My internship this past summer was a very unique experience. I worked in Boston for eight weeks as a Business Analyst for Monster, an international talent acquisition tech company. The internship was fast paced, challenging, and engaging. The team I worked for was a highly competent group in an organization where competent, organized teams were not very common. As a result, the team kept getting more and more work piled on to their expected responsibilities, and they had an impressive backlog of projects. As soon as I started, they put me to work on some of these projects almost without any inhibitions. I was looped in on all the high level goings on in the company, the political drama (of which there was plenty), the delicate manner in which our team had to operate because we were working on projects that should have been assigned to other teams, and more. I felt like an integral part of the team almost as soon as I got there. I want to reflect, however, on whether or not I was able to accomplish the goals that I set up for myself at the beginning of this internship process, and examine whether the internship experience I had met the expectations I set up for it.
At the beginning of the summer, I laid out three sets of expectations for this internship in my personal contribution essay. The first goal was to grow as a team member and a leader. More specifically, to “strategically apply the leadership styles I have learned over the past few years in such a (fast-paced, competitive, and high pressure) environment.” The second goal was to grow in my understanding of data analytics, more specifically its application to business processes and issues. And lastly, I stated that I wanted to grow as a professional giving me the chance to “learn how to keep a rigid schedule, engage in multiple business meetings a day, and develop relationships with other professionals around me.” Looking back on my internship, and my analysis of it as described in my blog posts over the past couple of months, I think that my internship met or exceeded my expectations in all three regards.
Firstly, my internship absolutely gave me an opportunity to apply the leadership theories I have learned during my time at Jepson. This application came both in the form of me trying to behave in ways that I thought would be best according to the power and leadership structures I observed and by providing an explanatory capability for some of the complex and tentative processes I observed. By viewing my boss through the lens Galinsky and Magee and their theory about the psychologies of power, I was able to identify some of his strengths and weaknesses and try to apply my knowledge. It gave me a better understanding of why he said and did the things he did in team meetings, one on one interactions, and more. It even provided me with content, in the form of the negative effects of power, when my boss asked me for “fresh eyes” feedback on his performance and the ways he could improve as a leader. Another way that I saw theory in action at my internship was in the way I could almost tangibly perceive myself building up idiosyncrasy credit over time. I did my best to work hard and produce quality work without vying for credit or appreciation. As a result, I was allowed to take on a project of my own and present the corresponding business case and financial model to the CFO of the entire company, a major deviation from what might be considered a “norm” for the completion of an internship.
Secondly, I can say with confidence that this internship has grown my professionalism. This was my first truly professional experience, and I adapted both my behaviors and my expectations to fit the norms of the groups I encountered and eventually joined. From understanding the dynamics of team meetings to holding myself to a standard in terms of my schedule, work efficiency, and appropriate conversation, I built up an understanding that will certainly assist me as I look to move into the next stage of my life. A big part of this growth was essentially learning through observation and experimentation; the people on my teams obviously had a lot more experience than I did working in professional environments. One of the people on my team with whom I developed a solid rapport is a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserves and had high standards of respect and professionalism. I observed the way he reacted to some of the more outlandish and unprofessional behaviors of another coworker who had just graduated college and was a bit too laid back, and learned some practices (leaving work early to get a beer with friends, playing audio loudly, revealing too much about one’s personal life) to avoid. I also worked closely with another intern, Gaurav, who was from both a different culture (England) and a different discipline (the wonderful world of Finance and Accounting). We became pretty close, and I established a relationship where he could give me honest feedback when I was stressing out too much about certain aspects of the job that were, in his words, normal in a professional setting. His viewpoint, shaped by his much different experiences, allowed me to see some things in the way I was behaving as an employee that could be improved upon.
My reflections this summer also point to a growth in the way that I think as a professional. One of my blog entries noted that I began to make decisions differently, trusting the soundness of my logical insights and pushing me to allow myself the license to think outside of the box when trying to solve or find a problem. I specifically remember feeling empowered when my team members, whose intelligence and skill intimidated me at first, agreed with the decisions I recommended based off of my analysis. I entered the summer very hesitant to trust the logical and analytical processes I had developed over my years of education, but I left it with a realization that I was actually more capable than I previously believed.
Lastly, I certainly gained some of the hard skills that I wanted to gain at the beginning of the summer. The projects that I took on gave me exposure to a variety of analytical tools and processes. We used Excel (the program I had the most desire to learn) a lot, and in a lot of different ways. As I noted in my Personal Contribution reflection, “I…built out a detailed financial model in Excel with the help of an analyst who was assisting me, quantifying the project in a way I never would have thought I could.” I used it in some projects to develop pricing tools, in database applications when building out stories for new products, for financial modeling, and for survey data collection, cleaning, regression analysis, and presentation in the process of conducting original research. I feel very comfortable operating in Excel now, a functionality I was very much hoping this internship would provide. I also used PowerPoint extensively, building out three separate decks that will, I am told, circulate the company long after my departure. Other data analysis tools, such as PowerBI, were sporadically thrown in to my experience as well. At the beginning of the summer, I could say that I knew “Data is powerful, and an understanding of how to properly analyze it to draw actionable conclusions about complex issues is rare and valuable.” (Me, Jepson Contribution Essay). However, I could not say that I knew exactly how that was true, nor could I provide that valuable function for someone who needed me to do so. Now, however, I have the experience to see any data analysis asks in the appropriate light, and the skills to, at the very least, get a strong start on whatever I need to do.
At the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my upcoming internship at Monster. All I had to go off of was a generic job description and a single conversation with someone who was talking about things that went way over my head. However, I can say that I knew what I wanted to gain out of the internship, even if I had no idea how it would happen. I wanted to be able to see practical, real life examples of the leadership theories I have studied, both in my own behavior and in the behavior of the leaders I was going to encounter. I wanted to grow as a professional, building understanding of how to behave in a setting I had never experienced. Lastly, I wanted to build up hard skills that would set me up for my future. Now, three months later, analysis of the experience which went by quicker than I thought It would shows that I was able to accomplish all of these goals. My experience was very enjoyable precisely because it pushed me as an individual, a group member, and a leader, and I can’t wait to see how my future roles will do the same thing.