I took the initiative to write about my experience as a graduate student intern at Essential because all that is good and true should be shared. One of the tough things about choosing where to intern is that not enough people share their experiences, therefore I believe the information on this post will be helpful to fellow students looking for a place to hone their skills and grow as professionals.
LEARN NEW SKILLS - One of my main objectives when looking for an internship was to be able to learn new skills. My manager at Essential knew this from the time I had my first conversation with him. And I was not disappointed. They were very upfront about allowing me to see new ways of designing and performing User Experience Research. They integrated the strengths from different members of the research team, and they expected my contributions as well. They incorporated feedback from different members of the team when designing the research research and when analyzing the results. They used different technology tools creating more compelling ways to show the research results. In sum, my desire to learn something new was achieved easily and quickly.
PICK PEOPLE’S MINDS: COUNSEL AND MENTORSHIP – Since I was a part of the team, other Essential employees offered their time, inviting me for lunch or career chats. They were eager to give counsel and share about their experiences. It was great to be able to get that type of counsel from folks who are leaders in the field of user experience and design. Essential does not have closed door offices, hence everyone is accessible. I could ask questions to the Engineering team, to the Directors, Partners or fellow interns. There is an organizational understanding that questions are welcomed, and that suggestions are necessary to get things moving. Hence, mentorship and counsel happens on a daily basis and in a natural manner. It is also worth noting that Essential does have Mentorship as a part of their core values and participate in two mentorship programs: Youth Design and Step Inspire.
BE A PART OF THE TEAM – On Monday mornings, Essential has an all company meeting where they walk over the schedule, discuss different projects and introduce new people to everyone else. I was introduced in my first day in the office, and from that time on Essential makes you a part of the team. Your opinion counts, your thoughts are valued, your initiatives are heard, and you matter. The nightmare of being an intern whose work is to make coffee and staple papers is far from the truth of what happens at Essential. I was meeting with clients right away, being involved in research design and analysis from the get go. This is always a delicate situation for a company because you are meeting with leading executives from important companies and I know that many companies will shy away from this type of situation. But Essential does the opposite: they invite you into the table and empower you to use your talents and skills to collaborate in helping their clients in the best way possible.
LEAVE DIFFERENT, LEAVE BETTER - Perhaps the biggest fear an intern has is to leave the internship just as he/she entered. Given the paragraphs above, you know by now that is not the case at Essential. I am leaving with better skills as a User Experience researcher, with better understanding of how empowerment and trust impacts team and individual performance, and lastly, how the willingness to make different choices allows a company to improve not only the products they work on, but also the employees under their own roof.