Meet Mayank Satnalika. Just like any other engineering student in his first year, he was focussed more on finding the right friends than he was on his books. Unlike most Indian engineering students, however, Mayank was studying IT engineering because he actually wanted to. He’d always been fascinated by computer science and knew that’s where he wanted to pursue a career.

Luckily for Mayank, he got a life-changing opportunity at the end of his first year at VIT. He was hired by AI-powered digital risk management startup CloudSek as part of their “Earn While You Learn” program.

As part of this program, CloudSek offers a summer internship to a cohort of college students every year. You might be thinking, what’s so special about that, most companies offer student internships. But CloudSek doesn’t stop there. It gives these candidates the opportunity to continue working for them remotely even after the internship is over and they’re back in college. Not only that, the students are actually paid a generous monthly stipend of Rs. 25000 while they work remotely with CloudSek. And once they graduate, they end up getting a full-time offer to work with the startup.

What former students have loved most about the program is the fact that it focuses on enabling learning. So students have a fair bit of freedom in deciding what kind of projects they want to do. As Mayank says, “What I loved most was the freedom to work on any problem or research you find interesting. My team lead always encouraged me to try out unconventional approaches to solving problems. In fact, I often ended up reading and implementing the latest research papers to solve important issues. To be honest, as an intern, this kind of learning opportunity was absolutely exhilarating."

Yet another interesting thing about the program is that it focusses more on your ability than on your degree. CloudSek has an initial screening that tests the students’ technical skills, followed by a soft skills-based round. As Rahul Sasi, Founder -  CTO, CloudSek says, “Given that we invest a lot of time and resources in the students who are part of the program, the application process is fairly rigorous. At the same time, we make sure that the only criteria for a student to make it is their innate ability, rather than their educational background or past experience.”

Finally, unlike a lot of remote projects that end up exploiting college students, CloudSek’s program ensures that students earn a generous stipend while working from campus. It relieves the burden of their education loans while simultaneously allowing them to build real-world tech skills, something their peers simply don’t have access to.

After the phenomenal success of their first cohort, CloudSek is once again hiring students to be part of the program this year. The startup is looking at hiring five students with extraordinary potential and the ability to pick up skills quickly. Rahul says, “Many outsiders were sceptical when we first launched the program. They thought we were wasting our time and resources by investing so much in college students. However, the kind of phenomenal hires we’ve had through this program has convinced us that this can be a great hiring model for the tech industry as a whole, especially for high-growth startups like ours. Using the lessons from our previous cohorts, we are looking to make the program even bigger and better this year.”

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