Freedom to Learn: Interns Thrive and Grow at Workiva
Helen Barton’s journey to a career in user experience design at Workiva started with a backpack.
While at the College of Design at Iowa State University, Barton spotted a classmate’s backpack emblazoned with the Workiva logo. While the company was familiar to Barton, she hadn’t considered the opportunities the Ames-based organization offered.
“I approached my classmate to ask about their experiences,” Barton said. “And after hearing about Workiva from a real person, I went to the career fair and learned more about the actual role I was interested in.”
But Barton’s internship experiences would end up being very different than anyone could have imagined.
“After Covid-19 hit, I was one of the first virtual classes of interns going into May 2020,” she said. “And so we worked hard to form connections in that virtual space.”
Despite the unpredictable situation during the early days of the pandemic, Barton was still able to engage deeply in meaningful work as an intern.
“A huge benefit of Workiva’s internship program is that you get to do real work,” she said. “We have the LINK conference, and I got to be part of the cross-functional team designing a new feature for customers. It was a chance for me as an intern to have an impact on a team and get some real work out to customers.”
WORKIVA’S LINK CONFERENCE
Barton’s cross-functional project at the LINK Conference became one piece of the UX design portfolio that she could bring with her into future interviews, at Workiva or elsewhere.
“That was a cool way to validate our skills. We developed a portfolio that we could share, and talk about the value that we bring as employees,” she said.
The value proposition she offered to Workiva landed Barton a role as a full-time associate on the UX design team and ultimately to the mid-level position she now holds. Today, Barton is helping to support new team members as internship recruitment ramps up with a focus on intentionally expanding representation across Workiva’s teams.
“Our business employee resource groups around different identities have a pillar related to recruitment and attracting talent,” Barton said. “We recognize there are areas that we haven’t necessarily recruited in thus far but would be wonderful additions to our company.”
Workiva is actively recruiting for their next class of interns — and Barton encouraged interested students and recent grads to apply.
“I think the chance for real experience amongst really amazing people will set future interns up to be fantastic at what they do and round them out as a person that’s growing and changing at the end of an undergrad or graduate degree,” she said.
“Workiva really sets interns up for success,” Engineering Manager Jacob Johnson said. “One of the things we talk a lot about is making sure our employees have the tools they need to do the work that they want to do.”
Some of the tools Workiva offers their interns include:
- Multiple locations, including four near university campuses and virtual
- Year-round and summer-only options
- Competitive compensation
- Updated technology, devices and software
- Mentorship and learning opportunities
- Workiva swag
Jacob Johnson, now an engineering manager, echoed Barton’s appreciation for the rich and varied opportunities that Workiva offered him while a student and intern.
“The internship wasn’t just an internship,” he said. “It was a real picture of what the life of a software engineer might be, and I think that’s true of all of the different internship positions. We try to provide people a real glimpse into what they would be doing.”
Johnson recalled being treated like a peer by full-time engineers in meetings and retrospectives early in his internship, which helped him imagine being on the team long-term. But real life at Workiva was more than the engineering experience, especially for a college student: There was also the cafeteria.
“The cafeteria is actually one of the first things I learned about Workiva,” he said. “Probably because my roommate, who interned before me with Workiva, sang its praises. Delicious food for an affordable price was very exciting. And I think it probably convinced me to approach Workiva at the career fair.”
Beyond the famous chocolate pudding and fresh-squeezed orange juice machine, Johnson appreciated the talent Workiva attracts across the company.
“There’s so many people who can specialize in different parts of what we build, that it allows us to build cool things. On top of that, the way that we do things is highly collaborative, and there’s also this culture of humility,” he said. “Those three things together are this perfect ingredient list. You have talented people who are accustomed to a collaborative style of work and then have the humility to support people asking questions. It makes this place a really good place to learn. And that’s probably my favorite thing about Workiva.”
Freedom to learn
The talented team at Workiva also made Chelsey Baysinger’s internship transformative for her professional journey.
“I felt welcomed and cared for,” Baysinger said. “People were always reaching out and asking, ‘Is there anything I can do for you? Are you finding the projects you’re working on engaging?’”
Informal relationship building and the more formal mentorship program built a safe foundation for Baysinger to grow. She’s now a senior engineering manager.
“I had the freedom to learn, explore and test things,” she said. “I felt validated in the work that I was doing without feeling pressure that I needed to perform quickly.”
According to Barton, supportive growth and development isn’t isolated to the internship program.
“There is a learning and growth phase after being an intern, too,” Barton said.
Sometimes those growth opportunities might help an intern understand that their strengths lie in another specialty.
“What I also really liked about the intern program was the flexibility to try other teams to get a feel for everything,” Baysinger said. “I’ve told people, ‘I think you’re a great fit at Workiva, but there might be other teams that you’d be an even greater fit for.’ And other teams have done that with us, too.”
Baysinger found Workiva through a college career fair and said that as the internship program’s reputation has grown, so have the lines at Workiva’s career fair booths.
“I think in my first year there were 20 interns,” Baysinger said. “And this summer we had over 150 interns. Some of them stay on throughout the school year, while some of them decide to go back to school.”
Many interns convert into full-time employees at Workiva. According to Johnson, former interns now in full-time roles feel the value of that investment and want to reciprocate by investing in current and future interns.
“Honestly, it’s a privilege to be a part of that process and to get to now go to career fairs and hire interns and mentor interns because it wasn’t that long ago that I was in that position,” he said.
Barton added, “Internships at Workiva build a sense of identity for people, whether it’s the collaboration, the value, the experience or the culture. A lot of us that were interns carry that forward into our full time roles.”
Workiva’s internship experience remains open for students and recent graduates seeking opportunities to grow — with endless learning opportunities (and chocolate pudding) along the way.
INTERNSHIP APPLICATION TIPS
“We get a lot of people who apply,” Baysinger said. “We recruit nationwide and consider all applicants, but going to the fairs is a great idea because it shows initiative and allows us to put a face to the name.”
Career fair and internship application details are available through Workiva’s externa careers page.