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FinOps Manager’s Internship Quickstart Guide

This guide is for FinOps hiring managers looking to enhance their internship program. Use this guide to help speed up the intern onboarding process, ensure the intern has training, align an intern with a project, and provide continuous feedback along with a final evaluation.

Here’s an overview of all the steps, or feel free to navigate to a specific one:

Step 1: Start with the “WHY?”

Let’s begin by identifying the intern’s objectives of joining a FinOps Program.

Starting an intern onboarding program by explaining why the role exists and how critical the work is to the organization sets the tone for the rest of the onboarding experience. There’s some interesting work out in the world explaining how understanding “why?” motivates people to take action with greater velocity, determination, and clarity.

It’s noted in the Exceeding the First Hurdle: Accelerating the Onboarding of FinOps Internships guide, that:

“The primary advantage of hiring an intern for the business is to gain valuable support and insights for the business and support existing employees. Internships provide a track for organizations to invest in their future success by discovering new talent and up-skilling existing employees via mentoring.”

As a traditional or non-traditional student, an intern doing an internship expands your real-world experience, grows your networking, and allows for career discovery. In a FinOps internship, real-world experience could look like using tooling; networking could include exposure to entry-level engineering to SVP of Engineering teams; and a FinOps intern will gain insights into careers across an organization from finance, product owners, to cloud service providers.

Step 2: Establish a Baseline: Tailored Learning Objectives

It’s important to remember that interns will have a range of experiences and will not all be approaching the role from the same learning level. Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to structure different learning paths that can be tailored to the individual, starting by establishing clear learning objectives for the intern, matched to their experience.

To do this, we suggest starting with a questionnaire that allows the organization to baseline an intern’s experience in certain areas so the rest of the onboarding experience can be customized to the intern.

These areas include:

  • Product Experience: How in-depth is the intern’s knowledge of the company’s products? (What the product is, how customers use it, how it’s delivered to customers, etc.)
  • Does this intern have specific experience within the organization or FinOps Discipline: For example, has the intern worked at the company before? Do they know anyone in the organization? Have they volunteered in some capacity before that gives them unique insight into the people or company?

Tooling and Equipment Experience: Has this intern used all of the software, tooling, or equipment before or will they need specific onboarding for the various tools they will interact with?

You’ll want to develop an internship schedule & plan for onboarding a new intern. This should be adopted based on candidate experience, education background, duration of internship, and expectation of project deliverables.

Outlined below in this section are the training components to incorporate into your plan. This includes examples and resources to accelerate building your plan.

Here is an example schedule that incorporates the training components.

Business Training

For these steps, we define how to incorporate general business training to prepare the FinOps intern.

Step 3: Basecamp 101– Company Training

At the start of FinOps intern onboarding, hiring managers should consider:

  1. The team that will be interacting and supporting the intern
  2. The internal resources the intern will need to be successful
  3. Impact to the business

The Team

We recommend mentors to be assigned to the intern or the internship program from across the company, including departments like Finance, Engineering, Product, and others that regularly interact with FinOps areas. This will give interns the broadest possible exposure to departments and teams across the company.

Internal Resources

Each business area will likely have its own training documentation, videos, and content. These can be structured in a cohesive way so that interns can consume company training from each department as a way of broadening their perspectives of what each business area does for the company and how they will interact.

Business Objectives

We recommend FinOps interns walk through what the business is trying to achieve and how the FinOps program fits into that picture. Some organizations use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) or Vision, Value, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures (V2MOM’s) to articulate this vision which can be used here effectively.

FinOps isn’t merely about usage optimization or cost reduction, even though the end outcome can be well optimized and efficiently used workloads with best rate cards. The intern, irrespective of the college major or level of education, should understand that the tasks they are assigned are part of a larger process. This is a process which is defining cultural practice for deciding and managing key technology related spending of the organization.

  • Process: Understand the immediate process that will impact the cloud consumption in the organization. e.g., The process to deploy, maintain and decommission a VM, procurement process, billing and finance process when settling an invoice. This will help the intern to understand the supply chain dynamics within the organization related to cloud and can easily align to the FinOps requirements.
  • People: The intern should be exposed to the type of role the existing teams in the organization played during the cloud adoption journey. e.g., Role of IT Department: Did it fulfill the traditional role of giving the environment specifications only or did it define strategic inputs and oversaw the full deployment? This will create a better understanding of the FinOps needs arising from each team and map to the business requirements.
  • Product: Including company specific information about customers and correlations between Cloud Cost Management.

