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Ask a Samba TV Expert: How to Provide a Valuable International Intern Program in a Pandemic

The pandemic has impacted businesses in a variety of ways as we’ve had to navigate the transition to a fully remote staff and updating recruiting and onboarding practices in this new virtual setting. For the past three summers, Samba TV’s engineering team creates and the recruiting team launches a paid 12-week immersive student internship program. We were committed to ensuring that this year’s program would be just as valuable to our team and the interns themselves, despite the challenges that come with a remote work environment. 

Having once being an intern myself and since running several intern programs, we’ve homed in on three core elements that we’ve found provide true impact to interns joining the Samba TV family:

  • Immersive Experience. Many interns are new to working in their field. It’s essential to provide a well-rounded opportunity to see how a company’s organization operates, including access to mentorship, the ability to contribute to important company developments, and guidance on how to set projects and goals.
  • Autonomy. As interns are learning how best to work in an international department, it’s important to allow autonomy in their projects. With careful mentoring and guidance, the autonomy to fully own a project with real value to the company can prove not only beneficial to the project’s success, but can be a valuable learning experience to aid in their future work.
  • Collaboration. In a normal work environment, it’s crucial to reinforce collaboration and foster a healthy environment to reinforce their welcome contributions to the team. This is even more critical when the teams are remote-based. These early experiences in collaboration and effective communication across multiple team members is an essential skill set that can be put into practice long beyond this first role. 

We knew things would be different as we approached this year’s summer engineering internship program, but we were dedicated to providing these three crucial elements to our remote interns.

In the spring, our international engineering teams voiced their commitment to continuing the summer internship program and expressed interest in bringing on interns to play an important role in creating next-generation products that power our global TV data engine. Before we started the recruitment process, we worked with the team managers to plan how to best onboard interns in a remote work environment, design projects that accelerate their growth, and give them valuable experiences.

After receiving 800+ applicants, countless manual code reviews, live technical challenges, and phone calls, we selected four bright candidates to work alongside four different teams across our San Francisco and Warsaw offices.

We checked in with them as the summer program came to a close and are excited to share a peek into their successful projects and experiences over the last three months.

Jessica – Measurement and Performance

A graduate student at the University of California, San Diego and graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Jessica joined our research scientists in the Measurement and Performance team to work on an innovative and cutting-edge artificial intelligence project. Leveraging the skills and frameworks she’d been learning in her Master’s program, Jessica contributed to an advanced computer vision project that used deep learning, instrumental for Samba TV as we continue to lead the industry in viewership measurement innovation.

“This internship has shown me how teams organize goals and code. Every team meeting gives me new ideas.”

Sylvia – Capture

A graduating fourth-year student at the University of California, Berkeley, Sylvia joined our Capture team. She had previous freelance experience on her resume, but this was the first time she’d been able to work and collaborate within an international team located in San Francisco and Warsaw. Sylvia leveraged the mentorship she received within her team to build technology that more intelligently organizes our media on Amazon Web Services, significantly streamlining our efficiency.

“The most useful skill I’ve learned is working with existing code – being able to read and understand how things work. I look at my teammates like mentors.”

Raymond – TV Platform (Embedded Systems)

A second-year student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a top 20 physics student in the U.S., Raymond joined our TV Platform (Embedded Systems) team. His team was split between San Francisco and Taipei, so communication skills and fostered collaboration were essential. Raymond was responsible for owning and building a tool to routinely check the quality of fingerprints we receive from our Automatic Content Recognition technology embedded in millions of TVs across the world.

“This was my first internship experience and I didn’t know what to expect. I learned a lot of tools and good coding practices.”

Piotr – Core Services

A third-year student at Politechnika Warszawska (Warsaw University of Technology), Piotr joined our Core Services team. Due to Warsaw’s reduction of COVID-19 cases, he was our only intern to be able to work alongside his team members in the office three times a week. Piotr developed the front and backend of a web application to help us keep track of our Amazon Web Services costs. The collaborative environment and encouraged autonomy led him to implement machine learning models to detect and alert us to cost fluctuations of our cloud resources.

“I’ve been learning a lot of things I find to be useful, which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve also been able to practice my English with other team members because this is an international company.”

Important to any employee is recognition and gratitude for their contributions within a company. As the internships came to a close, our managers gave the interns a platform to present their projects to the rest of the engineering organization. Their projects and ideas will have everlasting benefits for Samba TV.

As we continue to navigate this new working environment, we’re proud of the focus our engineering team gave to this year’s intern program and impressed by the interns’ creativity and collaboration embodied in their projects. 

While we look to close out this unique year and have an eye to the uncertain work environment for 2021, we’ll continue to look for opportunities to build out our three key elements to foster successful intern programs across departments and countries.


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