Why I Founded Render Media University

Why I Founded Render Media University

Rachel Bullock

When I started the Intern Program at Render Media 5 years ago, I never dreamed we’d graduate 100+ interns, that we’d grow enough as a company to hire many of them full time, or that we’d deliver more than 100 hours of classroom training and countless hours of 1x1 instruction. In this post, the second installment in my series “Empowering Others: How and Why,” we’ll focus on the benefits of teaching.

From the beginning, one of the hallmarks of our Intern Program was the weekly “Intern Trainings,” a series of 30- to 60-minute classes where interns could learn about the different facets of our digital media business. The whole team pitched in, taking turns each quarter to teach such classics as “What Makes a Good Story” and “How a Website Makes Money.” Other classes were less structured, such as Eytan's “Intro to Entrepreneurship” where he shared his first start-up experience, and my “Why I Have a Master’s Degree AND a Project Management Certificate” class that eventually morphed into the “You Might Hate Graduate School and That’s OK” talk.

These classes gave us a chance to get to know the interns better, learn who was truly curious and engaged, and identify potential full-time hires. But it gave the interns and staff far more:

Benefits to Interns

  • Learn about departments outside their own through cross-training
  • Build new skills
  • Discover potential career paths
  • Feel a sense of belonging
  • Demonstrate interest in joining the company full time
  • Develop contacts
  • Meet potential mentors 

Benefits to Employees

  • Better define their role in the organization
  • Develop presentation skills
  • Practice public speaking
  • Recognize their capacity for leadership
  • Gain mentorship experience
  • Engage with potential recruits
  • Give back to the organization
  • Feel energized and recommitted 

As we accelerated our hiring pace, new full-time employees started attending the “Intern Trainings” alongside the interns; it was time to rebrand. And it was time to hand over the reins to the ever-capable Sasha Melendez-Goldman, our HR Generalist. She dubbed the series “Render Media University,” recruited more presenters, and expanded the programming.

This fully realized peer-to-peer training program allowed us to extend the above benefits to all employees. Involving the whole organization compounded the benefits to the team—and to the company—in the following ways:

Benefits to New Employees

  • Meet colleagues from other departments
  • Gain support and encouragement
  • Ask questions in a low-pressure environment
  • See “the big picture” sooner, speed up the learning curve
  • Better understand the Company’s culture and unspoken rules
  • Participate in Professional Development within the first 90 days
  • Identify future Job Shadowing opportunities 

Added Benefits to Presenters

  • Gain enhanced peer recognition
  • Improve confidence
  • Feel a renewed connection to the Company’s mission
  • Demonstrate fitness for increased responsibility 

Benefits to the Business

  • Instill the Company’s values in employees and recruits
  • Pique interest in managing and mentoring
  • Foster leadership skills
  • Reinforce commitment to Professional Development
  • Cross train more people for less
  • Improve camaraderie
  • Increase retention 

I didn’t invent the idea of having employees teach other employees. In fact, my mentor Pat McKee instituted a similar program at McGraw-Hill—my first job in California. Peer-to-Peer training is a low-cost, easy-to-implement program that you can launch at your company starting this Fall. I’m more than happy to offer tips and tricks…and to admit what didn’t work so well. InMail me; I’ll respond.

Today, our Office Manager Alahna Dunbar leads Render Media University with her own unique twist. I am proud that the program has evolved and expanded as Render Media has grown from 5 to 50 employees. And I’m excited for what’s next.