A FinOps intern should aim to connect the business objectives to the FinOps Framework.

Cloud Training

The following steps relate to offering education or training related to Cloud Services that will help the intern on their journey.

Step 4: The Next Hike: Enterprise Cloud Documentation

To reduce ramp-up time, interns should have access to comprehensive Enterprise Cloud onboarding documentation. This can allow them to quickly get up to speed on the company’s policies, procedures, and expectations. Cloud documentation should include governance and policy compliance, including any legal and security requirements that must be followed.

Here are some policies an intern should be aware of how both Cloud Cost Management and Cost optimizations are impacted.

Cloud Security Policies: These policies outline the procedures for maintaining the security of cloud-based systems and data. They may include requirements for data encryption, access controls, threat management, and incident response. Account / Subscription / Project Bootstrapping costs are an example of Cloud Security Policies that impact Cloud spend.

Data Retention Policies: These policies specify how long data should be retained in the cloud and under what circumstances it should be deleted. They may also include procedures for archiving or backing up data. Understanding how retention policies may impact storage configurations and navigating automation of resource clean-up.

Change Management Policies: These policies define the procedures for making changes to cloud environments, such as updates to software or hardware configurations. They may include requirements making resource sizing changes that impact time to speed to impact cost optimization opportunities.

Standardized Tag Names & Tagging Requirements: These policies define a standardized naming convention for tags to ensure consistency across resources. These policies set the tone on the percentage of cloud resources tagged with relevant metadata.

Links to Cloud Training:

Finance Training

The following steps incorporate finance training and education into the intern’s workflow.

Step 5: Finance Fundamentals

To ensure FinOps intern is cross-trained on important Finance terminology and understand intersecting capabilities.

Forecast and Budget are important concepts in corporate finance; an intern should be aware of how both Cloud Cost Management and Finance collaborate together on these workflows.

Budget: Typically, a financial plan is created at the beginning of a fiscal year. Teams or business units are assigned a monthly budget for revenue, expenses, and contribution margins. Business leaders will be held accountable for these numbers in the coming months. Understanding cost allocation and charge-back methods are mandatory, especially on instances where a single cloud account is used by multiple teams, or else if there are shared cloud services which are consumed enterprise-wide.

Forecast: As the fiscal year progresses, assumptions made for the budget become less and less relevant. For instance, bringing two large clients instead of one in the earlier months of the fiscal year has massive implications for the rest of the fiscal year. Therefore, corporations must update their forecast. This process could be similar to Budgeting.

An important note on Actuals: Once the company has “Actual” numbers at the end of each month, it is critical to compare them to the forecast and/or budget and attempt to explain the differences.

This process is known as Budget-to-Actual or Forecast-to-Actual: Its level of difficulty may vary, but it is important because carrying wrong assumptions forward also has major implications. For instance, think of a scenario where revenue was recorded for a client as twice the normal due to a mistake, and nobody catches it. The new forecast now has the extra revenue monthly, and if it is early in the fiscal year, revenue is now overstated. The next month, revenue is bound to miss, causing a fire drill.

In brief, the budget and forecast are similar. Budget happens at the beginning of the fiscal year. The budget is at the highest variance risk in the early months of the fiscal year. As the fiscal year goes on, assumptions made a few months ago become less relevant. Therefore, it is important to keep the budget updated without modifying the original budget. Therefore, companies create monthly forecasts.

Check out more Finance & Accounting Terms.

FinOps Training

These steps refer to how managers can begin to incorporate FinOps training for their interns.

Step 6: FinOps Basic Training

Many of those interning within FinOps teams will not be familiar with FinOps! In fact, successful internship programs have a knack for bringing in those with little exposure to the specific industry and equipping them with knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in that field.

There is a range of introductory courses available online that can provide an intern with a base level understanding of FinOps.

We Recommend this EdX Course, for these reasons:

  1. It’s free (with some optional content upgrades)
  2. It’s self paced and can be tailored to the individual or the leaning pace of the internship program
  3. One of the instructors…is J.R Storment (Executive Director of the FinOps Foundation)!

