As our culture shifts to accommodate social distancing, most professionals are busy adjusting to a new work-from-home lifestyle. For many within the startup community, however, much of their work is business as usual. Working remotely has been the norm for Michael Leo since 2006. Leo owns Kettle River Consulting, a software company that believes “boring software rules.”

Kettle River’s approach to client applications is to keep things simple wherever possible, robust wherever necessary, predictable for the sake of consistency and always secure.

Kettle River’s team is pretty small, and as their client base grows, so do their project demands. That’s why last summer, Leo decided to turn to the SciTech Internship Program to hire a software development intern to help tackle some of their increased workload.

No office? No problem!
As a state-funded program, and part of DEED’s many workforce initiatives, SciTech acts as a free resource to small business owners, providing them access to some of Minnesota’s top STEM talent and reimbursing employers for half their interns’ wages (up to $2,500 per student hired). This makes it easier for startups to hire more interns or offer competitive pay. The program also provides college students with visibility to multiple industries, hands-on experience, and the opportunity to work in their fields with hundreds of small companies across the state.

That’s how Josh Plantz, a computer science and major at the University of Minnesota Duluth, came to work with Kettle River. At the time of his internship, Plantz was 19 years old and about to graduate with his bachelor’s degree. His advanced academic career and knowledge of the C++ and Java coding languages helped him stand out as an ideal candidate. The fact that he was double majoring in mathematics was an added plus.

“Math majors are really good coders,” Leo said.

“Math in general is great for problem solving,” Plantz agreed. “You’re more likely to look for the most efficient path.”

Plantz applied his problem solving skills to several software projects over the summer. The first involved partnering with Mankato State University and MNDoT to develop an archeological database. Getting to meet with archeologists from the University to test the software, Plantz said, was one of the highlights of his experience.

Focus and Communication
From working on software for childcare providers to developing and testing mobile apps, Plantz’ projects involved a lot of on-the-job learning, sometimes with coding languages and programs that he needed to teach himself.

“Working remote was different than what I expected,” Plantz recalled. “It required a lot of self-motivation.”

Plantz estimated that 95 percent of his internship was done remotely, but with regular communication through Slack, he stayed connected to the team where he collaborated with his fellow Kettle River programmers and asked for help when he needed it.

Now graduated, Plantz is working full time for Kettle River. Leo is still using the program to strengthen his small business workforce. Their newest SciTech intern, Brandon Salmon, lives in Rochester, Minnesota and has never met Leo face-to-face. He interviewed over GotoMeeting, signed his contracts digitally and is now fully immersed in his work assignments.

Small businesses who might be feeling overwhelmed should look to Kettle River Consulting and its model approach to remote internships and hiring.  

Get involved
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