My internship with AlphaSights was an incredibly challenging, educational, and rewarding experience. Everyday my tasks and my teammates’ impressive work ethic inspired me to demand more of myself and others. The company culture paired with AlphaSights’ commitment to leadership development and a growth mindset allowed me to develop deepened interpersonal skills, further my emotional intelligence, and become a more confident young professional. In this reflection, I will review my key learnings from my AlphaSights internship, explore my work and its connection to Leadership Studies, and explain why my background and experience drove me to receive and accept a full time job offer.
At AlphaSights, my three key learning takeaways include the importance of attention to detail, the power of critical thinking and how to creatively problem solve, and how to be adaptable in the workplace.
Sharpening my attention to detail was one of my initial goals set forth in both my site description and personal contribution paper and my learning contract, which encouraged me to focus on how I could improve my awareness of subtleties or smaller aspects of a document or exchange that could potentially have a large impact. In my learning contract, I explained I “aim to increase my attention to detail in projects and in day-to-day interactions to learn more about the impact small details can make when working with others or on deliverable work products” (O’Brien, 2019). On the Client Protection team at AlphaSights, everything we do requires intense attention to detail because our team serves as the final sign off on any exchanges between clients and advisors. Client Protection reviews and approves all existing AlphaSights projects and flags potential compliance risks, reads any written exchange or survey questions and responses from clients and advisors, escalates more intense compliance risks to our Legal Counsel, and communicates with clients to answer any legal-related questions they may have. As a result, the ability to read documents and email chains with scrutiny, apply a detail-oriented mindset to escalations and communications with others, and recognize subtle inconsistencies is imperative to being a successful and effective Client Protection Associate.
One instance where I recognized my approved attention to detail occurred when I was approving a project as part of my daily tasks. In any given day, an individual on the Client Protection team can approve upwards of 100 projects, meaning fatigue and time pressure can reduce our awareness to small details. However, I identified a conflict of interest between a client’s goal to speak with a particular advisor due to his current position at the client’s investment target. I flagged this concern to my Trainer, who ultimately raised the concern to my Manager. We ended up speaking with the Client Services Associate to learn more about the project, and with the context he gave us we decided this advisor was not someone the client should speak to due to the possibility of the advisor revealing confidential information about the investment target or the risk of him speaking about his current company — both of which AlphaSights does not allow. I had several similar situations where I was able to identify compliance risks in written documents advisors intended to send to clients, or in surveys where clients asked overly specific questions that could have led advisors to disclose confidential, current company information.
Similarly, my internship with AlphaSights improved my critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. In both my site description and personal contribution paper and my learning contract, I set a goal of improving my creative problem solving skills (O’Brien 2019). However, I did not notice the correlation between improved critical thinking abilities and creative problem solving until about halfway through my internship. As a Client Protection Summer Associate, I constantly had to slow down and thoroughly evaluate situations before coming to any initial conclusions when evaluating compliance risks, approving projects, and responding to client concerns. At the start of my internship, I found myself jumping to conclusions before I fully thought through the problem because I wanted to propose solutions as quickly as possible to best help the individual. However, I learned that taking an extra 30 seconds to mindfully understand a situation helped me not only come up with more insightful suggestions, but I could also think of areas in a situation where I needed more information in order to make any initial judgments. I was amazed by the amount of extra details and potential follow up questions I could consider if I was more careful with my work, and taking the extra time to think something through never actually amounted to a critical time loss for an Associate or client. Critically thinking through situations also allowed me to think more creatively about potential solutions, enabling me to better help Associates and clients because I could think of a more personalized solution for their problem as opposed to applying the same solution to everyone and hoping something worked out.
During my individual summer-long project, I was able to creatively problem solve due to my critical thinking and careful analysis of an issue at hand. At the beginning of the summer, my team presented me with a current business dilemma facing Client Protection and AlphaSights and explained my project would be geared around proposing solutions to the problem. At first, I dove right into the topic and aimed to come up with solutions as quickly as possible. However, my team responded to my initial thoughts with heavily constructive feedback. While I implemented the feedback moving forward, I realized the reason I had such difficulty coming to solid conclusions was because I rushed through the thought process and never truly took time to understand the issue at its core; I valued speed more than results. Once I thought more critically about the question and its potential solutions, I was able to come up with more legitimate and thoughtful recommendations that inspired even more potential solutions and follow up questions to the issue. Learning how to analyze a problem to understand a situation inside and out greatly improved my critical thinking skills, which allowed me to creatively problem solve as an individual and as a member of a team.
My third key learning from my internship with AlphaSights is how to be adaptable and implement feedback in the workplace. In my learning contract, I explained I wanted my internship to help me “become more flexible when working in fast-paced environments and improve my ability to receive constructive feedback… I hope to develop the confidence to understand feedback is not something to stress over and run away from and instead embrace others’ suggestions” (O’Brien 2019). AlphaSights is an extremely feedback-heavy organization, and there are constant internal changes that make adaptability essential to success in the company. I was nervous about feedback at first because I was worried that receiving any constructive feedback equated with failure. However, I soon learned that being open to feedback and valuing others’ input can help individuals improve as professionals, team members, and individuals. At AlphaSights, it is clear feedback comes from a place of care; no one wants to tear others down or see people fail. Instead, feedback helped me succeed and exceed expectations my Manager and Vice President set for me.
