In 2014, Interns Australia awarded the Tin Alley Beta program with the inaugural “Most Outstanding Internship Program”. Three months later, we speak with one of the program participants, Xcheque, to talk about their experience from both the employer and the intern’s perspective.
Left to right: Jon, Arthur, David and Sam.
What is Xcheque?
Jon: Xcheque is a dairy investment economic analysis consultancy. We provide data on international commodity prices as well as local trends in dairy for investors and farmers.
Why did you decide to hire an intern and get involved with the Tin Alley Beta program?
Jon: Our work is traditionally done in spreadsheets. In recent years we have begun developing online services to enable a more efficient way of delivering information to our global audience. A web platform would allow us to better manage the IP and data flow as well as creating interesting visual representations of the data.
To do this we sought a back-end programmer and decided to participate in the Tin Alley Program. The reasons to hire an intern were twofold.
Firstly for a small business, it is hard to access the right talent. Hiring often meant going through acquaintances and sometimes the only real option is to poach someone from another organisation. An internship program is a pathway to recruitment – at low risk from an employment point of view. For us recruitment is less about the cost but rather the quality of the candidate. Tin Alley Beta gave us the confidence with regards to the capabilities of the candidate.
Secondly, the internship is an opportunity for both parties to learn something about the business. It will always take somebody two or three month to learn and understand the data and our clients so we were interested in how young employees would approach the same tasks.
How did you find the Tin Alley Beta program?
Arthur (intern): I am an international student studying IT at Swinburne University and the university is a partner university with Tin Alley Beta.
Can you describe your internship program at Xcheque?
Arthur: It is a flexible arrangement where I get to do both back-end and front-end development depending on the demands of each project. At the beginning, I shadowed Jon and David to get to know the business. Now, as I’ve learnt more about the company and have built up the skills to meet the needs of the business, I have been able to bring my language skills and background as a Brazilian national to create a companion app catering to the South American dairy market.
For this paid internship, I worked five days a week over a period of 3 months.
Were there any challenges and highlights along the way?
Arthur: The learning curve was quite steep, both from a technical and business perspective.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt was to focus on the business outcomes rather than getting derailed from the project by grappling with technical issues that are, while interesting for an IT student like myself, peripheral to the day-to-day operational needs of the business.
Did the internship program meet the expectations of Xcheque?
Jon: Yes absolutely. Arthur was a great fit for our business. He was self-reliant and motivated.
As a small business, our top priority is not about getting the student with the brightest marks, but rather, students who have a little go in them. After all, that’s what small business is all about.
We work with over 6000 dairy farms in Australia and the volume of deadlines in our day-to-day operations means that there is not a whole of luxury for detailed instruction and supervision. We needed our interns to be self-reliant.
At the onset we identified that it was important to give the intern something to do that wasn’t tied with the immediate commercial outcomes. Due to our constraints, involving the intern in the commercial process at the beginning would have been unfair to him and also risky for us. Research was a good option as we benefitted from Arthur’s insights and he was able to identify new opportunities for the business that we subsequently took on board – such as the South American companion app.
After the internship, Arthur will be employed on a part-time basis to continue developing the companion app.