A Case Study: Internships Key to Aware’s Talent Strategy

For Aware, a Columbus-based startup that helps enterprises make collaboration platforms more secure, college internships are an integral aspect of the company’s talent strategy.

Aware hires interns every summer. This summer they employed five interns from the inaugural cohort of the Rev1 Innovation Internship Program. The Internship Program connects diverse student talent with startups in Central Ohio with the goal of helping students prepare for jobs in high-growth, technology businesses, as well as building talent pipelines for startups.

“Aware brings interns in to impact our business,” said Missy Perdue, people operations manager at Aware. “We have leadership buy-in across the company. We are intentional and committed to the partnership. Interns help with on-going projects as well as creating and launching impactful tools to strengthen our business. They play an integral role.”

At Aware, Interns Are Team Members from Day One

Aware is a business created to address compliance, data governance, and human behavior risk within enterprise collaboration networks. Customers include many large financial services firms as well as international brands including AstraZeneca, Keurig, and more.

“Any company that uses tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Workplace from Facebook, or Yammer, are great candidates for Aware,” said Sarah Casdorph, manager of demand generation at Aware. “We offer risk management, governance and qualitative insights for companies. If they want to make sure these tools are used safely and understand how their employees are using the tool, Aware can help.”

This was the second summer that Casdorph has managed summer interns. Two Rev1 interns were assigned to her 2020 team: Alex Davessar, who is an undergraduate specializing in software entrepreneurship at OSU and Hannah Kenney, who recently graduated from Ohio University in organizational communication, marketing and entrepreneurship. Both have already started their own businesses.

“I was continuously amazed by the caliber of these university students,” Casdorph said. She built a framework with the two interns, and “once they understood the objective or challenge, they took the project and ran with it,” she said.

“We have strong leaders at Aware who believe in giving people meaningful work. Alex  supported demand generation.Hannah handled social media and content marketing. At Aware, everyone owns a piece of the strategy. Both of them were rock stars. They are resourceful and scrappy. I can’t speak highly enough of the interns from Rev1,” said Casdorph.

Hannah Kenney says that her internship was meaningful from day one. Casdorph gave her projects and checked in briefly every day.

“My first week, we were talking about understanding how to write a blog. I ended up publishing five and have two more in the pipeline,” she said.

Kenney also curated Aware’s social copy, created a future intern resource guide, and worked on the marketing strategy. The high point of her internship she says, was doing a voice-over for a promotional video.

“If anything needs to be done, I try to be that person,” Kenney said. “No job was too big or too small. Every week I learned something new.”

Kenney learned adaptability and says that she never realized that so much work went into planning a social media post or into writing or researching a blog.

“I also learned how to work fluently in a team,” she said. “Aware opened my eyes to what a healthy and helpful team looks like. We play into each other’s strengths. If I know someone else is really good, I won’t take another three hours trying to figure something out. I will ask for help.”

Aware believes that committing to work with interns is a commitment to the future of their education and their success

“Whether or not interns become permanent hires, Aware takes the relationship seriously. It’s a priority in the company’s culture,” said Perdue.

“The work that our hiring managers give to these interns is important work. The interns are considered team members. They are part of something. We are not going to separate them. We truly want every intern to share in our vision. We accept responsibility to help them expand their education and opportunity for success in future roles,” she said.

Aware is adding value to the Central Ohio talent pool by helping grow the interns as prospective candidates for theirs or other companies.

“Whether that is in Columbus or somewhere else,” Perdue said, “we are helping make the candidate pool strong. Aware is willing to make that commitment to each and every intern, each and every time.”