The age of remote internship: examining the pros and cons of tech’s new corporate trend

The founders who take remote interns in interviews with Technext say that they are less inclined to assign tasks that will impact the success of the company in a significant way to interns…
The age of the remote interns: a new corporate anomaly the tech ecosystem face
Image source: FastWeb

Damilola Akingbade had no experience as a UI/UX designer. As tech skills became more and more in demand, like many of his peers to took out his laptop and signed up for an online course. Whenever he could find the time from his busy schedule in a full-time master’s program at the University of Lagos, he advanced in the course.

When he finished the course, he needed hands-on experience and so he searched on social media, applied for a dozen internships and finally secured one with a UI/UX design agency in the US.

It was a remote internship and he had found it on Twitter.

“I wasn’t stuck on if it was going to be a remote role, I just wanted somewhere where I could get my hands-in real work, and maybe learn skills and break into the space,” he said of the role.

Now he assists the team with a very clear direction and feedback for his supervisor at the company.

A history of internships

One of the oldest ways new intakes have smuggled their way into new fields and professions is through internships. Interns are expected to shadow their mentors in a manner similar to the even more ancient apprenticeships and learn by watching.

Some ten years ago, interns in corporate organisations handled printouts, got coffee, transcribe interviews and run petty errands within the office and its environs, that is of course, if they’re lucky. Interns throughout all industries in the modern world have told tales of horrific experiences they endured when they are unlucky to have an unkind or insensitive supervisor.

But as the world of work move beyond the pandemic that forced people to work remotely, gen-zers coming into the world of work are opting for work-from-home options. These new roles have trickled down to the very bottom of corporate life, the intern.

These days, founders, many of whom can’t afford a full-time staff or don’t even have a physical office, advertise on their private social media what looks to these young trainees-in-waiting juicy remote internship roles, where they get stipends and work from their homes or show up on site just a few days a week.

An intergenerational conflict

When Dipo started his career in IT, he started out as everyone did at the time with an internship. This was some ten years ago. “I had to face office treatment of a lowly intern in person,” he said of the experience. He had to show up to work, be on site and assist physically however he could.

But when he took an intern to join his startup this past year, he went for a fully remote intern. This is in part because he doesn’t have a physical office, and he isn’t living in Nigeria currently. The intern he got stays in Lagos.

Social media and the age of the remote interns

Read also: There is a brewing war between tech executives and talents in Africa

“With a remote intern,” he said “I guess the relationship is more structured. Nobody is sending you on non-work related errands, or turning you into the coffee boy. So you kinda focus more on learning.”

But he still feels like the remote intern even though he employed her, might have missed out on a lot of hands-on experience that he got when he started out as an intern.

“The major con I would say is the social skills in a work environment you would pick up as an intern in an office. Plus, there are many opportunities to learn things not related to your job that is missing with a remote internship,” he said. “It’s not so much of a problem with experienced staff but I think interns miss out on that.”

This switch to remote internships also underscores the paradigm shift in how young founders think of work and job descriptions. These days many young companies who employ remote interns provide them with a living stipend, which some of the founders and HR professionals who facilitate the process didn’t receive when they were interns.

The founders who take remote interns in interviews with Technext say that they are less inclined to assign tasks that will impact the success of the company in a significant way to interns. The remote interns are also less likely to be assisting their mentors with personal tedious chores.

Founders who are accepting remote interns are also not advertising these roles on LinkedIn or Indeed. Most times they post an open call on their Instagram stories or WhatsApp status. They also tell the applicants to ditch the email process and send a DM instead.

This is happening in part because millennial founders have to deal with the mass exodus of young professionals happening in the country. A constant shortage of staff means they are desperate to fill in positions as soon as possible.

The pros and cons

Ajibade Odutola who had always been used to working long hours when he was starting out in the Nigerian banking industry quit his job a few years ago. Now that he is putting together a small operation he announced on Instagram that he is looking for an intern, a remote intern to come on board.

“The tasks are time-consuming low-level tasks that can be done online,” he said of what he would want the intern to do. “Repetitive and voluminous low-level tasks that are the fundamentals of the work, but don’t impact business success,” he said are the plans he has for the intern.

“There’s more ease working remotely,” Ifeoluwa Adeniji, who works as a hybrid intern at a new tech startup in Lekki. “Working remotely. I’m more productive, I have more time to get other things done while also focusing on my job,” she said.

Of all the interns spoken to for this report, only one said that he would prefer to work on-site.

“On-site is better,” Abdulmatin Jimoh who works as a graphic design intern at a PR firm in Surulere said. “I tend to be more focused on work and deliver faster and be more efficient than remotely.”

Others cite mental health and unnecessary pressure as chief reasons why they would opt for a remote internship. “Remote internship is better because you’re in your environment and you can do things easily without unnecessary pressure,” Abdulsalam Mohammed who is a hybrid intern said.

“It can be mentally draining having to get up early in the morning to beat traffic and get to work on time as an on-site intern,” Ifeoluwa, who interns at the Lekki-based startup said.

Image source: Design Week

While the remote internship has been successful for smaller operations, larger corporations including so-called progressive companies like Google and Twitter have been trying to get all staff back to working on-site.

Many tech companies have cited productivity as the chief reason they want staff to return to working on-site. But research by Owl Labs argues that working remotely can increase productivity by up to 77%.

But the research also says that remote work has led to a misalignment between what founders want for their companies and what employees expect from the company, even though they get more done now.

For Idris Adesina, a people and culture consultant and corporate psychology researcher in Lagos, the remote internship is a welcome development. For him, organisations must have interns and if they are in their homes, they must meet them there.

“Culturally speaking in the Nigeria working environment where interns are used as personal messengers by their reporting supervisors. The remote internship will help interns acquire the primary goal of the internship; to gain real-world professional experience with no need to relocate or travel. All the intern need is a laptop and a very good internet connection”, he explains.


While the trend of the remote intern is one of the latest development in the post-pandemic world, it is still hard to say if this will be sustainable.

But companies weaning themselves off fully remote operations to more hybrid ones, raise real questions about the future of remote internships.

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