DME Intern Policy
Table of Contents
Communication / Slack Policy
Communication in Slack is considered mandatory. No exceptions.
Due to our virtual environment, clear and consistent communication is key and imperative for a productive work atmosphere.
- The internship is about reaching out, asking questions, showing initiative, and demonstrating the motivation to get work done. Interns are encouraged to ask questions if they are uncertain about what they are supposed to be doing or are confused about a project.
Interns should not wait to be assigned projects. Interns are expected to communicate with their respective leadership members and with their fellow interns on a regular basis. This internship program is what an intern makes of it!
Note: Newly onboarded Interns are NOT required to meet the 10-hour work requirement nor are they required to submit a Weekly Report within 14 days of being onboarded into the internship as the Intern’s primary focus should be settling into Slack, learning how to use Trello, and becoming familiar with both DME leadership and the various DME departments.
Primary Sources of Contact: If Interns have any questions and/or concerns, they should always contact their DO(s) first. If the DO(s) is/are unavailable, then Interns should contact their DH(s). If both the DO(s) and DH(s) are unavailable, which is sometimes the case during holidays or final exam season, then Interns should contact their ELT(s) or XO in the absence of all.
- DO(s) are responsible for relating information to DH(s). DH(s) are responsible for relaying information to ELT(s). ELT(s) are responsible for relaying that information to XO(s) and/or the Internship Program Manager. It is imperative that Interns and Leadership Interns respect this chain of command.
- Note: There is not always a DO in every department. In this case, contact your DH first.
Display Name Policy
This display name policy will be strictly enforced to ensure uniformity and consistency in Slack, which will properly identify interns and their respective role(s).
Please use the following format when creating your Slack display name.
Correct format: Firstname Lastname Department Division Rank
Volunteers: Lisa Lee Volunteer
New Interns: John Smith Research
Division Officers: Peter James Writing OpSong DO
Division Officers with No Named Division: Jenn Miles HR DO
Department Heads: Sydney Moore Social Media DH
ELT Members: Kate Miller Web Development ELT
XO Members: Sam Smithsonian XO
Note: Do not use hyphens, parentheses, and/or any other characters that are not in the correct format above.
We value respect and uphold the concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst all individuals in the VSFS Digital Media Engagement Internship. We acknowledge and understand that we all come from diverse backgrounds, however, due to the Hatch Act, we are not allowed to discuss politics in any way, shape, or form. This protects our Internship Program Manager, and the rest of the DME employees on the team, from any inappropriate appearance of political partisanship, which could have negative implications at the VA. Therefore, please do not place personal pronouns, nor anything with political undertones, in your display names. If desired, you may place personal pronouns in the “What I Do” section in your Slack profile; however, this is not mandatory.
The resignation policy as of 2023 requires both Interns and leadership Interns to follow these steps before official resignation.
Communication of leave:
Interns: Required to report to corresponding ELT seven (7) days in advance before resigning. Must complete the DME Exit Survey prior to fully leaving the internship.
- To ensure a smooth transition, Interns are required to finish any projects they were working on and should assist in training their team members and/or creating documentation that explains how to execute the resigning Intern’s former roles and responsibilities.
Leadership: Required to report to corresponding leadership (DO, DH, ELT), XOs, and the Internship Program Manager 14 days in advance before resigning from the internship. Must complete the DME Exit Survey prior to fully leaving the internship.
- Leadership Interns are required to finish any projects they were working on to ensure a smooth transition. They must also assist in training their team members and/or creating documentation explaining how to execute the resigning Leadership Intern’s former roles and responsibilities.
- Leadership Interns may also be asked to assist in finding a replacement.
Formal Offboarding Process
The formal offboarding process must be followed to ensure that all interns are promptly removed from Slack, Trello, and Salesforce.
Communication of Leave:
As stated in the resignation policy, interns who submit their resignation will need to report to their designated ELT seven (7) days in advance. Leadership Interns will need to report their resignation to corresponding leadership (DO, DH, ELT), XOs, and the Internship Program Manager 14 days in advance.
