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Coolest internships

At SCVNGR’s LevelUP, fast pace and responsibilities part of experience

Brad Ricketson and Merideth Smith of LevelUp, where a laid-back corporate culture attracts students and recent graduates.

Tamir Kalifa for The Boston Globe

Brad Ricketson and Merideth Smith of LevelUp, where a laid-back corporate culture attracts students and recent graduates.

Just one day after Kevin Hylant landed a sales internship at Boston start-up SCVNGR last summer, he was tapped to join a team in Philadelphia. He soon learned that the team, charged with helping to launch the company’s new LevelUp mobile payment app, consisted of him and one other intern.

The pair were soon out on their own, developing the Philadelphia territory, traveling to stores, and setting up equipment that lets merchants accept payments via mobile phone. By the time he finished his internship, he had used his experiences to write the company manual on how to identify stores, interact with merchants, and install equipment.

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Today, Hylant, who graduated Boston College in 2011, is a LevelUp “sales rockstar” (yes, that’s his official title), working full time for the company in Chicago.

“On my first day in Boston, I came in and I was supposed to have one week of training,” Hylant recalled. “Suddenly, the COO came over, sat me down, and said, ‘What are your thoughts on Philly?’ I was on a flight the next night.”

The opportunity to get thrown into different roles and make a real impact in a young, growing company — not to mention end up with a job — helps make the SCVNGR internship one of the city’s coolest. As Hylant shows, interns, who earn $5,000 for the summer, are quickly given big responsibilities, handling everything from opening new offices to developing key software features.

“We literally tell them, ‘The only way we’re going to know you’re an intern is, after three months, you have to go back to school,’” said SCVNGR recruiter Nick Herbold.

But it isn’t easy getting a SCVNGR internship. Herbold estimates he rejects 60 applicants for every one he hires. “We’re looking for charismatic people who, at end of day, can sell,” Herbold said. “But you also need to be a healthy amount of crazy to work at a start-up and really enjoy it.”

Those who succeed find a supremely laid-back tech company where interns whizz through an 11th-story downtown office on scooters and two-wheel skateboards, blasting each other with Nerf guns. That’s when they’re not developing leads, writing software, and visiting clients.

This type of atmosphere, of course, might not be for everyone. If you’re looking to ease into the job, gradually becoming accustomed to the role and responsibilities, SCVNGR is probably not the place.

“You have to be someone who wants to drink from the fire hose,” Hylant said. “You get put in one position, work at it, make it your own, and crush it. Then there’s every expectation that if you’re put in a new role, you’ll do just as well.”

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielAdams86.
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