Bioengineering start-ups get a boost from affordable internships

Bioengineering continues to emerge as an important economic sector, with more and more start-up companies coming online. For many, though, hiring the right employees can be a nightmare.

Noreen Kamal is CTO and co-founder of DESTINE Health, an online health-system planning tool that computes, searches, evaluates and maps out optimal access to stroke treatments. She says her company solved its hiring woes by employing student interns.

“When our technology was built at the University of Calgary, we got summer students to help create the software and launched a UCalgary spinoff. We had a good experience – we found them to be very capable and up-to-date with the latest technology – so we started hiring student interns about three years ago,” says Kamal.

We decided to go forward with a 16-month internship, which is likely longer than we would’ve been able to retain a full-time employee in software development in this market.”

Kamal says, by hiring an intern, DESTINE had the stable help it needed to prosper and the wage subsidies to make it affordable.

“It really worked out well for us. We hired at a low cost, we knew how long they would stay and we found really good candidates,” says Kamal. “There is a place in society to give students experiential learning. Learning through work is critical, and we are committed to it.”

The lucky intern was Sebastian Schroh, a software engineering student at the Schulich School of Engineering at UCalgary. “I liked the team and the idea of working on a health-based software application,” he says. “I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but, when I interned in a hospital, I didn’t like working in that environment. As an engineer, there are a lot of opportunities in software development for cool applications that help people.”

Schroh says working in a start-up led to even more opportunities than he expected.

“When I came in, there was a lot of learning. DESTINE’s first client was being set up in Norway and wanted the whole country mapped, which is much bigger than our software was originally designed to do,” says Schroh. “I came from nowhere and started helping with that. There were a lot of challenges I ended up solving, which was cool.”

Schroh also enjoyed having direct communication with customers. “Being able to help them and see them excited about what we were doing was really cool. If I was at a bigger place, I’d be just putting code into the void and not seeing the positive impacts.”

The internship was a success. “We’re hiring him on after he graduates,” says Kamal. “He gets permanent employment and we get a fulltime employee that we know.”

Kamal says this won’t be the last time DESTINE hires an engineering intern from Schulich. “When we’re looking to grow again, we’ll definitely go with an intern and forego the horror stories we hear from other starts-up about hiring and maintaining good employees.”

      Article provided by University of Calgary – Schulich School of Engineering