Process of Offboarding:
Engagement and Retention (ER) Interns are required to consistently update and monitor a current inactive intern list, which will contain the following:
- Intern’s Full Name
- Intern’s Email
- Intern’s Department
- Intern’s Status on their Access to Slack, Trello, and Salesforce
- Additional notes: resigned, disciplinary issues, end of year, etc.
Engagement and Retention Interns will contact ELTs/DHs at least twice (2) a month to ensure Interns offboarded efficiently. Note: All ELTs/DHs must reply to their ER person of contact (POC) with “There are no Interns that need to be deactivated from my department” if they do not have any Interns that need to be deactivated from the DME’s applications.
Either a Engagement and Retentions ELT, XO, or the Internship Program Manager will manually remove inactive Interns from all DME platforms.
Requested Time Off (RTO) Policy
The requested time off (RTO) policy must be followed to ensure that all DME operations continue to function year-round.
Brief Summary of RTO Policy:
- RTO’s that are unrelated to school or holiday breaks should be submitted to your department’s leadership via Slack for approval. The same rule applies for exams and finals.
- For holidays and school breaks, the RTO process will be structured differently. ER will require all DME interns to fill out an RTO request form by a certain date. All valid requests will be accepted, but denied requests will require a resubmission from the Intern requesting RTO. ELT(s) may allow for corrections and resubmissions to be made if your original RTO dates have been declined. However, continuous resubmissions are discouraged and should not be done without contacting ELT(s) first.
- For general requests, the RTO period can range between the months of September to April.
- For holidays and school breaks, the RTO periods can range between the months of November and January.
Note: For all RTO’s, approved dates should be reported on your Weekly Report under the “Questions/Concerns” section.
Interns: Interns who request time off must give at least seven (7) days advance notice.
- Retroactive notice of RTO is not permitted.
- Interns are to inform their DH(s) and ELT(s) of the start date and end date of their RTO.
- It is the responsibility of ELT(s) to notify the Intern if their RTO request has been approved or denied. ELT(s) will also be responsible for keeping track of the Intern’s RTO period.
Leadership Interns: DO(s) and DH(s) who take time off will inform their respective ELT(s) at least (14) days in advance. ELT(s) and XO(s) who take time off will inform all other ELT(s), XOs, and the Internship Program Manager at least (14) days in advance.
Note: Failure to provide notice or explanation for taking time off the guidelines noted in the RTO policy will result in the Intern or Leadership Intern being listed as inactive and subject to removal from the DME.
Requested Time Off (RTO) Policy: Interns within the DME are permitted to take a short and/or long-term leave of absence with an approved reason or reasons. These reasons may include, but are not limited to:
- death in the family
- vacation away from home (with valid reason)
- personal health concern/issues (including mental health)
- university mid-term and final examinations
- other reasons that may be deemed acceptable to DME Leadership and HR (e.g., personal and/or family birthdays; holidays- Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.)
Note: In cases of natural disasters or unexpected emergencies (e.g., power outages), the Internship Program Manager, and/or XOs, and/or ELTs will reiterate the importance of prioritizing safety over the completion of work. Also, interns who are in the path of the natural disaster will be allowed to take a leave of absence for as long as they need to ensure their safety.
Note: Interns who have extreme circumstances (e.g. illness requiring hospitalization beyond one week) are permitted to take leave for an indefinite period. However, the intern must provide communications about an extreme circumstance within two weeks of the first missed weekly report caused by that extreme circumstance.
Note: Interns do not have to submit a weekly report while on RTO. However, interns must state on their weekly report the previous week that they will be on RTO to keep department leadership informed that the intern will not be available during a specific period of time. Also, if weekly report day falls on a holiday, interns do not need to submit their reports on that specific Thursday but can submit them on Wednesday or Friday.
Note: It is at the discretion of the Intern’s ELT(s) / XO to decide whether or not an Intern took leave for a valid reason, in both extreme and non-extreme circumstances. In cases of disagreement, the Internship Program Manager will have the final say over whether or not the Intern’s leave was taken for a valid reason. Failure to provide notice or explanation for an RTO with the guidelines noted in the RTO policy will result in the Intern or Leadership Intern being listed as inactive with the DME.
