London Internship Program 2016

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June 2016

Starting Work

Starting up work at my internship is sort of a blessing and a curse. I no longer get to go out every night. I don’t have to continue a life subsisting off of 6 hours of sleep, little expensive food, and cheap but strong Stella Artois or Strongbow cider. My wallet is saved from going out to outrageously expensive clubs most nights, and I no longer get to embrace my urge to wander aimlessly in downtown London. Instead I have a finite schedule of when I have to get to work. I make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep so I can function at my 9-5. I eat regular (but still overpriced) meals with adequate nutritional value. I even have tube stops that I now identify as “my stops” for getting to and from work. But in the peril of rush hour traffic, where I feel more like a sardine than a functional human, I feel a bit of comfort in the normality and order that my internship provides.
But other than giving a rhythm and beat to my day-to-day schedule my internship gives me a great opportunity to learn about things I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. My internship is with a small student accommodations company that works as an intermediary between Investors who own a variety of properties and university students (and in some cases specific universities and study abroad programs). Businesses like the one I’m interning at are part of a niche in real estate that I had no idea existed let alone were so vast in areas like London. While working this past week I really began to see how a variety of different situations have led to the formations of these student accommodations all throughout London. By playing on mutually beneficial roles for people and organizations, property management companies work with investors and tenants to find a mutual area where all three are happy. Investors get the return on their investment that is realistic. The students get price appropriate rent with amenities, service, and care that allows them to focus on their studies. And the management company gets a fraction of the money between the other groups for their work. This work includes following the investors rules for running and maintaining the building, taking some blame for the state of the building if problems were to arise, making sure students are content with where they live, and fixing most issues that may arise that are too small for the investors to care about (such as a stove light being out). All in all its an interesting process and I am glad to get some firsthand experience in real estate.

Starting Work

After having worked six years in golf course outside operations, this is my first experience in a larger office environment. For that reason, it is hard for me to separate what differences are cultural and which are reflective of the vocational setting.

I am working for an NGO that, in its simplest form, tries to positively influence youths through sport. After a full week on the job, I am still trying to grasp the different mechanisms used to pursue their mission. I am going to be working under three different managers in a pseudo rotation. My favorite experience has been working for their marketing department. My first day I wrote an article for their website and I am more involved outside of the office.

Despite, the very friendly atmosphere, I am surprised with how much communication goes on the computer. I shared a desk with one of my managers and we would communicate almost exclusively through email – despite being 4 feet away. This Thursday we rented out a viewing area for the England Whales Euro cup match. I am really glad it came at the end of the week as it was a great social experience and I got two talk the two of the other interns – one Italian and one American. This casual workplace attitude may be unique to my organization, but judging from my classmate’s posts it seems they had similar experiences.

I was a little skeptical of my internship at first. Let Me Play, while delightful, didn’t seem to have the cachet of working in Parliament or Lloyds. However, in only a few days, I feel like an appreciated member of the workplace. This sentiment was best illustrated when the head director personally thanked me for helping out. I look forward to seeing my role expand even more in the coming weeks.


Black Pudding is Not Good

You may not believe this, but wearing a suit doesn’t come naturally to me. When I decided to come on this internship trip, I realized I was going to have to seriously increase the breadth of my wardrobe. I’ve had plenty of jobs before, but none of them had a dress code that included anything more serious than flip-flops. Washing boats, teaching surf lessons, and coaching soccer didn’t exactly prepare me with the proper skill set for a “real world job.” But here we are, and I’m having a blast.

Working at the Parliament was almost too surreal for me to believe. I’m in the opportunity of a lifetime and I love every second of it. Going to work in the morning, I walk out of the subway and am looking straight at a colossal Big Ben. Then, I walk straight through the front door. After a very touchy security screening, I head up to my Member of Parliament’s office. It took my boss all of 30 minutes to catch on to my lack of office experience, but the learning curve isn’t too painful.

