly into the project halfway through and helped me see it through
-Steve Merritt: the intern who is a demo video extraordinaire
-Jacob Deluca: the intern who tested exercises almost as much as Alice
-Morgan Hickman and Sandall Wall: the great interns who continue the GBI work at Grand Valley
And to all of you who have faithfully read my blog over the past weeks and have emailed me suggestions for improvement. It began as a project I wasn’t too excited about, but undertook because someone had to do it, and it ended up as a fairly enjoyable experience. I wish you the Best of Luck in all your future endeavors, and i’ll see if i can maybe continue this blog thing.