If you still have any questions and/or concerns, please contact your DH(s) and/or ELT(s) and/or a member from HR.
Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Policy
The letter of recommendation (LOR) policy was created to properly track and award top performing Interns who have displayed exemplary work ethic.
Department Heads (DHs) will be choosing the top performing 25% Interns in their department based upon their merit and communication. Intern performance will be rounded down to the nearest whole number. For example, if a department has 10 interns, then the DH(s) would submit their top 2 names (25% of 10 is 2.5; 2.5 rounded down is 2). These Letters of Recommendation (LOR) will be signed by the Internship Program Manager.
The selection process will conclude the last week of February, and letters of recommendation (LOR) will be completed during the month of March. A generalized letter detailing the completion of the VSFS Internship Program will be awarded to all Interns at the end of the internship cycle if the Intern maintains good standing with the DME. For this reason, it is crucial for Interns to submit their weekly reports to their respective DH(s), ELT members, and the Intern Program Manager every Friday before 11:59 PM of the time zone they are present in.
Letter of Recommendation Process:
Engagement and Retention (ER) will send out a Google Survey for all DH(s) to nominate their top Interns. Engagement and Retention will write the letter of recommendation (LOR) based on the survey’s information, detailing the chosen Intern’s accomplishments and diligence throughout the year. Once completed, Engagement and Retention will finalize the letter(s) for the Internship Program Manager’s signature to be added.
Weekly Report Policy
As of November 10, 2023, we no longer send the weekly reports through email. We switched to Google Forms which is run by the Metrics Analytics department. Find below the link to the weekly report in Google Forms. The deadline for submission remained the same, which is the end of the day (11:59 pm) every Friday.
Weekly Report Google Form
Structure of Weekly Report:
Leadership Weekly Report Policy
The Leadership Weekly Report Policy exists to ensure all DME leadership members are turning in their weekly reports and team metrics in a timely and consistent manner.
Overview of Leadership Weekly Report: The Leadership Weekly Report is a document that summarizes the work performed by leadership and their departmental interns during a working week. It is a summary of all completed and ongoing activities that contributed to the completion of a task or a project. This document is beneficial for interns and volunteers as well as leadership. On one hand, the weekly status report provides leadership with an opportunity to think about their work, and how they contribute to the overall progress of completing the tasks, delivering the project, and the entire team. They will gain a long-term perspective of their responsibilities and tasks.
On the other hand, a Leadership Weekly Report is a helpful document for leadership since they can monitor the metrics, performance and progress of the team. The Leadership Weekly Report gives a clear image of the team and how they do their jobs. It will help leadership identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members, so they will be able to provide better and more timely feedback. Finally, leadership members will be able to assess and make decisions in terms of needed training for each team member and in assigning tasks and responsibilities.
Content of Leadership Weekly Report: The Leadership Weekly Report can be concise. It should be clear and informative and provide DME management with an overall picture of how leadership and their departmental interns are performing and progressing.
The basic content that Leadership Weekly Report can include:
Section 1: Report on Myself
B) Approximation of Hours:
C) What I Did for the Week: (Metrics on different tasks performed and how many hours that were completed for each of them)
D) What I Hope For Next Week:
Section 2: Department
E) Updates I’m Working On:
F) Updates on My Team:
G) Major Projects Completed:
H) Inactive Interns:
I) Helpful Interns:
J) If I Need More Interns:
K) Issues Me or Team may be Facing:
L) Metrics: (Total number of items and projects created and total number of hours spent doing them for each week)
Note: Leadership should always check with their respective supervisor for any additional expectations regarding their Weekly Reports.
Instructions for Submitting a Leadership Weekly Report:
When submitting a Leadership Weekly Report, only write “Your First Name Last Name Leadership Weekly Report for [Date]” as the subject line of your email to your respective DH(s), ELT(s), XO, and the DME Program Manager. Please send the email to the DME Program Manager and CC your department XO, DH(s), and ELT members every Friday.
For example, HR DOs will send their weekly report to firstname.lastname@example.org and also CC the email to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.
