Double your team with interns in a different time zone


Partnering with the Red Hat Collaboratory and Boston University

Teaching is one of the best ways to truly learn something. If you’ve ever wondered about bringing on interns as a way of developing your team, exploring new areas and opportunities, and giving back to the open source community, this story is for you.

On June 1, 2018, the AI Center of Excellence (AI CoE) will welcome 10 new Red Hatters from Boston University (BU) as interns in the Boston office. Given the AI CoE has an existing team size of 11 (as of the writing of this article), we were presented with a number of challenges:

  1. How do we manage our new team members in Boston when
    • a) they equal our current full-time staff in volume and
    • b) they are all in Boston while 73% of the current team is elsewhere with 45% residing in a time zone with a +6 hour time difference
  2. How do we continue to deliver on the team objectives and deadlines
  3. Accomplish these things all the while ensuring a positive internship experience for the BU students and Red Hat

This is the story of how we plan to make this happen.

Some Guiding Principles

In defining how to address the situation, we started with a few simple guiding principles:



Work assignments should be able to be completed within the timeframe of the internship.

Why? A couple of reasons:

  • Nobody wants somebody’s half-eaten bagel, ergo nobody wants to inherit somebody’s half-finished project at the end of an internship.  
  • We felt it would provide a better experience for the interns if they could point to something they completed during their time with us.
  • This method would give us an improved ability to assess the interns’ skills for consideration in converting the individuals to full-time associates.


Work assignments should not involve dependencies outside of our primary control.

Here’s why:

  • Chasing down dependencies would take valuable time and likely require one of the primary AI CoE team members to accomplish. On a small scale, this could be managed, but on a larger scale, this could become a massive headache.
  • Depending on the nature of the dependency, it could violate Principle 1.
  • And again, this method would give us an improved ability to assess the interns’ skills for consideration in converting individuals to full-time associates (are you starting to see the theme here).


Work assignments should be organized into “intern projects,” and “intern projects” should align to a team project and be well documented to describe the scope, business value, success criteria, project team roles, and required resources.

Why bother with this level of effort?

  • We wanted to make sure the expectations were clear from the beginning for all the interns regarding what they would be working on and how to measure progress.
  • This approach allowed us to organize the interns into small groups which could then be assigned a lead. This simulates our current project work structure and allowed us to employ the current team leads.
  • If a group finishes their initial project, they can move on to another project on the list.
  • And finally, this method would give us an improved ability to assess the interns’ skills for consideration in converting individuals to full-time associates.

Once we got this far, we needed to figure out how to condense the normally weeks-long ramp-up time it takes to get acclimated to Red Hat after New Hire Orientation (NHO) into something that allowed the interns to get started on their projects immediately.  This meant getting the interns introduced to the AI CoE team mission, objectives, working environment, and technologies, while also getting them comfortable with the team projects, working structure, and team members. One of the biggest hurdles we had to overcome was dealing with the time zone distribution of the team.

Intern Boot Camp: Productive right away

The answer we arrived at has become known as the Intern Bootcamp. The program has been set up to start immediately following NHO, runs for five consecutive days, and brings together all of the interns and the team members in a single location. This year NHO is on a Friday, which means the Intern Bootcamp starts the following Monday in the Boston office. During these five days, the interns will be given presentations about all of the topics above. Additionally, we are working with other teams at Red Hat, such as Jen Krieger’s Agile team, to provide training on industry-relevant practices for the interns.

Following a day and half of AI CoE-specific orientation presentations, the project teams will be assigned and the project leads will break off with their teams (fellow interns and full-time team members) to kick off the intern project work for the next 2 and half days. This approach provides the added bonus of pulling a widely distributed team who otherwise only sees each other on BlueJeans together for a set of collaborative sessions in addition to giving the interns dedicated time to become familiar with their projects and teams.

Throughout the interns’ time at Red Hat, they will give regular updates to the project teams. They will also give two larger scale presentation updates to their peers and a review panel of experts midway and at the end of the program in August.

Help build the Boot Camp, send your interns, or plan a boot camp of your own

Now that we have our operating structure defined, we are actively:

As we get closer to June, we will select the projects we want to have worked on and fill out the project scope document.

If you are interested in seeing what we are putting into the project scope documents, here is an example from one project already underway with an intern that joined us early.

  • If you have a project idea you want to share, please send us your ideas.
  • If the current program agenda meets your needs and you want your intern(s) to work on one of our projects, we are happy to include others in the current program and involve them in the current projects. In this mode, you would still manage your intern(s), but the day-to-day of their project work would be handled by the project team.
  • If you would like to participate in the general sessions and have your own technical tracks for your team’s projects, we can work together to define the track contents and include your interns in the general sessions. In this mode, you would manage your intern(s) and their project work.
  • If you want to organize and run your own Bootcamp, feel free to use the materials here.

If you have questions about any of this, please let Steve Huels or Hugh Brow know via our contact form.