I started out this summer with very few expectations or ideas of what I would actually be doing day to day at my internship. It was only because of the prep work and planning we are all required to do for Jepson internship that I actually found myself outlining goals and hopes for what my summer would be like. I decided to take the first offer I got through my internship search partly because of the many recommendations from my peers who had done the same internship, but also because luck has served me well with major decisions like for example, my college search. Although the first few weeks of the summer exemplified exactly what a learning curve was to me, by the end of my 10 week internship I had accomplished many of the goals I outlined before I started.
The first goal I set for myself was to become more of a team player. On my segment, there were about 6 teams working independently of each other, each led by a different manager but led by one vice president. In order to have a successful team, each team member had to be there for all of the other members and support them when tough projects came in, when there was an overwhelming amount of work, or whenever she could offer a helping hand. Throughout the summer, I found myself more vocal about offering assistance to the associates when I saw they were struggling, and at the end of the day I was putting my best foot forward in order to make sure my team accomplished goals they had set. In terms of team goals, my manager did a great job incorporating what projections he had for the team and identifying focus areas. This made it easy to identify and work towards achieving these goals at a team level. After this summer, I know for a fact that I prefer to work with a team as opposed to alone and definitely don’t mind not being the appointed leader of the team. Something I had mentioned in my personal plan paper was that I had not had all that much experience being on a team without leading it, but this internship has shown me that informal leadership is just as fulfilling as formal leadership within a team.
Another goal I set for myself this summer was to strengthen my soft skills. Cold calling and emailing were among the most important responsibilities I had as a summer associate and I used these skills on a daily basis. I had felt that I was strong in these areas before starting my internship, but the amount I learned from just 10 weeks is so nice for me to reflect upon. Even how I organize my emails and my schedule is something that has tremendously improved because of my internship and that overall improved my soft skills. I had felt confident about cold calling before I came to AlphaSights because of my experience being a caller at our school fundraising department, but it actually turned out I was more anxious to offer people compensation over the phone than to ask for a donation! The first two weeks of my internship, I was petrified to pick up the phone and call someone because I was so worried about missing an element of the call or not being able to tell if someone was the right fit or not for a project. My trainer noticed that I was worried and made sure I listened in on other full time associates’ calls as well as hers to make sure I had the most exposure to what a good call would sound like. In terms of emailing, AlphaSights employees use autotext expanders and email templates to make sure every email is consistent in terms of professionalism, signature, and content. Using these tools allowed me to send more professional emails that were on brand with the company. Overall, the emails and calls I made daily made me a better communicator, as well as a more critical thinker because it was solely on me to deduce if someone could serve our clients well.
My third goal that I wanted to accomplish this summer is one that I am most excited about. I said in my personal plan paper that I really wanted to improve my business acumen and have a better working understanding on what exactly occurs in consultancies, non-profits, private equity firms and multinational corporations. This internship was exactly what I needed to have in order to improve in the area! I actually feel a great deal smarter and more in touch with the business world after completing my 10 weeks at AlphaSights. Since I was on the private equity segment for 7 weeks, I especially feel confident about what private equity funds do and why they need the resources AlphaSights offers them. I am knowledgeable about deal timelines for private equity funds and can use that to better understand why certain clients have certain timelines or asks for their projects. I also had the opportunity to rotate to the capital markets segment of the firm which primarily served hedge funds. I now feel confident about what exactly hedge funds do and why they have such a huge impact on the markets that we see in the news everyday. This is especially what I liked about my internship experience–having an impact on events and deals that actually were popping up in the news and affecting the economy in real time! I feel more connected to the news and economy and the inner workings of business in general after this internship and felt more satisfied with how much I learned when I compare it to some business school classes I have taken at Richmond! I also had the opportunity to work on a project for AlphaSights’ Knowledge For Good segment which serves non profits looking to invest in smaller organizations doing non profit work. This gave me an understanding of the business element of non profits as well, something I had always wondered about.