I’m attaining a brand new skill set. I’m successfully proficient on the laminating machine, the letter opener is a breeze, and I think I have finally figured out Excel. I’m definitely filling the role of intern, but this job is so much cooler than just that. I’ve got a security pass that gets me into any room in the entire Parliament, and I can bring friends in too. I’ve had breakfast on the Parliamentary terrace and watched MPs conduct business over a cup of tea. If you happened to be watching the evening news in southern India, you would have seen me in an awards ceremony streamed from the House of Commons. I’ve visited the Prime Minister’s office and watched the England futbol game in the Social Room of the Parliament with a load of drunken Parliamentarians. I love my job, the people are incredible, and by the end of the trip I hope I’ll finally get used to wearing this monkey suit.

Pride in Professionalism: The Work Week

With my completion of the first week of my already memorable stint with the TaxPayers’ Alliance, I continue to progress through my protracted initiation into professional life. I began this venture in earnest on Tuesday, arriving at the complex somewhat prematurely. Upon arrival, I discovered my future workplace associates engaged in a preliminary planning meeting. Believing I had unwittingly intruded on their administrative planning, I remained quiet, in an admittedly awkward fashion and waited patiently to be addressed. Despite this mild falter, I was well-received by the head of the organization, one Jonathan Isaby, who rescued me from that potential social quagmire. I was immediately set at ease by his demeanor, though he wore a full business suit and carried himself in a relatively formal manner, every ounce the right and proper British politician, he seemed enthused by my presence. I strongly suspect that the place of my nativity played a critical role in fostering this apparent amiability as all of the workers seemed curious as to my interest in British politics.

I was quick to note marked prevalence of youth within what the Guardian had called “the most influential pressure group in the United Kingdom”. By my estimate, nearly all of the staff could not have claimed over twenty-six years on this earth. Even Mr. Isaby himself could not be more than forty years of age. I quickly found myself in the favor of my supervisor upon learning of my associates’ names. Working closely with me were three men, all of them named Harry. I was informed that they were to be addressed as “Harry I, Harry II, and Harry III” to which I responded that the office was a veritable House of Plantagenet. Mr. Isaby, an apparent lover of history found that remark humorous and it was clear that I had earned his good graces. I felt confident within the first ten minutes that this office fostered a workplace environment conducive to positive reinforcement and competent administration.

With essentially no orientation, my supervisor, Harry I, set me about my first task. Every year, the TaxPayers’ Alliance produces a report on the combined impacts of the Air Passenger Duty, the Insurance Premium Tax, and the Value-added Tax on the British taxpayers which attempts to illustrate the hindering effects of these excises on the average British holiday maker. With minimal guidance and only a single suggested source, I was instructed to produce this report. Initially overwhelmed by the level of autonomy entrusted to me, I resolved to complete the report by the end of the week. To my delight, I would accomplish this ambitious goal albeit barely within my personally-allotted timeframe. I spent the majority of my first week rifling through datasets from the Office for National Statistics, reading over Parliament’s various finance acts and excise notices, and researching travel insurance quotes for different locales and group sizes. Upon final review, it is my understanding that this report will be officially published on the TPA website and circulated to the organization’s mailing list which includes several prominent Members of Parliament and United Kingdom politicians. I eagerly await feedback from the general public.

An Unconventional First Day

I expected to have a pretty normal first day. I got up early and gave myself plenty of time to navigate my 25-minute commute, just in case I messed up a long the way. I thoroughly studied Google maps both the night before, that morning, and took screen shots to reference during the trip. I made it through my four tube stops and line transfer without any problems. But when I walked out of Old Street station and started to get pelted with rain, things started to go south. Too busy fumbling for my umbrella and rain jacket to refer to my screenshots, I walked straight ahead out of the station. I wasn’t sure I was going in the right direction, but I told myself I’d check once I was under some kind of cover. I couldn’t find any street signs anywhere and walked about three blocks before I turned around, thinking I was going the wrong way. Begrudgingly, I went into my settings and flicked on my data roaming. I needed Google Maps to hold my hand on my walk to the first day of work.
I finally got to the office with a few minutes to spare. One of the Co-CEO’s of my company, Catch21, greeted me at the reception and brought me downstairs to an empty conference room. After about thirty minutes of introduction and explaining a little more about what I would be doing, Henry told me he’d see me tomorrow at 10 a.m. That’s it? I thought. Only thirty minutes for the first day? It wasn’t the conventional 9-5 work day I expected, but it only made me more excited for Wednesday.

