The SEEK User Experience (UX) Design team recently launched our first UX Internship program. Here’s what went on behind the scenes prior to kicking off this exciting initiative.
Why an internship?
Here at SEEK, we are passionate about pipe-lining and developing new talent — it’s part of everything we design and build. Our UX team is no different. Members of our team frequently meet with graduates from short courses or university courses who are interested in roles with SEEK or who want to have a chat about our work and how they can get into the industry. But, as with most roles, you need experience to get the role…and you also need a role to get experience. Many of the people we spoke with were talented, passionate and proactive, but they didn’t quite meet the “relevant commercial experience” requirement for a lot of roles. We don’t always have entry-level level roles available, and we know that this isn’t a problem isolated to SEEK.
Some of our amazing team members had come through UX short courses, and we really wanted to do something concrete for anyone looking for starting roles in the UX community. We engage frequently with Academy Xi or General Assembly through office tours, speaking on panels or mock interviewing their students and graduates. However, we haven’t always been able to help with that next step of transitioning from students to designers within the industry. UX grad programs and internships still aren’t commonplace, but we knew that technical grad programs were doing great things for bringing talent into the workplace. Also, we’d trialled a UX Research Internship recently that was enormously successful — starting out as a 6-month internship that generated a full time Associate role for the intern. It led to a full-year secondment program for our second participant, reporting into one of our Senior UX Researchers. We’d definitely identified the problem and laid the foundation for tackling it, so it was time to do something about it.
How’d we start out?
We formed a small team to spearhead the initiative. At SEEK, our UX team is constantly running initiatives to improve and develop our UX practice, and the internship program fitted in perfectly as something for us to focus on. Rob Scherer, Judy Shaul, Caylie Panuccio and I felt really strongly about the problem space so we put our heads together over the next 6 months to find our ideal solution.
We started from scratch — what did we want to achieve from an internship program? How long would it be? How would we run it? Who would be involved? How could we make sure it contributed to both our team and the development of a new UXer? We had to make sure that we were developing a program that allowed an intern to take ownership of work and feel empowered to contribute to a team, balanced with the right amount of guidance and support. We discussed our expectations of the candidates — we were looking for people with little or no relevant experience, but they needed the right level of passion for UX with a focus on learning.
Once we got the ball rolling, things moved really quickly. We met at least once a week and collaborated via Miro to map out and design our dream program and timeline. Pretty soon we’d incorporated this into a role description that was ready to be advertised on SEEK. Our role was up and ready to be filled, but we had to also ensure we were ready to support an intern and set them up for success.
How did we structure the program?
We had to identify who would be involved in the program prior to and once it launched. Firstly, we’d need a line manager. Was this a role for our existing UX Leads, or was this a great opportunity for one of our Senior UX Designers to take on line management responsibilities, in line with their own career goals? Would their line manager work in the same product stream as them, or was it better to have them separate from our intern’s work? What about a buddy? Which team would be able to provide our intern with meaningful work, so that they could take ownership of a problem space and contribute to a cross-functional team?
There were so many questions! We worked carefully through each one, drawing heavily on the success of the UX Research Internship and our team’s experience with, or as, industry mentors. The UX Research Internship had given Caylie the opportunity to lead a direct report. This experience provided invaluable insights to help us structure the UX Internship program. Caylie and I had been through corporate grad programs and wanted to bring all those learnings to the table as well, thinking about what really worked or didn’t work for us as grads and buddies.
We eventually landed on the following structure:
- One of our Senior UX Designers (me!), who had expressed interest in developing their people leadership skills, would line manage our intern . If the intern was in the same stream as their line manager, they would be able to provide relevant guidance and advice on their day to day work. I had been working in the Talent Search space for a year, developing SEEK’s proactive sourcing product suite, so it made sense for our intern to join me.
- We identified the work in the pipeline for the intern’s team (as much as one can in an OKR-driven agile tech environment!) to ensure they’d have access to the full spectrum of UX skills, including user research, interaction design and visual design. We also identified that the Talent Search team would provide a great opportunity to work within a collaborative cross-disciplinary team, with exposure to data analysis, development, product management, design and business analysis, in a high-performing agile environment.
- My UX Leader would advise and have regular contact with our intern.
- We would also assign a buddy (thanks Judy!), preferably from a different stream, to regularly meet with our intern and give them another point of contact to learn about all things SEEK — making sure that the intern felt supported and empowered to speak about anything they wanted to, with a range of people.
So, we’d homed in on who would be involved, and where the intern would be able to find meaningful ongoing work and support. Next, we had to find our intern!
For a team who work exclusively on career-related products, getting the recruitment process right was a big deal! One of our SEEK Talent Acquisition team members helped us whittle our process down into a few key steps:
- Step 1 was an online application, where applicants submitted CVs and Cover Letters and answered some initial screening questions to help us create a shortlist (it wasn’t that short).
- Step 2 was a one-way interview, using SparkHire (an online video tool) that allowed us to ask questions, give the candidate some “thinking time” to prepare their response, then to record their response. We had a couple of inspiring (and challenging) afternoons watching all the application videos and mapping our applicants onto a matrix of who would be the best fit for the next round.
- Step 3 involved face-to-face interviews, where we asked a range of questions to help us get to know our applicants and understand if they were best for the role. As I mentioned earlier, we couldn’t really look at tried and tested skills or level of experience. Instead, we asked questions to explore the candidate’s passion for UX, their judgement and decision-making ability, their design philosophy, and what they could bring to our team.
We spoke with some incredible candidates, but we had only the one role to offer. After these rounds of interviews, and the usual reference checks, we were very excited to offer the position to, and have it accepted by, our first ever UX Intern (keep an eye out for a “meet our UX Intern” post soon).
We’re just over a month into our UX Internship program and I’m enormously proud of how it’s going so far. A lot of great people put in a lot of careful work for the previous 6 months. This is definitely going to be a learning experience for us as much as it is for our UX Intern. We’re so happy to have taken concrete action to try and create more opportunities for people interested in becoming part of the amazing UX industry in Melbourne. Stay tuned for more updates on the program!
Latest update — https://medium.com/seek-blog/meet-the-ux-intern-fe09f7678626
Thanks to my fellow initiative-ers and bloggers: Rob Scherer, Caylie Panuccio and Judy Shaul, and Celia Cameron for her Talent Acquisition expertise.