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Alan Kotok , , ,

12 Student Interns @ 1 Month = 4X Productivity

Linux software vendor Ksplice tells how they conquered a difficult management problem with a unique staffing approach: Hire interns. In December of 2009 the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found itself with a host of pending engineering projects outside of its core business functions, and it needed to complete these projects quickly for a new product launch last month.

Ksplice’s solution: hire a dozen student interns from nearby MIT — for one month. Each intern was assigned one of the company’s pending projects to complete in that period of time. Adding the 12 interns quadrupled the size of its engineering staff. In a blog post yesterday, Ksplice says all 12 of the interns completed their tasks.

How did Ksplice do it? The company is located in the shadow of MIT and founded by MIT alumni, which helped Ksplice locate and hire the best talent. It also helped that MIT sets aside the month of January for students to pursue independent activities Here are a few other tips that Ksplice offers companies considering a similar project:

Pay well. If you want the best talent in a place like Cambridge, you have to pay for it. Ksplice says it pegged its compensation to the high-end of prevailing pay rates for on-campus jobs.

 – Devise the tasks to be as self-contained as possible. Because each of the assignments involved tasks outside the Ksplice’s core technology, the interns did not have to become super-familiar with Ksplice’s systems. Instead, they could concentrate on solving their specific problems, with minimal ramp-up time

Design the interns’ projects in advance. Ksplice had to plan this intern project carefully to make it work. Before hiring the interns, they had to plan the interfaces between each task and the company’s core technology so that they could give the interns specific targets to meet.

Tolerate a little crowding. Ksplice works in a suite of two rooms, into which all 12 interns piled for a month. A photo on the company blog shows the interns at work. It is evident they got to know each other very, very well.

Hat tip: Ed Dodds