Note: Leadership members that will need more time to review and prepare their weekly reports can rely on intern weekly reports that were turned in on Thursdays before submitting their own weekly reports. Leaderships are allowed to turn in the report over the weekend but no later than Sunday 11:59 pm within your own time zone.
Content of Departmental Team Metrics Weekly Report:
Leadership members also need to turn in their team’s metrics each week (Fridays or over the weekend). Also please note that the annual wrap-up of the leadership team’s metrics needs to be submitted by the end of May. Therefore, if leadership is officially departing the internship before the end of May, please ensure that the final team metrics report is submitted before leaving.
Intern Inactivity Policy
The Intern inactivity policy will be followed to hold all Interns accountable to the expectations and standards of the DME Internship Program.
Interns are to submit a Weekly Report every Thursday by 11:59PM (in your time zone) to their respective DH(s), all ELT members, and the Internship Program Manager. Failure to turn in three (3) consecutive or non-consecutive weekly reports for the year will result in the intern’s removal from the program.
DH(s) will keep track of their department Interns’ Weekly Reports and directly contact anyone who has not submitted a Weekly Report via email. If no response is given to the DH(s) or no update is given describing the reason for continued inactivity, the Intern will be immediately removed from the DME Internship Program exactly 21 days from the initial email sent from the DH(s).
The Internship Program Manager, XOs, ELTs, DHs, and DOs understand that Interns can have unforeseen circumstances that adversely affect their schedule. However, communication with one’s DH(s) is still crucial.
An Intern’s department may have less work in select weeks. However, a weekly report must be submitted. In the event an Intern is on vacation and/or taking time off, the Intern or leadership Intern should refer to the Vacation and RTO policies. In that vein, Interns and Leadership Interns will not be required to submit a Weekly Report during the period of their vacation time and/or time off.
Timely Response Policy
The Timely Response Policy exists to ensure all DME leadership members respond to all inquiries and concerns in a timely manner in order to help ensure that program communication remains efficient and productive.
All leadership volunteers/interns (DO, DH, ELT, XO) within the DME program must respond to any inquiries and/or concerns made by departmental volunteers/interns or leadership members, and other volunteers/interns and leadership members. Leadership members should view any announcements or notifications, check Slack at least once a day throughout the weekdays, and respond to any inquiries and concerns.
Leadership members should refer to the DME’s Communication/Slack Policy, which outlines how communication is mandatory within Slack and other collaboration workspace platforms. It is imperative that leadership members respond back to any volunteers/interns or other respective leadership members on a regular basis.
If a leadership member does not respond to the inquiry and/or concern made by departmental volunteers/interns or leadership members, then the intern who raised the inquiry and/or concern should escalate their concern to the leadership member who is at the next higher leadership level above the concerned volunteer/intern. The level of leadership escalation should be contacted by the interns who raised the inquiries and/or concerns through their chain of command (Intern → DO → DH → ELT → XO → DME Volunteer/Internship Program Supervisor).
The Timely Response Policy further expands upon additional communication rules to ensure interns get the assistance they need when completing or implementing any assigned tasks or projects. To prevent volunteers/interns from becoming discouraged within the program, all leadership members must provide prompt responses.
- Any leadership members who are consistently known not to respond in a timely range after 7 days will be subjected to a demotion if they are not an RTO or do not have extenuating circumstances (e.g., serious family matter, illness requiring hospitalization beyond one week, etc.).
- It will then be the responsibility of the other leadership members within their respective department(s) to decide on promoting a new volunteer/intern to move up within the chain of command.
The Internship Program Supervisor, XOs, ELTs, DHs, and DOs understand that volunteers/interns and other leadership members can encounter unforeseen circumstances that adversely affect their schedule. However, timely response communication is still crucial. Leadership members will need to be responsible for communicating with their other respective department members if they are facing unforeseen circumstances.
Email & Password Policy
The email and password policy exists to ensure all DME Internship related accounts are properly managed and updated.
Email Address Creation: All leadership must create and utilize a DME email address to receive intern weekly reports and for DME-related matters. All interns are required to send emails to their respective DME department leadership email accounts and not to personal or school email accounts.