The fourth and final goal I outlined for this summer was to improve my time management skills. These are skills that I think I can improve upon forever because it is so difficult to balance speed, quality and quantity of projects delivered on. I was able to make improvements by organizing my schedule more by using Google calendar, Slack, and writing out my priorities in a planner. It also helped me that my team would have brief meetings three times a day to check in on the status of projects. This motivated me to get work done by daily specific deadlines and time myself on tasks to shift priorities throughout the day. An unexpected part of my time management improvement was factoring in time for meetings and “coffee chats.” AlphaSights is very fond of coffee chats and they are basically just quick 30 minute meet ups with various people in the office. AlphaSights emphasizes the need for these interactions and is keen to take up 30 minutes during the most productive times of the day because value is placed on relationship building. Making sure I had accomplished work and also had time to complete coffee chats as well as attend other training sessions and meetings was great practice for me to improve my time management. The most rewarding days, when I knew I had managed my time well, was when I could walk out of the office right at 6pm already having outlined my responsibilities for the next day.
It was very helpful to have reflections tying back my internship to Jepson throughout the summer. Because AlphaSights is a relatively new company created and shaped by young people, it was pretty obvious how organization and leadership within the firm was decided on to create a progressive environment. AlphaSights prides itself on the fast track to leadership positions and supporting employees once they leave the company. Some observations I had about the company were that it is a very young people dominated environment, women are the majority in the office yet the majority of the vice presidents are male, a social employee is almost as important as a high performing employee, and networking through the office is very important.
The young environment within AlphaSights, to me, symbolizes AlphaSights’ attraction to individuals who are very creative, innovative and are in touch with changing times. Leadership in this context emphasized the need for people who could challenge and innovate within the company and that meant that they were not afraid of changing the leadership structure. Even in my ten weeks with the company, there were often discussions about the need for more high up leadership positions–even within segments. There was no exclusivity of leadership held with the global VPs, but rather, they were interested in creating new positions to make the company better as a whole in terms of efficiency and new service offerings. I thought this was interesting as compared with traditional companies or banks, for example, where power is held within the partners and nowhere else.
The female dominated environment within AlphaSights is something I really enjoyed during my summer as well. What’s even more is that from day one, I noticed the men in the office using she and her when they asked questions or told stories as opposed to saying he or him. It was a small thing, but one that I had never experienced before. There was also implicit bias training done for all of the interns where men were told to be cognizant of when they spoke over women and their body language. This directly correlated with gender and leadership that we learned about in theories and models, and it was so refreshing to see a company where the problem was identified and steps were taken to ameliorate it. In terms of the executive team within AlphaSights, it does seem like the VPs who are most senior have stayed with the firm the longest and are VPs because of that. Recent promotions of individuals to VP status have included many women as well so i think this is an area AlphaSights is strong on.
Lastly, the social element of the associate role at AlphaSights is very integral to whether or not someone is the right fit for the company. LMX comes into play here because if interns were not keen to meet and engage with other members of their team and their managers, it was something pointed out during performance reviews. Managers had weekly check-ins with interns and established a bond and relationship with them early on in order to set the precedent for open communication and trust. Leaders within the company also exemplified LMX by scheduling chats with employees at a weekly or monthly basis. For example, during my last week, the vice president who interviewed me reached out to me to catch up before I ended my summer. These types of meetings and chats seemed to be popular throughout the company and therefore made employees happier and contributed to higher performance. Something else I noticed is that employees were motivated by reward, not punishment. This reminded me of the carrot and stick model because AlphaSights employees seemed to have more motivation to earn more credits, take home larger bonuses and have a bigger budget for team events rather than if they were penalized for errors or underperforming.
Overall, I am very satisfied with the internship experience I had at AlphaSights. I would recommend this internship to someone who likes to be in a structured environment where extraversion, fast-paced projects, and socializing is appreciated and encouraged. I have received an offer to work full time at AlphaSights after graduation, and will definitely consider my experiences this summer and the relationship to leadership studies that were present when I make my decision.