Jod Kaftan

An agile internship model that moves at the speed of business

It’s long past time we made internships a win-win for both interns and businesses. At Fjord, we’re taking a fresh look at how internships can deliver tangible, meaningful value for both parties — genuine learning opportunities for interns and shorter periods that don’t put strain on companies’ resources. We’ve partnered with the University of Southern California and their in-house incubator, Blackstone LaunchPad, which offers students a rolling immersion program where they’re invited to concept and shape an original body of thought over two weeks.

Time for change

Outdated programs have too often put the onus on interns to ask for projects and to achieve something that means something for their future careers. Many have found themselves in busy working environments where people can’t make time to invest in their experience. In these cases, the short-sighted business also misses out on young people’s insights and raw ways of thinking.

While a two-week immersion opportunity may seem like a whirlwind, we believe in its power to offer a much more valuable experience to interns, while easing the pressure on company resources. Old models required long-term commitments that are included in the headcount on balance sheets, so that they end up competing against the urgency to hire full-time employees.

How it works

The new program we envision begins with a four-week design inquiry in three collaborating Fjord studios on the west coast of the US (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle). The aim is to come up with a series of “How might we…?” questions that an intern can work to find possible answers for, so that they can author a perspective, a prototype and a way forward — with help and encouragement from Fjord designers.

By working with USC’s Blackstone LaunchPad, we’ll have access to a broad student body with a diverse mix of relevant backgrounds, including engineering, business, anthropology, urban planning and policy. This makes perfect sense for Fjord, because we know that our best work is done by interdisciplinary teams with a broad range of skills. We know these students will enrich Fjord’s aspirations and knowledge, while giving us the chance to show a future generation of leaders how we work, with design thinking at the heart of our projects.

Every day’s a school day

Regardless of how much experience they may or may not have at this stage in their careers, we believe that — as digital natives — this generation can inject unpredictable, compelling ideas. That makes this arrangement a two-way learning experience: yes, we’re committed to helping interns learn more about design in practice, but we’re also hoping to learn from them.

Bringing in fresh, bold perspectives from aspiring and daring young minds is a fantastic way to keep Fjordians on a lifelong path of learning, in pursuit of the bolder future we’re all working toward.



Jod Kaftan

More Stories from Fjord