First Week at Work

Monday afternoon I received an email from my boss with a list three addresses and corresponding times to arrive at each.  Without any other information about what to expect I prepared to spend most of the day behind a desk like my previous internship experience. After a 30 minute commute to the first address I found myself in a small café looking for a woman named Rosie who apparently would lead me around the rest of the day. I saw business men headed to work, women with their children eating pastries and a few people sipping coffee and reading. I ordered a cup of coffee and waited for Rosie (Keep in mind I did not know what she looked like, I did not have her number and I did not even know her last name).

Overhearing the table behind me, I discovered the café’s basement held various children’s events. Making my way down a back stairwell I walked into a room filled with small children and a woman in a T-shirt and jeans who I assumed was Rosie. I awkwardly introduced myself and she invited me to sit and join in the first “workshop.” We led children in songs, read to them, painted and essentially babysat them. Rosie took me to two more similar workshops that day and by the end I found my “business casual” outfit splattered in rainbow paint and children’s fingerprints.

As the week went on I assisted the programs which helped children with learning disabilities improve self confidence and speech abilities. I helped fill out files to help Artburst receive more funding and I spoke with Amy, the creator of Artburst, about the challenges in creating the business. As the only intern I am able to work in all areas of the company and see how the business runs. Despite loving the chance to work with children all day, I am excited to see the business as a whole and carry the knowledge back to the States where I am currently working on starting a non-profit with a similar focus at W&L.

Expect the Unexpected

I had my first day of work completely planned out. I would wake up early, make myself breakfast, leave for the tube 45 minutes before work started, and arrive at the office 15 minutes early, as any intern trying to make a good first impression on the first day of work would do.

When I boarded the eastbound Central line at Holborn station dressed in my dark suit with a white shirt, everything had gone exactly as planned. But after a couple of idle minutes in a jam-packed tube, a voice crackled over the intercom: “The Central line is currently experiencing major delays. We are sorry for the inconvenience.” Immediately my first day of work plan had gone up in smoke.

I hustled out of the underground station and began power walking down High Holborn towards my office located in the finance district — 2.5 miles away. Because I had left unnecessarily early, I had 30 minutes to make it to the office in time. I also tried boarding a city bus, but the line was terminated halfway through the trip because of construction and traffic — another literal roadblock. Ultimately I arrived at the office exactly at 9 a.m. rattled but on time and ready to get to work.

The problems I faced getting to my first day of work taught me two things. Firstly, over-preparation is sometimes the best preparation. Had I not allotted myself so much time to get to work the first day, I wouldn’t have made it on time and made a bad impression with my co-workers. Secondly, expect the unexpected. I was not anticipating the tube to stop running that morning, so I had to adjust my plan on the fly and be resourceful to solve the problem. This small example is applicable to many circumstances, including work. Maybe you get assigned an unexpected task on deadline? Maybe you have to make a presentation by yourself because your partner is sick? Whatever the unexpected circumstances may be, it is important to make adjustments and roll with the punches. The small story of the commute to my first day of work taught me these big lessons that will be relevant in the next 6 weeks of my internship.

One Down, Five to Go

Simbiotik LogoA couple of weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Kelly, my contact at Simbiotik (the partnership marketing firm where I’m interning this summer). We were planning out scheduling for my internship among other things. At the end of her e-mail, she mentioned that the Simbiotik office summer party was coming up and that I’d need to let her know whether or not I’d like to attend. I quickly envisioned a calm, dry get-together with a lot of small talk; I told her I’d think about it. I thought to myself, “for all I know, I may not even like these people.”

