Chris Fitzpatrick, manager of university relations and DEI at Crestron, loves his gig. Among other initiatives, he’s responsible for Crestron’s intern program.
“I have a front seat at the start of people’s careers. It’s like seeing a great band working on their chops in a small club before they get big,” he says.
Fitzpatrick is busier than ever — and not just from seasonal demands. “We had 72 interns in 2019,” he explains. “We saw fractional increases from there — 80 last year — but that’s risen to 110 in 2022.” Of that pool, Fitzpatrick expects that a minimum of 30 interns will eventually become full-time employees in Rockleigh, NJ; Plano, TX; or virtually. In 2021, Crestron’s intern force had representatives from 36 schools and 35 different majors.
The conversion rate is actually higher than the number represented above, however — since Crestron doesn’t wait for a student to become a rising, ready-to-graduate senior if an underclass student has demonstrated they’d make a fine addition to the staff, those already in the pipeline are part of the total. “Our conversion rate is likely closer to 50%,” says Fitzpatrick, noting that the company’s outreach also extends to veterans and active military in some cases.
Unlike some other companies, Crestron doesn’t necessarily rely on open positions when hiring those interns. The company will pursue talented candidates regardless of the available openings listed on Crestron.com. “A stream of new talent is key to the company’s success,” notes Fitzpatrick. “The next generation of the workforce brings in fresh ideas on everything from engineering to assisting in the development of Crestron’s Corporate Responsibility program — and Gen Z is acutely attuned to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
“Besides, an expanded head count can be a temporary situation in the current job market, after all,” he adds.
A Unique Intern Experience
Interns are never locked into singular career paths. Take the example of Crestron’s Rebecca Cirillo, who began interning in HR, but when she declared herself a marketing major she transitioned to the PR department — where she’s now employed as marketing communications specialist. “This allows us to break silos — talent is a fluid commodity, and Crestron addresses this at the outset,” says Fitzpatrick.
The intern program is also unique in some of the training that’s offered: Intern courses (for all departments) include soft-skill training and financial literacy, both of which are rarely addressed as part of a higher ed degree (especially the latter). In that financial literacy session, questions on 401k savings, student debt repayment plans, and the pros and cons of renting versus buying housing are addressed, among others.
In addition to traditional onboarding and “summer kickoff” events, “Appreciation Days” — which include highlights such as Executive Addresses from the C-suite — were celebrated on July 13 in Plano and July 20 in Rockleigh. Crestron’s Internal Career Fair then occurred July 27, just ahead of National Intern Day (July 28).
The summer program wraps with the INTERNNOVATION Expo on August 3 and 4, which is something of a “science fair.” “During my time as an intern, we had to come up with a pitch for a new vertical or use case that Crestron could approach or a new product to introduce,” says Kaylie Shaffer, who’s risen from intern to Crestron’s senior PR manager in just three years. “We each had a table in a career-fair set up where we’d do elevator pitches with slides, brochures, demos, and so on,” she explains. (The pandemic did require virtual attendance, and that’s continued now that the program reflects the hybrid nature of the broader Crestron workforce.)
Events like Expo illustrate the true mission of the program, says Shaffer. “It’s really hands-on. A Crestron internship is so much more than the stereotypical ‘go get the team coffee’ jobs one hears about,” she says.
In fact, employees like Shaffer are proof-positive that Crestron’s intern program is operating at an incredibly high level. As Commercial Integrator noted just before Shaffer became a full-time employee, “The bottom line is that most AV companies struggle to find their next generation of leaders, but Crestron doesn’t appear to have that problem.”
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