Password Creation: In the event a web account is created for use by DME Interns, the account must be secured with a strong password. Passwords should be at least eight characters and a mixture of lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and punctuation characters.
If the account requires a recovery email or phone number to be provided, please use the following unless instructed otherwise by department leadership:
Recovery Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recovery Phone: Dom’s Cell (contact your leadership team for the #)
The change of any setting of any DME Interns email account is not allowed without authorization by the DME Internship Supervisor (e.g. recovery info that was set up was not Dom’s phone number or a DME Interns email address).
Password Management: Following account creation, usernames, passwords, and recovery information should be communicated to your department’s leadership team and ultimately stored in LastPass.
If a password needs to be updated, inform your department leadership of the changes. Because you are creating an account on a web service that is specifically for DME Interns use, the password to that account will need to be stored and updated in LastPass by leadership personnel.
Department Transitions: When a department is undergoing leadership transitions, it is the responsibility of the former leadership intern and the incoming leadership intern to coordinate the transmission of passwords.
This is especially important when a leadership intern is leaving the internship. To avoid the loss of an account, it is imperative an account’s recovery/verification phone number is not connected to a departing intern and is updated to either the incoming leadership intern’s number or preferably, Dom’s cell number.
In the event that the former leadership member departs before a replacement can be chosen, it must be ensured that all necessary passwords are up to date in LastPass and a list of necessary accounts is prepared for the incoming leadership member’s arrival.
DME Account Security Policy
This policy exists to improve login security for all DME Intern accounts.
Multi-Factor Authentication: As a security measure, multi-factor authentication is now required for all account users on dmeinterns.org. In order to activate multi-factor authentication, you will need to download an authenticator app for your mobile device. Examples of authenticator apps include Google Authenticator, FreeOTP, Authy, and Duo Mobile.
Instructions for Authentication Activation:
- Log into your dmeinterns.org account.
- Access your profile.
- Scroll down until you see “2FA Status” under “Wordfence Login Security” (pictured below).
- Click “Activate 2FA”.
- Scan the QR code with your authenticator app.
- Enter the code shown on your authenticator app into the corresponding field next to the QR code.
- Download the recovery codes. These are used in the event that you need to login but do not have access to your phone.
If you have any questions and/or concerns, please contact leadership from the Web Security department.
DME Code of Ethics and Conduct
The Digital Media Engagement Code of Ethics and Conduct applies to all interns and leadership members regardless of their position, rank, or job type.
To ensure a safe working environment in a virtual setting, interns and leadership members should show the utmost respect for one another. Interns should strive to foster teamwork and an inclusive atmosphere. The DME will not tolerate harassment, discrimination, cyberbullying, or any behavior or language that is abusive, offensive, or unwelcome.
Interns should demonstrate professionalism in all aspects of the internship by understanding and respecting DME policies, welcoming and providing constructive feedback, communicating with others in a timely and courteous fashion, notifying teammates and leadership about absences in advance, and striving to produce quality work.
Considering the virtual nature of the internship, DME leadership requires interns to perform their duties with the highest integrity. To foster a culture of trust, interns should uphold values of honesty, fairness, personal accountability, and commitment to each other and the U.S. Veterans we serve.
It is expected that access to DME accounts such as Slack and Trello will not be given to those outside the internship. Additionally, DME documents with private or personal information will not be shared or spread to outside parties.
Interns who fail to adhere to DME policies and ethical standards will be met with the appropriate disciplinary actions. For most incidents, interns will be contacted and given a warning before more severe actions need to be taken, however this will depend on the nature of the misconduct. Interns who consistently disregard DME policies will be subject to removal from the DME. Due to the virtual nature of the internship, it is crucial for interns to regularly communicate with their department leadership to limit misunderstandings and avoidable conflicts.
Hatch Act Policy
The Hatch Act policy applies to all interns regardless of position. The policy exists to educate DME interns on the law and to ensure interns do not violate the law.
What is the Hatch Act?
The Hatch Act of 1939 is a United States federal law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in some forms of political activity while operating in their official capacity.