Fast forward a couple of weeks (to this week), and I’m showing up for my first day at work. The Simbiotik office is much different than I’d expected. First, as many others in the blog have mentioned, the workplace environment is very casual. The firm has 12 employees (and now two interns). Dave Pickles, the CEO, sits at a regular desk just like everyone else, and everyone goes by their first name. 9 of the people in the office are under 30, and they all like to have a  good time. On lunch breaks this week, we went to a local pub to play darts or to the Mexican restaurant for tacos and drinks. Yesterday, we watched the England game on the office TV while we worked.

The crew may be very casual, but they’re also very productive, working for clients such as Hasbro, Peroni, and PepsiCo in the past. They bounce ideas off one another all day in order to put forth their best work to the client, and once anyone is put to a task, they complete it well. I spent the first couple of days sifting through old client documents. At first, I thought this was just busy work, but the old files were intriguing. It was interesting to see how the firm handled each different set of partnerships. I look forward to working on current projects with the team over the next few weeks.

Anyway, I think it’s safe to say I’m going to the summer party (which I’m told starts at 9am). It’s going to be a fun five weeks.

An Office for Everyone

Just a few of the delicacies at Timber Yard.
Just a few of the delicacies at Timber Yard.

In today’s day and age, people always talk about work-life balance and the benefits of working remotely. While I have always been a little doubtful of the working from home concept, I was excited to be able to experience it first first-hand. My internship with a tech start-up consists of corresponding by Skype for three weeks and then working in office for the remaining time. Each week will be different task, meaning it will be an exciting fast-paced, learn on the go type internship.

This week consisted of looking at a combination of advertising opportunities and conferences happening in the tech industry. I thought that my largest challenge would be learning the tech industry and its terms, but it is the work environment that I am struggling with. I have always found it easy to concentrate on a task for long periods at a time, yet I really struggled with doing so in our flat. Hence, I took my work with me to Timber Yard, a café dedicated to providing a productive workspace and catering to lifestyle needs in London. The atmosphere is lovely, with background music and a rustic feel. What struck me the most was that everyone around me was also working on something – one man was studying another language, while another group was discussing business models. It was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one working!

While I enjoyed my morning at Timber Yard, I must say that I enjoy having an office to go into more. Even though I was surrounded by other people in deep concentration and am emailing my supervisor daily, it is difficult to get a feel for the job without an office. Work-life balance is definitely important, but for me, I do not think working remotely for long periods of time will be something I look for in my future career.

Work Week 1

I was able to experience a great breath of activities and fields in my first week of my internship.  I spoke with all members in my office about their particular tasks at Business Launchpad, which comprised of accounting, administration, business counselling, finance, fundraising, marketing, design, and internal development.  I spent my first day of my internship meeting the different people in the office.  BLP is a small organization with an entrepreneurial spirit, hence it has a horizontal hierarchy that encourages all people in the office to work together regardless of their actual position.  This leads to a hands on team environment that provides holistic solutions to tasks.  Because of BLP’s nature, I have opportunities with a large variety of the aforementioned fields.  On Wednesday, I got my first group of tasks, which was concerned with looking at marketing and social media.  I analyzed BLP’s current social media sites and websites in order to find ways to increase their brand awareness within their target audience, young entrepreneurs ages 16-30.  I had a meeting with their website designer and we spoke about the organization, color scheme, information, and pictures already on the website, and how they can be arranged to create interactive site for young people looking at the site for the first time.  After that meeting, I moved on to creating a marketing program that we will launch on social media.  The goal of this program is to expand the reach of Business Launchpad.  We are initially trying to hit the local area around Tooting hard, then expand out from there.  We are working to find a brand ambassador that we can partner with to enforce BLP’s persona as innovative and young.  I am also working on ways to increase the personal interaction between BLP’s employees and young students in school, with the hope of creating a pipeline so the business flow will stay strong and consistent.  This week I have done lots of critical thinking that is fun and challenging, and I am very happy to be working with such a diverse group of individuals.