Recently, Vault.com, an employer rankings platform that provides intelligence on what it’s like to work within particular industries, companies or professions, shared its annual internship rankings and showed the world something that anyone involved with NetApp’s internship program already knows—that it’s one of the best internship programs in the U.S.
According to Vault, NetApp’s internship program ranks 27th in the country, among companies from a variety of industries. The rankings are based on input the companies provide on their internship programs, as well as survey rankings by current and former interns who rank the programs based on criteria such as quality of life, compensation and benefits, the interview process, career development, full-time employment prospects and diversity.
This makes the second recognition for NetApp’s internship program in the past year, with the Vault results joining a ranking by WayUp that also placed NetApp in their Top 100 internship programs, which is based on a combination of public vote and input from a judging panel of HR and industry experts.
Says Intern and University Grad Hire (UGH) Program Manager Justin Tomlin, “We know NetApp has a great workplace culture and we know we have an amazing internship program that allows interns to grow and develop—personally and professionally. I think these survey results just bring to light what so many employees and former interns already know—NetApp’s internship program is phenomenal. These rankings just give us a chance to really latch on and say, ‘Here’s the stats.’”
What is it that makes NetApp’s internship program so special? We talked with some of our current interns and former interns who now work at NetApp full-time, as well as with Justin and Senior Manager, University Relations Trent Peterson to find out.
Education, Exposure and Experience
NetApp’s internship program runs for 10-12 weeks primarily during the summer and it provides plenty of opportunities for fun and camaraderie. In the U.S. alone, NetApp offers internships for college and graduate students at nine of our Americas locations, and that doesn’t include internship opportunities in Bangalore, APAC and EMEA. According to Justin, we employ approximately 120 interns per year in the Americas alone.
Trent says to qualify for the program, interns must be currently enrolled in a bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral or professional (such as law school) degree program. The goal of the program is to deliver what NetApp’s University Relations team calls “The 3 E’s—Education, Exposure and Experience.”
“That’s the goal of this program—with Experience, it creates a sense of community for the interns. With Education, it enables them to learn and do better for themselves, as well as for NetApp. With Exposure, it gives them insight into NetApp and our executives, sites, what we do and our culture. All of those things are meant to make sure they like NetApp and make them better for our company,” Trent says.
Access and real work
There are a few things that NetApp does that make the internship program stand out from others in the industry, particularly with the interns. One of those is the amount of access the interns have to executives and managers. The summer program, for instance, features a Leaders Speaker Series where executives across the company discuss their roles and careers with the students.
“NetApp interns have a chance to access that top-tier of leadership, including CEO George Kurian. Every summer, George takes part in the speaker series and interns get the chance to spend some time with George, hearing his story, advice for interns, insights on why university talent is important to NetApp’s overall success, and, ultimately, have a chance to ask questions of their own,” says Justin.
Bridget King, who interned at NetApp during the summer of 2017 while she was attending The Catholic University of America, says the Senior Leader Speaker Series was one of the highlights of her internship. Now an NGS project manager in the U.S. Public Sector office in Vienna, Va., Bridget says she and her fellow interns had the opportunity to meet with Senior VP of Americas Sales, Thomas Stanley, as well as hear other company leaders speak via video conferencing during the series.
“It was a great opportunity to hear from the senior leaders of the organization and to see executives taking the time to engage and interact with interns. The opportunity to connect with those leaders really stood out to me,” Bridget says.
Darrian Parker, a solution architect intern in RTP and MBA student at North Carolina State University, agrees. “That was my favorite part of the program, just learning from the executives. NetApp is a big, Fortune 500 company, so being able to come in as a person starting their career as an intern and really learn from those people, that’s a huge opportunity that not a lot of people are aware of,” he says.
Darrian also appreciated the transparency and level of engagement in the company that NetApp provides for interns. Being able to attend All Hands meetings and hear about the state of the company, as well as hear from executives about their career paths, really impressed him.
Another aspect of the program that stands out is that NetApp allows interns to do real-world work, not just low-level projects. NetApp internships are tailored to what the team working with the intern needs in terms of work that needs to get done.
“These interns are not brought in to do busy work or have a generic experience; they are hired to address challenges their teams are actively facing. Interns bring with them fresh perspectives and oftentimes innovative mindsets. This winning combination allows interns to contribute greatly to their team’s success and grow an immense amount in a relatively limited timeframe,” Justin says.
What this also means is not only do interns get the opportunity to work with the teams within the department or function they’re assigned to, but they also get cross-functional exposure across the company.
“Every summer, interns are hired across a variety of different departments. Their projects often require cross-functional approaches, but they are also given opportunities to come together as a group to network across their different roles and have exposure to the overall company,” Justin says. “They get to see what all goes into running a successful company, not just regarding their individual department, but also the company at large.