Step 7: FinOps Tooling

Part of the Internship Onboarding should include training on FinOps tooling. The goal is to make the intern feel supported, appreciated, and positioned for success in the program.

The FinOps tooling training could be split by:

CSPs consoles, billing files, and other usage data

The best places to start are the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) console and the billing files. The consoles are typically user-friendly, and can provide a good overview of the spending. However, filtering down by a label, region, service, or SKU, may require a few steps, and it could become tedious. The ultimate source of truth is always the billing files. The billing files will provide answers to 95% of the questions asked. However, the intern must have developed SQL skills to query the data. As a pre-training, the company could offer training and insights into SQL to speed up the ramping up process.

Examples of other usage data include the GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine) metering export or logging sinks. Typically, the data is also queried using SQL.

Third-Party Cost Management Tools

Companies that use third-party cost management tools must provide training on these tools. The goal is for the intern to answer questions as quickly as possible without going to the billing files. These tools evolve quickly, with new features added almost daily. Therefore, training on these tools is an iterative process throughout the internship.

Internal Tooling

The manager should provide access and training to internally-developed tools. Also, the manager should encourage the intern to develop other tools that suit the company’s needs. This promotes creativity and critical thinking.

Check out tooling information from the 2023 State of FinOps data.

Step 8: Introduce the FinOps Project

Prior to the introduction of the FinOps Project, the individual (manager/mentor) delivering the message of the project should have a clear understanding of the project’s goals. The project’s goals should be thought out by breaking the end goal into smaller steps so that the intern can hear and understand the big picture and the intricacies of getting from the beginning to the end.

The end goal will vary depending on the job description and the job scope that was written prior to the intern being onboarded. The described end goal needs to be refined into smaller steps so that the intern can consume and ask additional clarifying questions during the introduction of the project.

During the introduction conversation, the steps should be broken down into detailed tasks required to complete each step to achieve the final goal. These steps may include people, processes and tools to achieve the goal. However, the steps shouldn’t be so descriptive that the individual’s creativity be hindered to solve each step’s problems. Once the conversation is completed, following up with a written (or recorded) conversation for future reference is key to ensuring any follow up items or clarifications can be taken. This way, if there’s any actions that the intern needs to take or refer to, they can be taken from the written or recorded conversations.

Additionally, some organizations may have a FinOps Mentor program. If so, the mentor program is meant as a crutch for the intern to be able to lean on to ask other clarifying questions and to ensure that the intern has another shoulder to lean on when or if others aren’t available (e.g., Manager).

Tailor these example projects based on the background of the intern (Finance / Developer, etc.):

  1. Create a cloud cost dashboard specific to a team. This will help the company track its cloud spending and identify areas where costs can be reduced.
  2. Implement a cloud cost budgeting process for a specific organization. This will help the company ensure it is not overspending on cloud resources.
  3. Develop a cloud cost optimization strategy. This will help the company identify ways to reduce its cloud costs without sacrificing performance or functionality.
  4. Migrate workloads to a more cost-effective cloud platform. This can save the company significant money in the long run.
  5. Monitor cloud usage and identify areas where costs can be reduced. This can be done by using cloud cost management tools.
  6. Implement a cloud cost reporting process. This will help the company track its cloud spending and identify areas where costs can be reduced.
  7. Develop a cloud cost governance process. This will help the company ensure its cloud costs align with its business goals.
  8. Educate employees on cloud cost management best practices. This will help the company save money on cloud costs in the long run.
  9. Develop a cloud cost management culture. This will help the company make cloud cost management a priority.
  10. Build a model to help teams understand2 the impact of decisions on cloud costs. This will help teams maintain a long-term cloud cost focus.

See more examples of completed FinOps Internship projects.

Step 9: Establish a Feedback Loop

Regular cadences and meetings with the interns is important for the intern and the manager. The manager must take the time with the intern to ensure that the intern is productive and has the necessary tools to do their job. Having a regular 1:1 with the intern is essential, and the amount of time will vary depending on the skills and ability of the intern. The manager should participate in active listening and seek to understand any roadblocks or issues that the intern may be experiencing. If issues are communicated by the intern, the manager must act swiftly to resolve the issues.

