Throughout my internship, I have learned many things. Some of which I had sought out for before going in, while others simply happened to cope with the nature of the expectations laid out before me. Within the categories of things I had hoped to learn before going in, discussed in my personal plan paper and my site description paper, the most poignant one I felt fully submerged in was the learning curve that dealt with professionalism. During the entirety of my internship, the world of professional nature was unearthed and yielded with it an unexpected layer of comfort surrounding the norms and expectations associated with that atmosphere. However, I also feel that I strongly disseminated and disillusioned other topics mentioned throughout these papers such as the ability to assess needs and communicate them well along with the need to provide innovative solutions to them. Through the use of my background leadership knowledge and the creation of the mandated learning contract with Chris, my boss, I was able to learn valuable lessons that I know I will use in future opportunities.
It is also interesting to note with this topic of “professionalism” the importance of the specific role I was fortunate enough to have during my time there. Operating formally as a “product manager” because there is no typical title for the job that I filled, I like to consider that the informal name may be something like “assistant to an executive of culture shift and leadership innovation at Pratt&Whitney #gobeyond”. Due to both my leadership classes, namely theories and models and 102, coupled with Chris’ background in Leadership studies, I was provided an interesting lens to evaluate and negate the varying attributes that feed a professional culture and environment. Many of Chris’ conversations with me resided on the norms I did and did not pick up on happening within the company. This would occur for things such as how someone’s dress had a direct correlation to their power position and level of income to the oddity of self-professed and accepted status found within old age and longevity at the company. This would occur regularly within meetings, individuals would simply state out loud to a group the great length of years they have been at P&W or simply the craziness of their old age to bolster the level of respect given to them. The ability to pick up on these minor nuances that inevitably contribute to the overriding professional culture found at P&W was only manifested due to the perspective my leadership courses have spoken into me. One such course is theories and models, during this class we focused on the topic of implicit bias — or the recognition that we are all drawn to certain things unconsciously because we are human. In learning about these different implicit bias’ one of the goals was to try and recognize them happening to wane the power that these subtle bias’ have over us. Through the guidance of Chris and the previous lessons from my Jepson classes, I was given a baseline framework to pick up on these subtle bias’ within myself as well as how they were operating within the company. Which helped me understand the subtle key cultural things that fed the professional norms at Pratt & Whitney.
All of the lessons I learned were made possible through the positive relationship forged between my supervisor/boss/mentor/guru and me from the beginning. He enabled an atmosphere that highlighted action points to be present, be involved and become attuned to the cultural happenings of corporate America. I believe the effort of making the learning contract lent sight to forging a dynamic of intentional work, insight, and conversations which provided an ideal atmosphere for me to learn in. Specifically, in using transparent and open communication, clear expectations were set and space for reciprocity emerged for the things I hoped to gain while working to help him. Of the different items mentioned within the learning contract, I found the mandate to have a weekly check-in with Chris to be the most beneficial to my learning. By setting this as a precedent from the start I believe it created an atmosphere for intentional mentorship to take place and meaningful conversations to be had which greatly guided my learning.
Another major topic I bridged within my internship was the skill to assess needs and then be able to communicate them effectively. Prior to going into this internship, I wanted to learn how to do this better because I felt that in trying to better systems, from structural equality to human development programs, there would always be a need to first understand them and then to be able to evaluate how to best proceed in order to accomplish improvement. I developed this mind-muscle throughout a multitude of actions and projects I worked on during my time at Pratt. Most notably, within my work on the mass attendance database for my boss’ leadership programming, I was tasked with the job of establishing the most efficient way of storing and preparing the information stored within it. Through hours of assessment and planning, I was able to present to my boss the varying possibilities to venture forward in making the database more sustainable and effective. One of the greatest outcomes of this work was the relationships formed with an individual within the digital sector of our company who after I communicated the nature of the databases’ current issues too, presented a solution to turn the current excel database into a real harddrive database that would alleviate the problems my boss had with the current state of the system. This demonstrates one instance where the ability to both assess the issues the current model faced and then communicate them to someone who could help lead to a very positive outcome.
I was also able to hone in on building the skill set to create innovative solutions to complex problems daily. This was a critical part of my job, day in and out Chris would come to me with problems that needed fixing or solutions that he had no direction for and thus gave to me to try and figure out. Largely, being put in this position led me to fully recognize and appreciate the power of quality research. Both to be a guiding principle for solution making problems as well as to serve as a base foundation from which unique and innovative creativity can amount from. The vast majority of my solutions were rooted upon results from reputable sources which then provided a backing of support to the solutions I developed and had to present to Chris. One example of me following this process occurred when Chris asked me to develop a process to scale his leadership programming event, Ignite, to the greater P&W. He asked as he had no idea where to start, what it would look like or how to go about it. While I began on a similar page to him through hours of research and multi-database scans, I concluded that he wanted to endeavor upon a concept known as social franchising. Upon arrival, to this key concept, I was given access to learning how other organizations successfully went about implementing the scaling process. I learned the different protocols that may help in its effectiveness along with parameters to keep in mind before imparting on this journey which lead to a concrete outline for how to move Ignite forward. Due to the power of research and solutions that needed solving I was able to construct a formal letter that will operate as a guiding contract for Chris’ future franchisee-franchisor relationships. Through this, I was able to contribute to the sustainability and scalability to his leadership program, a hallmark piece to my time there. This example displays the power of research in yielding innovative solutions to complex problems, a paradigm I had previously failed to recognize, however, was able to practice. I believe this is another outlet where my leadership studies greatly impacted my readiness to take on problem-solving. All of my Jepson classes have been rooted in quality research and guided by in-depth papers dealing with individual research components — due to this frequent practice, researching problems yet solved ended up being a more comfortable task at my internship site. I believe this ease of process understanding made me more efficient and effective in deriving innovative solutions which I’m extremely grateful for.
Furthermore, the entirety of my leadership study courses greatly informed the way I understood P&W and the way I approached my work there. From utilizing research techniques to tying leadership theories to real-life examples — my internship experience provided an experiential environment to invoke leadership concepts and lessons learned over the years. Specifically, I was able to more deeply reflect on the Leader-Member Exchange theory as it pertained to my boss as well as the theory of social identity as it pertains to the greater Pratt&Whitney audience. However, I believe the most imperative thing derived from my leadership studies for this experience was not the one specific leadership theory tie in, but instead, the macro perspective and trajectory of critical thinking that my leadership studies have gifted me over these past three years. I believe it is the holistic thought process leadership classes invoke from power dynamic reflection, subconscious psychological reality awakening and system understanding that all draw into a different way of thinking, one that greatly enabled me to gain a better understanding of Pratt’s inner workings. Chris mentioned numerous times his intentionality to have an intern who does leadership studies because he feels it progresses the learning curve to his work. By having an intern who already has the rhetoric to his world it enables a space for them to jump right in to help him out. This concept of a more holistic mind and rhetoric I believe is the power that the Jepson Institute laid the ground for and also largely set me apart to be considered for this wonderful opportunity.