That ability to have cross-functional exposure certainly characterized Bridget King’s internship. During her internship, Bridget helped to work on a Professional Services plan. She says her role bled into four different initiatives and functions, including marketing and HR, not just professional services and sales.
“It was a great opportunity to see how a business operates,” Bridget says. “What was key for me was that the project allowed me to work with different functions of the company, not necessarily just a single organization. I gained a better understanding of how NetApp operates.”
Being given responsibility for real company initiatives stands out to interns. University of San Francisco MBA candidate and Sunnyvale HR Organizational Effectiveness intern Meredith O’Hare says when she did internships as an undergraduate, she didn’t have the opportunity to have any ownership over her projects. But at NetApp, she helped pull together a HR Summit for the HR department within her first month.
“Having autonomy over projects and doing meaningful, impactful work is important,” she says.
Because Meredith had the opportunity to extend her internship into the fall semester, she had the opportunity to work on designing a new leadership development program for NetApp. Meredith says not only have these opportunities given her greater exposure to the field of organizational development (her focus for her MBA program), but it’s helped her hone down the type of work she would like to do after graduation, learning and development. As such, the leadership program she’s working on “aligns perfectly” with what she hopes to do.
“I didn’t exactly know what my niche would be when I started the internship. I thought of employee engagement, organizational development, leading change management. But going through designing this program, a lot of the classes I’ve taken and the research I’m doing has been really aligned. So, I know I want to stay in leadership development,” she says.
Data Scientist Tyler Cady says an opportunity to build new components into the products really pushed his learning in a good way during his internship. Because he was transitioning careers from finance to technology when he was a master’s student at Colorado University, his internship was invaluable.
“I learned a lot,” Tyler says. “I was given a lot of interesting and important projects right off the bat that had immediate impact on our product, so it was nice to see concrete results right out of the gate. I really enjoyed that—it gave me a little bit of confidence coming out of school and transitioning industries. The learning curve was definitely steep, but it was awesome once you get there.”
Darrian Parker agrees. As a solutions architect intern, he’s had the opportunity to contribute to important customer initiatives.
Darrian, whose bachelor’s degree is in systems engineering, says being able to combine his business and engineering skills has been a huge selling point for him. “If you love tech, this is a highly technical place. Storage sounds really simple, but there are so many more complexities to it when you come here. So, I think if you’re really interested in getting your hands dirty in tech, this is definitely a great place to be if you want to challenge yourself,” he says.
The Intern Showcase
Another unique aspect of the program is the annual Intern Showcase, which is held at the end of each summer. Each intern develops a presentation that illustrates what they worked on over the summer and are assigned a booth in the science-fair style event. All employees are invited to attend the showcases, including the CEO and other executives.
“The Intern Showcase is always one of the interns’ favorite events. It gives them a chance to showcase their work and the activities they participated in, while helping employees—many of whom the interns have never met—understand the value these interns bring to the company,” Justin says.
Bridget King says the Intern Showcase illustrated to her that NetApp values intern contributions and voices. “The Intern Showcase was an opportunity to put together something for the entire D.C. office and to showcase our skills and what we had learned. I found that experience very valuable,” she says.
And then there’s the culture…
Of course, NetApp’s famous workplace culture is another significant draw for interns. When she was looking for an internship, Meredith O’Hare had the opportunity to talk to both a high-school friend working in the Wichita office and a student who had graduated from her MBA program that is now working at NetApp, so she got the inside scoop about the culture.
“They said it was a great culture,” she says.
The other interns agreed. The people they’ve worked with and the amount of help and nurturing they’ve received is also a differentiator for them. (Not to mention all the fun summer activities that University Relations plans for them.)
“It’s been way better than any other internship I ever had,” says Tyler Cady. “There was a lot of opportunity to get immersed in the NetApp culture. There were a lot of great, fun activities that were put on by Justin and the intern/UGH team, but in general, I had a really outstanding experience.”
Bridget says she appreciates that the culture is welcoming and supportive. “Having that welcoming feeling, that’s a big part of the culture. We had the ability to meet with other people and they were willing to help and engage with an intern. Everyone’s willing to have an open ear for any questions at any time. I just think it’s the welcoming and supporting people that go with this culture,” she says.
Darrian says the camaraderie among the intern group is also great. “We were all in our separate roles, but the HR staff did a good job of making sure the interns regularly got together, had meetings with each other and were able to support each other in their projects.”
Justin and Trent say the recognition the internship program has received from Vault.com and WayUp is not only a great boost for NetApp’s employer brand but a testament to the program the University Relations team has built. And, they say, this translates into a better employee pipeline with a really high acceptance rate for interns who get offers to convert to full-time employment.
“We beat the industry regarding the number of interns who receive returning offers, which is another testament to the program on the quantitative side,” Trent says.
“For the interns who receive conversion offers for full-time employment, the acceptance rate is very high,” Justin says. “Their great experience as an intern at NetApp is one of the main reasons. They love this place and if they get the chance to come back, they’re going to.”