Another potential means for feedback is to coordinate peer reviews with the intern and others that have either benefit of the interns effort. The intern then has a means of showing off their efforts and provides a means for being a sounding board of what’s been done. The product of what’s been done can be reviewed to ensure that the efforts are going in the right direction and also to see if there’s other benefits towards what’s been accomplished.

Step 10: Final Evaluation

The aim of this evaluation is not just to gauge if the intern has successfully met the objectives of the program. But it is the assessment of the program itself and therefore the intern and their peers should also be given equal prominence. The evaluation should typically contain both objective and reflective criteria.

Encourage self-evaluation by the intern

  • Provide reflective questions to understand
    • If the program has met the intern’s original learning objectives
    • If the intern understood the integral concepts of FinOps and the impact of the assigned project, on overall organizational goals
    • The skills acquired/ enhanced during the program
      • If the company already has an intern evaluation form, that can be a great starting point

Presentation (peers)

Intern must complete a presentation to their peers/ stakeholders, to summarize the tasks they were involved in during their tenure.

  • Ideally the deck should cover – The project goals, the approach taken, milestones, description of both quantitative and qualitative outcomes and lessons learned
  • Great to have – Over achievements, identified gaps for future improvement, new project ideas
  • Suggested duration of the presentation is 20 minutes (Summer) to 40 minutes (Undergrad, MBA) followed by a Q&A session

Evaluation by the Manager

We believe the assessment should differ depending on the educational background of the candidate to understand better on their performance and knowledge.

General criteria to measure include:

  • Ability to articulate the business requirement in techno-commercial perspective
  • Can the intern connect the problem statement to the core concepts of FinOps and appreciate how it relates to the framework/capabilities?
  • Approach taken when solving the project goal, and ability to articulate their thinking pattern with justification

Considerations for an Engineering candidate

  • Confident in core cloud concepts
  • Basic understanding of the dynamic costing models in cloud which differ according to the services provisioned.
  • Understanding of basic cloud financial terms – Eg: Unblended costs, amortized cost

Considerations for a Finance candidate

  • Ability to articulate cloud billing models and understand the financial implications of various plans (Reserved Instances, Savings Plans) and Discount programs of cloud providers
  • Ability to use forecasting method and measure break-even point for commitment plans with a clear business sense

Evaluation of the Internship Program

Preferably program evaluation should be done by the interns, and from the feedback collected the FinOps program manager and HR should collectively work to maintain the internship up-to-date. Below are a few suggested questions for the interns and this can be incorporated into the self evaluation form too.

  • Has the internship clarified or changed your educational and/or career goals?
  • Would you consider a full time specialized role in FinOps in future?
  • What would you like to incorporate or change in the current internship program?

Step 11: Transition Support to Full-time (if available)

As a FinOps intern looking to convert to a full-time position, it’s important to take the right steps to secure your desired outcome. Start by gaining an understanding of the career ladders within the organization. This will give you insight into the various levels and opportunities for growth that exist.

Additionally, referencing salary data can provide you with a realistic expectation and help you navigate compensation discussions. Expressing your interest in rotating to another role within the organization demonstrates your versatility and willingness to contribute in different capacities. If you are an international student, verify if your program is designated as a STEM program, as this may have implications for your eligibility and potential work options.

Lastly, align yourself with the current market and other roles when it comes to certifications; this includes cloud providers, FinOps, and other relevant speciality training such as agile methodologies or data visualization. These certifications can enhance your skills and make you a more valuable asset to the team.

When evaluating an intern for conversion to a full-time position, managers should consider several factors to make an informed decision. Firstly, referencing salary data from reputable sources like The State of FinOps Report can help ensure fair compensation for the role. Managers should also assess the intern’s experience and education to determine their suitability for different hierarchy roles within the organization. If there isn’t an existing role available, the manager can draft a job description tailored to the intern’s skills and responsibilities, or explore pre-existing roles posted on jobs.finops.org.

It’s crucial for the manager to provide a comprehensive recommendation based on the intern’s performance, potential, and fit for the organization. Additionally, collaborating with HR to document if the interns education is STEM designated, which can offer advantages for international students.

Acknowledgments

The FinOps Foundation would like to thank the following people for their hard work in breaking ground on this documentation. Please reach out to our Working Group on our Slack Channel.

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