Being adaptable and open to change helped me succeed because I did not constantly fight against things that were out of my control. As I noted in my Week Six blog reflection, this summer was full of changes on both the Client Protection team and at AlphaSights, but keeping an open mind and positive, flexible attitude allowed me to help others and adjust with ease (O’Brien 2019). For example, two of our teammates left AlphaSights this summer, one of whom was moving on to pursue law school, and the other who discovered she had a chronic illness that required her to return home and recover. While both their losses posed challenges and changes to the team, my flexible mindset helped me take on new responsibilities and become a better team member for Client Protection. Additionally, my individual summer-long project got completely overhauled six weeks into my internship, which posed several challenges and initially was very stressful. Nonetheless, I was open to accepting the feedback and new project topic, which helped me be resilient in the face of change and still create an impressive final presentation. AlphaSights also implemented a new policy that impacted a significant portion of the company’s projects that now require intense Client Protection scrutiny and approval. Instead of complaining about the change, I embraced the new policy as a learning opportunity. With all these changes happening in such a short timespan, I learned more about how to be adaptable in order to help my team succeed.
My Leadership Studies background gave me a unique perspective when joining the Client Protection team at AlphaSights. Most of my teammates majored in political science or a government and law related degree, which meant their styles of thinking were relatively similar. While they are all incredibly intelligent individuals, my Leadership Studies experiences set me apart in establishing my abilities to understand key leader-follower dynamics, recognize leadership opportunities for myself and others, and knowing the importance of good followership in a team.
My awareness of key leader-follower dynamics allowed me to navigate relationships with my Manager, Vice President, team members, and other key company leaders. In studying leadership, I understand leaders are often times under intense pressure from their superiors, and their behavior and decisions often stem from situations impacting the team. I was able to maximize any conversations with leaders at AlphaSights because I understood the value in connections with leaders and how those relationships could help me develop my own leadership potential. Similarly, I took comments and feedback less personally than other interns because I could recognize that some leaders were under difficult pressure in different scenarios. For example, my Vice President is a highly direct and disciplined leader, which made her feedback delivery brutally honest and sometimes harsh. Instead of getting worked up or insecure, I was able to understand that my Vice President was instructing me on how to be a better follower for her instead of making any personal attacks.
As I noted in my Week Eight blog reflection, I noticed David Messick’s Leader-Follower Exchange theory applied directly to my experience at AlphaSights, which allowed me to see the direct impact my Leadership Studies background had on my everyday work learnings (O’Brien 2019). Similarly, the company’s core value of emotional intelligence demonstrated that what have learned about leadership and organizational success holds true across professional environments. Applying my Leadership Studies degree to my internship gave me a deeper appreciation for Jepson while amplifying my ability to be a strong team player.
My Leadership Studies background also helped me recognize my own potential to lead in the workplace. My coursework’s emphasis on the power situations hold in developing and showcasing leaders allowed me to understand when it was appropriate to take leadership initiative on my team and when working with others. I understood how to delegate tasks, manage up with different leaders, and tactfully suggest possible solutions to problems without making ignorant or poorly timed comments during meetings. For example, during a global team-wide meeting with our Legal Counsel about a new legal policy, I made a suggestion toward the end of the meeting based on my experiences at AlphaSights and the knowledge I had on the topic. I was confident that what I suggested was rooted in factual company information, and my team was impressed by my insights. Neither the other Client Protection intern nor some of the full-time Associates had the courage to speak up and challenge our Legal Team during the meeting, demonstrating how my knowledge of group dynamics and idiosyncrasy credit shaped my actions. I likely would not have had the confidence to step forward and make a suggestion without understanding how any team member can be a leader if they offer valid insights and strategically establish themselves within a group.
Lastly, Leadership Studies taught me how being a good follower is just as fundamental to leadership as the leader themselves. In my Week Eight blog reflection, I explained “followers bear the heavy burden of enacting a leader’s vision day in and day out and relying on one another to succeed when the leader is not present. Working on the front lines of the company, we see and learn so much that our leaders are far removed from, making our observations and feedback invaluable to leaders. While leaders create a vision, followers are trusted to work and succeed in making an ideal a reality” (O’Brien 2019). My insights about the power of good followership encouraged me to constantly go above and beyond any expectations set for me in order to help both my leaders and the overall group succeed. Understanding why followers are essential to teams and leaders enabled me to think more about my Leadership Studies takeaways thus far in order to empower others and positively impact my team.
Ultimately, I believe my key learning takeaways including the power of attention to detail, how to better think critically and creatively problem solve, and how to be adaptable in the workplace, paired with my understanding of key leader-follower dynamics, ability to recognize leadership opportunities for myself and others, and knowing the importance of good followership led me to receive a full time job offer from AlphaSights. I had an incredible internship experience and my Manager, Vice President, and team were overall impressed with how my knowledge of organizational and group dynamics, the nuanced intricacies of leadership, and my own leadership potential, all of which I gained in the Jepson School. I am excited to continue to apply my Leadership Studies knowledge to my full-time position at AlphaSights and I am confident this degree will help myself and my peers benefit any organizations we join after graduation.