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Oracle MBX: Oracle uses interns and grads to encourage others into Stem

Oracle has been working with interns and graduates to help train the next generation of tech experts and use them as role models for others

Interns and graduates at Oracle have been encouraged to talk to other young people about careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) to inspire more to consider following that path.

Three of the firm’s interns spoke at the Oracle Modern Business Experience (MBX) event to explain what projects they had been working on during their time with the company, which included an outreach programme to talk about why they thought it was important for others to pursue Stem careers.

“We want more people to study Stem degrees,” said Leah Kulkhanjian, one of Oracle’s cloud programme specialist interns, a history and media undergraduate. “If they were interested in taking on a Stem degree, it would give them different opportunities.”

Many believe creativity can help businesses to be innovative, and that creativity will help to prevent some job losses caused by automation.

Kulkhanjian, who is studying humanities at university, said she feels the combination of studying an arts degree while gaining digital and technical experience in her internship is bringing her a “balance” of skills.

“Stem is now expanded to Steam, with the ‘A’ standing for art,” she said. “Sometimes you do need that different creative side to collaborate with the tech because people naturally think one-sidedly.”

Many fear that creativity, which is considered just as important as code to the future of technology, is being left behind, and that people’s skills as individuals are often not considered during the hiring process.

John Abel, senior business director of Oracle Engineered Systems in EMEA, who leads many of Oracle’s interns, said that when looking for interns, the firm considers more than just candidates’ degress, have but also “people’s natural skills and capabilities”.

“We never just go for the degrees that you think we would want at Oracle,” he said. “We want different mindsets – we want people to think differently.”

One of the ways Oracle tries to recruit interns and realise people’s capabilities is through hackathons, said Abel. “One of the things that’s really important for us at Oracle is the next generation and we need to invest in it,” he said.

“We are looking for people who think differently. I’m not looking for the best presenter [at hackathons]. I’m interested in getting a graduate intern to give us an answer that we didn’t see – imagine how that would benefit our customers.”

Diverse talent pipeline

Having more diversity in an organisation can make businesses more innovative and profitable because it introduces different schools of thought that help a business to reflect its customer base better.

Abel said many firms focus only on a small segment of diversity, such as gender or ethnicity, but other types of people are important to include to reap the benefits of diverse thought, such as socio-economic background or neurodiversity.

“The whole area of diversity everyone looks at is the things you can see, not the things you can’t see,” he said.

Abel said business is moving away from an “industrial era where it’s all processes and very mechanical” to a “tribal era” where teams use a mix of skills. “Coming at things from a different angle is so powerful for businesses,” he added.

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At Oracle, interns are allocated a mentor within the business to coach them. Abel said it is important for businesses to realise that not only are their employees helping graduates to gain skills, but this activity also helps the managers change and adapt to the next generation of workers.

“What we’re always interested in is feedback – it’s the way we learn,” he said. “People who are more established in their career are setting a new bar for themselves.”

There are various points along the technology pipeline where people may decide to pursue other things, and some young people will start up their own venture if they do not see themselves fitting in because of out-of-date technology or a non-inclusive culture.

One of the main benefits of having interns and graduates is the impact they can have on changing the business, business culture and business politics, said Abel, as well as helping to remind businesses how younger people are using technology and what they want from the workplace.

“It’s fantastic working with the next generation now because it is changing the mindset of all of our employees,” he said. “For a lot of our emerging technology, we have to use the next generation for capability.”

Opportunities for young people

More and more employers are looking for people with soft skills as well as the technical skills needed for roles.

Abel said many of Oracle’s interns are “much more advanced in business etiquette” than he had been at that age, and the firm sees more benefit in treating interns like any other team member.

At Oracle MBX, interns Leah Kulkhanjian, Lahini Sivaganseshan and Ismail Syed spoke alongside Abel at one of the keynotes as presenters, talking about their work on internal projects as members of existing teams.

Kulkhanjian said they had “no idea” of the number of opportunities that would be open to them as interns, and that they had been “spoilt”. Sivaganseshan said the experience had been “hands on” and that they had been “closely involved” in the business and some of its projects.

As the UK’s skills crisis continues, companies are increasingly finding themselves in a competition for talent.

The hope is that interns will return as graduates after their year at Oracle, and eventually end up as team members.

Ismail Syed, who is working at Oracle as an intern in big data analytics, said the internship had given him a “really good indication of where I want to go in the future”.

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