I was introduced to the idea of becoming a mentor in AvidXchange’s new college internship program in early Spring this year. AvidXchange was embarking on a program to provide a valuable and meaningful learning experience to promising college students, with hopes that they would consider AvidXchange for permanent employment following graduation. The opportunity sounded intriguing, though I immediately felt that little wave of unsettled discomfort that usually accompanies a venture into challenging and unfamiliar territory.
I had never played the mentor/teacher role, but I felt I’ve always had a knack for teaching new concepts –it goes along with my love of learning. The 4 new employees (1 permanent, and 3 interns) would start in early June, still a couple of months into the future. So I had some time to reflect on my own college internship experience, think about the skills the guys would need – both technical and professional, and consider what it would take to make it all work.
I had my work cut out for me. Two of my guys would be completing their freshman/sophomore year, the other guys would have graduate degrees, all in Computer Science. So, they would have disparate skill levels. Two of the guys would be from China, so communication might be a challenge. Fortunately, they had already succeeded in overcoming that barrier –evidence of a stellar work ethic. I would be working in a company about which I knew very little of their operations and culture. What would be expected of them? Of me?
Once the gig began, I had two weeks to familiarize myself with AvidXchange before the undergrads (Jeremy and Shakeel) started, followed a week later by Qiyue(Derek) and Weijie(Daniel). Fortunately, I was greeted by a company full of exceptionally supportive and enthusiastic people. They helped me get to know the people, the business, the processes, the organization, and the technologies. From there, it would be a matter of creating some sample software applications that would help the new guys accelerate their knowledge and merge into the fast lane.
I have come to learn that a company’s culture is defined at the top, and it permeates the organization. It soon became clear that AvidXchange had done a great job of filling itself with the right kind of people and that would greatly contribute to a successful outcome. I have been very impressed by the commitment and involvement on the part of the management and staff. Meetings meant to guide the program are regularly attended by the CIO, with key representatives from all the delivery teams. My guys have responded with terrific effort, which has been publicly acknowledged and commended several times. When the program concludes the Summer 2013 session, they will have made their mark by contributing real value to AvidXchange by adding new features to the actual production system. That feeling of unsettled discomfort has long since given way to contented sense of accomplishment.