The Win-Win of Hosting a build4good Intern

Stef Mills reflects on the value of Digital Promise’s partnership with the public interest technology program build4good

Digital Promise, the global education nonprofit where Stef Mills serves as senior technical product director, promotes equitable education systems by convening multidisciplinary solutions from research, practice, and technology. Mills has managed two of the four build4good interns that have worked at Digital Promise since 2021, and reports that the interns’ contributions were “invaluable.”

An initiative of New America, build4good matches promising college students in technology-related majors with nonprofit organizations that have technology-specific project needs. build4good is deeply committed to supporting host organizations in selecting interns, conceptualizing intern projects, providing community for intern cohorts, and offering professional development opportunities. 

We sat down with Mills to learn more about how build4good works, what host organizations can gain from the experience of partnering with the program, and why Mills and Digital Promise intend to continue their work with build4good.

What led Digital Promise to partner with build4good? What were your goals for the program? 

I currently serve as the Senior Technical Product Director at Digital Promise. My team and I have a significant role in designing, developing and engineering the technical products at Digital Promise. I first learned about build4good during my first year at Digital Promise, thanks to a colleague who had previously hosted a build4good intern. At that time, we were undergoing substantial changes in our technical systems, and our build4good intern played a crucial role in ensuring the success of user support during the summer.

The mission that An-Me Chung, a co-founder of build4good, and the build4good team have established resonates with Digital Promise. When I host a build4good intern, my goal is to provide them with a practical and insightful professional experience while offering mentorship. That really aligns with Digital Promise’s mission to help the next generation of technologists develop into human-centered professionals.

You’ve hosted two build4good interns. What skills and perspectives did the interns offer? What projects did they take on? 

Our first intern was Reuben, and our connection was facilitated through a colleague at Digital Promise. Rueben was a perfect fit for the user support needs we were addressing at that time—particularly in implementing a ticketing system to manage user requests. Reuben worked until December of the year in order to finish the project.

The following year, I was matched with Paolo. We were paired after engaging in conversations with build4good staff and completing a brief questionnaire to determine how an intern could contribute. What sets Paolo apart is that he didn’t just complete his internship; he continued to work with us, focusing on an identity management solution for Digital Promise’s technical products. Additionally, Paolo has taken the initiative to compile discovery documentation for other technical systems within our organization.

Both Reuben and Paolo proved to be invaluable assets to our projects, providing significant contributions while gaining hands-on training and experience—even when things got a bit messy. Despite both being full-time college students, Reuben and Paolo were at different stages in their journeys, and each brought unique and diverse experiences that enriched both the work we do and our team.

What resources and support did build4good provide to help you and the interns you’ve managed?

Working with build4good has been a fantastic experience. We’ve maintained a regular cadence of check-in conversations, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. build4good also organizes weekly intern meetings to provide support and foster a sense of community among the interns. 

At Digital Promise, we believe that it’s essential to fully integrate an intern into the team, and to make them feel like an integral part of our group. This means they actively participate in our daily scrums, sprint planning, and sprint review meetings. We rely on a backlog tool to monitor progress and facilitate internal communications effectively. 

What advice would you give to other host organizations about how to support interns effectively?

When we initially brought interns on board, we had a general plan and an idea of what they would be working on, as well as how we could provide the best support. However, those first few weeks were crucial for understanding the interns’ skill sets, experiences, and their aspirations for their own careers. It was essential to align the internship plan with all these factors. 

My recommendation for other organizations is to start with a plan, but to remain flexible and open to iteration. It’s important to take into account the intern’s skills, experiences, desires, and what you both learn as you progress through the internship. This adaptability can make the experience more valuable for everyone involved.

What contributions did the build4good interns make to Digital Promise and to your team? What have you gotten out of your experience of working with build4good?

Both interns I’ve had the pleasure of hosting at Digital Promise made a profoundly positive impact on the projects they were involved in. Reuben played a pivotal role in end-user support, and was instrumental in introducing a ticketing system for our professional learning team. Paolo made significant contributions by crafting user acceptance testing documentation, creating discovery documentation, and assisting in the strategic planning of an identity management solution.

But the impact extends far beyond the projects and the tangible outcomes. As a public interest technologist, I firmly believe that it’s my responsibility to guide the next generation in understanding what truly matters in technology, what potential pitfalls to watch out for, and how technology can be harnessed to serve the greater good. build4good allows me to do that. 

Digital Promise’s build4good interns have had a profound influence on us. In essence, we are nurturing a culture of teaching, learning, giving, and receiving within our organization, which serves as a testament to our commitment to both personal and collective growth.


Stef Mills is senior technical product director at Digital Promise, a global nonprofit organization working to expand opportunity for every learner by bridging solutions across research, practice, and technology. 

To learn more about build4good, visit the program’s website, consult the manual for organizations hosting build4good interns, or check out Siegel Family Endowment’s case study about build4good.