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At the dawn of summer 2013, Red Nova Labs recruited 13 new hires to meet the demands of a growing startup. Among the sea of new faces were Patrick McGannon and Russell White, two engineering interns from summer 2012 who were brought back for another three-month round of programming.

Though they spent their high school years united at Shawnee Mission East, college lead them to different routes. McGannon is approaching his junior year at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN), and White will begin his junior year at New Mexico Tech (Socorro, NM) this August.

Red Nova Labs CEO Dan Miller had a few thoughts in mind when creating the internship program. “There are too many companies sponsoring unpaid internships that are void of any authentic real world experience,” Miller says, “and there are too many college students taking them.” Miller empathizes with college students, remembering how difficult it is to decide on a career path before ever entering the job market. “I believe that internships should be worth more; students should get paid to work on things that matter, learn new skill sets, and ultimately see if they’re worth anything.”

With these thoughts in mind, Miller worked with CTO Robert Zhou to create a unique internship program. “We wanted to find people who were exceptional at learning new things and picking up skills with ease,” Zhou recalls. “They needed to be able to develop products that make an immediate, and important, impact.” In May 2013, McGannon and White were brought back to RNL to work on internal company products.

Such products included a number of different projects for McGannon. “I spent my summer developing an operations schedule page on Hubble (an analysis engine for large amounts of company data), programming an automated testing bot for Quality Assurance, and tracking down leads for the expanding sales team.” With McGannon’s ops schedule, the operations department of RNL has achieved an unprecedented level of productivity. The ops team uses McGannon’s tool daily to ensure optimal client satisfaction while the client base continues to grow.

The QA department reaped exciting benefits from McGannon’s programming. “With multiple new clients coming in every week, there comes an increase of monotonous clicking and checking,” says Quality Assurance specialist Ashley Sullins. With automated testing, Sullins can devote her development knowledge to bigger projects. “Every department affects the entire company,” recalls McGannon. “By bringing in more leads, the ops team needs a better way to organize website release schedules and the QA department needs a more efficient tool for testing those websites. Then all of this work flows back into the designing, writing, and engineering departments. It’s really cool to watch how my work made such a big difference.” McGannon is glad to opt out of the unpaid, ‘lackey’ jobs that many of his college buddies resort to.

White recollects his summer duties fondly. “With my web design projects I could instantly see results. I could see that what I was working on actually mattered to the people of this company.” White spent the majority of his summer improving the company’s internal tracking project: Hubble. “With Hubble, we can do one of the things every good business must do: track results.”

Hubble’s interface allows Red Nova Labs employees to access analytics of hundreds of client websites. The data aggregated into Hubble is used to track trends in web marketing. “We can understand, for each client website we develop, how many visitors and leads are coming in real-time. We can also look at the trends and pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t.” This process that White illustrates is essential for the success of a startup. Zhou has repeatedly been heard saying, “If we want to get better, we have to track how we’re doing and adjust to become better every day.”

Senior Web Developer William Kehr gladly attests to the effectiveness of the interns’ efforts after working closely with them throughout the summer. “When your business is in the industry of creating products for other businesses, it’s all too easy for your own projects to be put on the backburner.” The work that McGannon and White completed with Hubble, QA testing, and sales leads is essential for the backbone of Red Nova Labs.

“Both Patrick and Russell played integral roles in Red Nova Labs’ productivity, efficiency, and - ultimately - its success. The work they did directly benefited the sales team, the QA department, and the engineers in really big ways.” With McGannon and White manning the internal products, engineers like William Kehr, Tim Banks, and Eric Hankins could devote paramount energy to upcoming client products.

The pair of interns will leave Red Nova Labs with fond remembrances from the rest of the team. White’s recent post about The Value of Not Knowing captured the heart of Red Nova Labs’ culture and received many congratulations from coworkers.

So what does the future hold for these two interns? Miller eagerly shares the words that every college hopeful longs to hear: “We’ve already offered full-time positions to both of them.” White will be back upon graduation in two years and next summer will be the third year of interning for the pair.

When asked what he thought of the pair’s engineering abilities and future hires, Miller comments, “It’s really hard to find and keep good programmers. White and McGannon fit in great here and they’re the kind of people we’re always looking to hire.” Miller concludes his thoughts by comparing engineers to some unlikely counterparts. “Finding programmers is like finding artists; you never know what kind of people will walk through the door. But they could be amazing.”

Engineers and programmers interested in joining the Red Nova Labs internship program are encouraged to contact Tim Banks: tbanks [at] rednovalabs.com.