How it applies to you:
Although interns are not considered federal employees, the DME team includes several Department of Veterans Affairs employees that cannot engage in or endorse political conversations. For this reason, DME workspaces such as Slack and Trello should remain apolitical. Therefore, interns should avoid discussing partisan politics, political activism, elections, etc. Additionally, because many DME departments represent the Department of Veterans Affairs through their work, this content must also be free of political speech.
We value respect and uphold the concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst all individuals in the VSFS Digital Media Engagement Internship. We acknowledge and understand that we all come from diverse backgrounds; however, due to the Hatch Act, we cannot discuss politics in any way, shape, or form. This protects our Intern Program Manager, Dom, and the rest of the DME employees on the team, from any inappropriate appearance of political partisanship, which could have negative implications at VA. Please click this link for more information on this law.
Slack Channel Management Policy
The Slack channel management policy exists to ensure all channels within the “DME Interns 2019” workspace are created and managed with the proper permissions.
The creation of new Slack channels is restricted to Dom and the Senior XO, at Dom’s request. All other interns, regardless of leadership position, should not create channels unless otherwise given permission.
If a new channel is needed or desired, interns and leadership should request the channel by following their chain of command (Intern → DO → DH → ELT → XO → Dom).
Archiving/removing Slack channels is restricted to Dom and the Senior XO, at Dom’s request. All other interns, regardless of leadership position, should not archive/remove channels unless otherwise given persmission.
If a channel needs to be archived/removed, interns and leadership should request the channel by following their chain of command (Intern → DO → DH → ELT → XO → Dom).
Who can add/remove interns within channels?
As new interns arrive on Slack during onboarding, each department’s leadership interns should add interns to their respective department’s channel(s).
Only Dom and the Senior XO should remove interns from channels. If interns believe someone should be removed from a channel, the issue should be raised to their department leadership.
Who can invite/remove interns within the Slack workspace?
The invitation or removal of interns to/from the Slack workspace is restricted to Dom and the Senior XO.
Concern Reporting Policy
The Concern Reporting policy ensures interns have a clear process for reporting potential issues related to DME projects and interns.
Interns within the DME Team Internship Program are encouraged to express valid concerns they have about projects, work processes, and/or the conduct of other interns which may contradict the values of the VA and/or DME Team Internship Program or that risk the health, well-being, and safety of Veterans, Veterans’ families, DME Team Interns, and/or DME Team staff.
Interns who have concerns about projects, work processes, and/or the conduct other interns should initially contact the responsible party and/or the intern of concern directly through a private, one-on-one conversation (e.g. if Intern A has a concern about Project B, which is Intern C’s responsibility, Intern A’s first action would be to directly message Intern C; if Intern A has a concern about Intern D’s conduct, intern A’s first action would be to directly message Intern D).
The content of the first message is to include a description of the concern as observed (ideally in screenshot format), a statement of why the intern feels this contradicts Internship Program and/or VA values and/or poses a risk (must include justification), and asking clarification for why the concern might have manifested. Both interns will work to resolve the concern in a constructive, professional manner.
If the concern is not resolved in this initial message series, the intern who raised the concern should incorporate the intern who is at the next higher leadership level above the concerned intern (e.g. if Intern A raises a concern about a project related to a Web Development intern’s work and this cannot be resolved, the Web Development DH is incorporated; if Intern A raises a concern about the behavior of an Accessibility DH and this cannot be resolved, the ELT in charge of Accessibility is incorporated). This incorporation process is also known as “escalation of concern.”
If a concern is escalated to a higher level of leadership, that individual in that higher leadership level must have access to all aspects of previous conversations regarding the concern.
If a concern is escalated to a non-Executive Officer (XO) ELT member and still cannot be resolved, the next highest level of escalation is the XO ELT member. If a concern cannot be resolved at the level of the XO ELT member, then it will be escalated to the DME Team Internship Supervisor.
The DME Team Internship Manager reserves the right to make final decisions regarding resolutions of any concerns. The DME Team Internship Manager reserves the right to restrict permissions of and/or remove interns who violate any aspect(s) of the Concern Reporting Policy.