The Engineering Lifestyle, Part II

Continuing in our Engineering Lifestyle series, we are going to touch this week on the topic of "giving back." Here on the engineering team and within ReadyTalk in general, we really try to give back to the community in many ways. From an engineering standpoint, we love to give back to the local academic community. Being located in Denver, we're surrounded by several great universities, and many of our engineers graduated from local universities.

The first thing we focus on every summer is welcoming into the team a handful of interns, both for software engineering and quality assurance. Our recruiting efforts are always focused on local career fairs, and we've been especially lucky with the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado. This year we expect to hire around 4 or 5 interns throughout engineering, with at least one of those being a QA intern. Our typical approach has been to get an intern involved in learning about ReadyTalk, while turning them loose to work on something that is really interesting to them. The intern projects are not typically related to our production service, although they may work on things that indirectly impact our production service such as Avian. Our goal for internships is two-fold: we want the interns to get benefit from the work and learn something that they will be able to use as they continue down the path of a career in Computer Science, and we want them to get a taste for what working at a great company is really all about. We want them to get back to school and talk to all their friends about how great the ReadyTalk engineering department is and how much they learned from their internship. This is always a great thing and leads to more interest in our internship program year after year. To date, we've hired 3 of our summer interns full-time immediately following their graduation, and we'd love to see that trend continue.

The second way we give back to academia is to sponsor a senior project team each year. This year, we are sponsoring a team of 5 seniors from CU Boulder. The way the process works is: we submit a project idea to the university and the senior CS students get into teams and pick a project to work on for their senior project. This project is required for each senior at CU Boulder to graduate from the CS degree program. The student team works with us to understand the project requirements and what the deliverables should be, but they are given quite a bit of creative latitude in what they deliver. Our engineering teams meets with the student team every 2 weeks to go over any questions they have, give advice on how to implement certain things, or to answer any programming or code related questions. This is a year long effort, where the first half of the senior year is focused on planning and requirements, and the second half of the senior year is focused on implementation.

It's always a great thing to be able to give back to the community, especially when you can be supportive of higher education in the process. We love to see up and coming computer science and QA engineers get great working experience that will help them succeed when they get to the big-time, and we try to help in every way possible. What successful ways have you seen software development companies giving back, or do you have suggestions of additional things that ReadyTalk could look at implementing?

Jason Collins (aka JC) is the VP of Engineering at ReadyTalk and the self-appointed Chief Happiness Officer. He's been either writing code or managing engineers for nearly 15 years and has a passion for technology and agile development practices. The happiness of the engineering team is his top priority and he can usually be found wearing a ReadyTalk cape and the infamous "idea helmet" around the office to help keep people entertained. When he's not hanging out with his work family, he's at home with his wife and four boys doing all sorts of geeky things, like playing video games and watching campy Sci-Fi and Action flicks.

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