Final Reflection

Tilley Neuhoff

Final Reflection Paper

Summer Internship Class

August 17, 2019


This summer I worked under Johnathan Mayo, the founder and CEO of Serving Up Change, Crow Cookies, and Team Excel (an education technology platform).  Because the companies are so different and I was the only person in the office, I got a wide range of experience across many different disciplines.  I learned what I like and do not like in a working environment, and I learned what fields I am definitely not interested in as well as some I want to explore deeper.

The most rewarding experience for me was working with Team Excel. My time doing projects under this umbrella gave me the most insight on my career path.  I began with a range of creative graphic design projects. I was charged with creating the student planner and organizer the students participating in the program will use. This was a really fun project because I was given creative freedom over the whole project to blend practicality, the platform curriculum, and aesthetics together.  Combining the critical thinking skills that I have developed in Jepson with free form subjective work was very rewarding.

At home, my sister claimed the artistic niche, so I never explored pursuing anything that involved visuals or artistic creativity.  When I got tasked with creating program brochures, certificates, and an awards ceremony PowerPoint, I realized that I had a knack for visual aesthetics and designing things was extremely satisfying. It made me more open-minded to exploring different career paths.

Every year there is a Team Excel Gala to celebrate all the students, mentors, and sponsors.  This year, my boss asked me to help plan the Galaand work under the program director.  This was one of my favorite weeks of the internship because I enjoyed taking care of little details and seeing the event space transform.  I got to work with other people and manage many different things all coming together to create a meaningful final product.  When planning this event, I used my critical thinking and foresight skills to anticipate potential problems and have solutions on hand ready to deal with them if they arose.  Before this internship, I did not realize the many challenges related to event planning. I always wanted to go into a career that would challenge me to think critically and solve problems. I thought consulting would be my ideal path, but the technical side of consulting would not allow me to access my artistic side. Event planning allows me to challenge myself while also being creative in a less technical sense.

I never considered working in event planning, but I really liked the atmosphere, creating an environment with a certain ambiance, the challenge of working within a set budget and foreseeing potential problems.  In addition, it was really rewarding to hear my supervisor tell me she could see a future for me in events and production because of my disposition and skill set. It affirmed that I should at least look into a career in events. While I was not expecting to get experience in these fields, I am very glad I did because I learned a lot about what I like in a working environment.

One of the more entrepreneurial things I did for Team Excel was talking with my boss about steps we needed to take to make sure the platform is ready for the launch. We created a timeline of key events and processes then broke down each point and considered all the little details that were required to make it happen. I got great experience getting to know the behind the scenes processes of running a business as well as apply what I have learned from my minor, Education and Society.  We talked about ways to market the platform to schools, and I helped my boss by providing insight into what schools value as well as gave him some literature to support our platform’s effectiveness.

On the Crow Cookies side of things, I got a lot of experience doing PR, communications, and marketing.  I sent out press releases to local media outlets and contacted vendors to try and get them to purchase wholesale.  I went into the summer thinking that I was really going to like PR and marketing, but I actually found it dull.  Maybe it was just the company I was working with or the fact that I was just an intern, but I did not find PR very challenging at all.  The days I was tasked to do that went by very slowly.  PR is a very slow-moving process with a lot of waiting around for responses, and I did not feel like I got to exercise my creativity or critical thinking in a way I wanted to.  I thought of a new potential market for my boss to target and ways to get in front of them, but it was not rewarding and seemed relatively simple. Many of my learning contract goals dealt with learning the ins and outs of marketing. I am really glad I got to experience this because I learned that I definitely do not want to pursue marketing.  I am thankful I worked at such small companies because I got a lot of exposure to a wide range of subjects.  During my job search, I was only searching for marketing jobs, so I am very happy I worked at a start-up because I had other things to do.

I went into this summer unsure of what I wanted to do after graduation.  Over the course of 10 weeks, I realized I need to work in a fast-paced environment where I can collaborate with people and be creative.   The program director  I worked with to plan the end of year Team Excel gala said I would do very well in event planning because of my efficiency and attention to detail, so that is definitely something I will look into this year because I want a career that takes those things into consideration, which is something I did not think PR did. I have been browsing LinkedIn and Indeed for part-time internships or entry-level jobs in event planning.  Thanks to the start-up culture of my office, I ended up doing a lot more than originally outlined in the learning contract, which made my summer experience worthwhile.

My Jepson degree has prepared me for the “real world” by building a curriculum around collaboration, critical thinking, and ethics.  Before this internship, that was just part of my elevator pitch that I prepared during the spring internship class.  I blindly built my pitch off of what I thought employers wanted to hear because I had not had real experience in the workforce. This summer, I got to see how the things I outlined in my pitch played out in a professional setting.  Because my office was small (just my boss and me), my experience with collaboration was limited.  I had deep conversations with my boss about the future of his companies.  It was amazing to see when we talked together and fed off of each other that he always felt more secure about where his companies were headed.  We were both respectful of each other’s opinions and listened with open minds to what each other suggested. This was able to go so smoothly in part because of all the experience I had completing group projects with all sorts of people through my Jepson studies.

One day we were talking about how to gamify Team Excel and if schools would have an overall score that they could compare to other schools across the country. I raised the point that if Team Excel is going into alternative schools like Virginia Randolph, it could potentially negatively affect their self-esteem when compared to schools like Henrico. Many of Virginia Randolph’s students left their home school for some reason, typically truancy or poor performance. Many of the students are labeled delinquents especially from students at their old schools. Because the metrics for Team Excel are grades, attendance, and service hours, Virginia Randolph would have a much lower score than other local schools (their principle said they struggled with attendance).  I was nervous that it would reinforce ideas that those students were bad kids, and I suggested that we shouldn’t make overall schools’ scores public for that reason.  My boss agreed and was really grateful I brought that to his attention. Working together made our final product better because we combined two unique sets of knowledge. I brought a background from my education classes that my boss did not have. Through my leadership studies background, I learned how to productively work with other people.  It was easy to create a space where my boss and I felt comfortable being frank with each Because my boss was really busy, I had to be a self-starter and think of projects for myself.  The critical thinking skills I developed made me

Without the weekly reflections, I would not have as deeply analyzed my internship as I did.  At times when I was frustrated with my boss, I reexamined the situations under the scope of various leadership theories.  I caught myself falling into the trap of my implicit biases when I got annoyed. Realizing that I was being biased, I was able to reconsider how the characteristics I was disagreeing with actually had strengths in the workplace.  I was able to learn more from my boss and create a better working environment because of my theories and models studies.