Salesforce is re-creating the tech intern pipeline

Salesforce announced it will launch a pre-intership program called Futureforce Launchpad to recruit more diverse tech workers earlier in their careers.

A group of Salesforce interns.

The program kicks off with its first cohort of 25 pre-interns in June.

Photo: Salesforce

Salesforce announced in a blog post today that it will launch its first ever “pre-internship” program called Futureforce Tech Launchpad. The program is designed to recruit rising college juniors from underrepresented backgrounds in partnership with CodePath, a non-profit focused on increasing diversity in the tech industry.

The program, which kicks off with its first cohort of 25 pre-interns in June, comes at a time when many tech companies are seeking to find new solutions to diversify the talent pipeline. While some companies have put additional resources into upskilling and apprenticeship programs, Salesforce’s Futureforce Launchpad program takes more of a preemptive approach — upskilling employees for technical roles two years before they even receive their bachelor degrees.

The pre-internship program functions much like a boot camp or apprenticeship, providing hands-on technical training and capstone projects, as well as mentorship from Salesforce employees. And unlike many tech internships over the past two years which have been remote due to the pandemic, the 10-week pre-internship will take place in person at the company’s San Francisco Salesforce Tower.

In partnership with CodePath, Salesforce will be able to connect with its over 70 university partners, which include a number of HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs). CodePath will do the work of helping to identify computer science and engineering students to participate in the Futureforce Tech Launchpad.

HBCUs, HSIs and community colleges have all proven to be major sources for diverse tech talent, and tech companies have taken note. Recent data from the Kapor Center found that 10% of all Black computer science majors with conferred degrees in 2020 graduated from an HBCU, and 35% came from community colleges.

Nathalie Scardino, Salesforce’s global head of Recruiting, spoke with Protocol about why the organization has chosen to launch the program now, and how the nature of tech internships has changed over the past several years.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Why launch a pre-internship program now and where did the idea come from?

The last two years in the recruiting space we've been faced with a completely new reality. You think about the acceleration of digital transformation and really integrating all of the digital technology into every area of our business, and so how we deliver value to our customers has fundamentally shifted. And as a result, we have this need for digital skills which are in short demand. Our candidates and our job seekers are reevaluating what's important to them and they also have choices in this very hot market. And so as a recruiting team, we've completely had to shift our mindset and where we source talent from … [and] a big part of what we're talking about today is creating those new pathways and equal access, which is at the heart of this work as well.

We're investing in talent solutions and programs like our Futureforce University recruiting program. And over the next couple of years we're really focused on cultivating the next generation of leaders at Salesforce, which also happens to be some of our most diverse and global employees of the company coming from the Futureforce program today. Currently, 80% of eligible interns in our program are actually converted to full time. We also increased our direct hiring of new grads into full-time opportunities by over 60% year over year, again, really speaking to the demand of increasing those digital skills.

Was Salesforce accepting rising juniors prior to this year or is this their first opportunity to get in this early?

This is their first opportunity to get in this early. We've talked about it for a while, but it's never fully been programatized. And our focus has just been on different parts of the journey and the experience. But yes, this is why it's so important to us because it's so new for our engineering students.

A pre-internship is a concept that I think people are really going to grab on to as an idea. How does a pre-internship differ from a traditional internship? Walk me through the major differences between the two programs that you have.

I think for us it’s meeting people where they are at any given time in their early stage career, and that means that there are multiple tracks. The way that the industry has worked so far is leading graduates into internships. But for us, it's about the pipeline, it's about creating access early on. It is curriculum building for newer students to understand Salesforce and our value proposition as well. For us, the key thing here is that we really do want our pre-interns to become interns and ultimately full-time employees at Salesforce. So it's almost like an accelerator into an internship with that hands-on experience.

I think at the macro level, what is a little bit different is that initially they will be more [like] generalists. You will work on specific projects as a team, and then they will go into some more specific teams to get into more hands-on experience related to certain products or technology or software. But it's a little bit more general than the full intern experience that we have today.

You have been at Salesforce for 10 years and you've probably seen internship programs change and shift over that time as well. From your perspective, what's something you'd like to see more of as it relates to these tech- and skill-focused internships, and what's something that you'd like to see less of?

From my perspective in my role I think there has been a strong pivot to an apprentice hands-on experience that is very relevant to doing the job. And that is a shift. That is different. Also, I feel like the amount of innovation that comes from students that make its way into some of our core product design and engineering capabilities is incredible, and I don’t know that that’s always been open to interns. So not only is there an expectation that the student is coming in and will learn, it shifts now that the tech company is equally going to learn from the students and our Gen Z community. So I think the learning dynamics have changed a little bit and it feels more fair and equitable in today's approach. I think that is a big shift in internships for sure.

What are you hearing or seeing that Gen Z interns want out of an internship that differs from prior generations?

Well, I think it goes back to flexibility. They want to work on things that our customers care about. Innovation is such a big part of the Gen Z workforce. They want to work on things that are mission led that will make an impact in the world, and that is a criteria and the way that we're being assessed. They ask us about our values around equality, around sustainability, the future use of AI as it relates to product roadmap. They're so much more clued up than I ever was. And, again, they want to really work with a company that has relevant products for the world that we're operating in not just today, but [in] the future.

It sounds like prospective interns in general are moving with more purpose and intention. Is that right?

Absolutely. They provide just a different perspective and it couldn't be more relevant now to be an intern in tech because really they are the people that are defining what a great future leader looks like … I don't think there's ever been a better time to be an intern in the tech space because you have a more prominent voice than ever before.

The pre-internship seems like a way to avoid having to upskill more people later. Is that part of your thinking here — train now so you don't have to train later? Can you share how you're thinking about how this relates to upskilling?

I think that's absolutely right. Again, going back to the beginning of the shortage for digital skills with the acceleration of technology. We're providing the students with a curriculum so that they're going to leave after 10 weeks, but be better prepared to come back to the Futureforce internship the next summer. We're trying to accelerate their path at the same time.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories