American university MIT is one of the best in the world. Attracting an intern from this fine institution might seem impossible for a Danish start-up. The opposite is true. Thanks to MIT’s international trainee programme MIT-MISTI, the Copenhagen Science City-based company “Livingroom Analytics” found their MIT intern without even leaving Denmark… And the experience proved highly valuable. By Jes Andersen.
Intern came with hard-to-find skills
Livingroom Analytics provide a platform to measure and manage employee experience. For companies that buy the tool it is crucial that their staff will trust measurements to improve their work situation. Otherwise, they might not use it fully. This requires an engaging tool that allows users to feel secure, explains founder and CEO Roar Vejter Bovim.
We wanted to add Artificial Intelligence to our platform to increase engagement. We also needed to build in stronger anonymity so users can completely trust our platform. Both tasks required skills we were having trouble finding in Denmark. Being approached by MIT-MISTI was something of a godsend”: Roar V. Bovim, founder and CEO, Livingroom Analytics.
Copenhagen sounded pretty cool
For forty years, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has provided international work experience to its students through the programme MIT-MISTI. In 2019 MISTI expanded to include internships in Denmark and Copenhagen Science City has helped the programme find start-ups from day one. For Brian Li the MISTI programme was a deciding factor in applying to MIT.
I had been thinking about an internship in France, but then I heard about Copenhagen, about Denmark’s focus on sustainability and the challenge presented by Livingroom Analytics. I thought that sounded pretty cool”: Brian Li, Undergraduate student at MIT majoring in electrical engineering and computer science with a minor in mechanical engineering.
Cultural experience despite great distance
MIT-MISTI internships usually run for ten weeks over summer. When Livingroom Analytics were approached by MIT-MISTI they jumped at the chance to get an intern with Brian Li’s skillset. Company and intern both hoped for a physical internship. Unfortunately, the COVID situation in August 2021forced Brian Li to stay in the US, but even at some 5,800 kilometers (3,600 miles) he got a feel for Danish work culture.
I had hoped for independence because that’s what everyone told me was a given in Danish work culture. Still, I was surprised by how much freedom I was given and how much my supervisor, Roar, respected my opinions and expertise”: Brian Li, undergraduate student, MIT.
Continuous effort to include distant intern
For Roar Bovim, trusting the student Brian Li came naturally. He quickly discovered that this MIT sophomore had insight, work ethics and problem-solving skills comparable to PHD-level Danes he was used to working with. Bovims’ main challenge was to make sure, that Li felt included on the team despite the daunting distance.
My company exists to help employers instil a sense of purpose and belonging in their staff, so I wish I could say that I had re-invented the on-line inclusion wheel. All I can say is, that it would have been easier, if the internship had been physical. I continually developed my interaction with Brian to make him feel included, and I do believe I improved along the way”: Roar V. Bovim, founder and CEO, Livingroom Analytics.
Valuable experience for company and student alike
The CEO and supervisor must have done something right. At the time of writing, Christmas 2021, Brian Li is still helping Livingroom Analytics. Now as a valued part-time staffer. And the intern? Brian Li is dreaming of starting his own company. Maybe in Denmark.
Roars pro tips for employers wanting an MIT intern
Create a clearly defined project for the intern
Be prepared to expand the project. MIT students work faster than you think.
Spend time on on-boarding and training
Pencil in weekly follow-up meetings between intern and supervisor
Devote at least ¼ full time equivalent for intern supervision. More if on-line
Brian’s pro tips for employers
Make the intern feel welcome and valued
Learn from the intern
Communicate your goals and time constraints clearly
Revisit expectations along the way
Small things make a difference. Add photo of intern to company website. Have non-work conversations. Give (small) gifts to show appreciation.