Intern 101: apps, jargon, and leggings

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Photo: Olivia Ives

The Money section’s summer internship series kicks off with Olivia Ives, an incoming fourth year studying Social and Cultural Anthropology. Miss Ives brings humour, dedication and an open mind to the world of PR and marketing.

Photo: Olivia Ives
Photo: Olivia Ives

What’s your internship this summer?

I’m working in marketing and PR for a health tech company called Kurbo Health. Kurbo is a mobile app that helps kids and families track their food and exercise, and pairs them with a health coach to work on goal setting and long-term behaviour modification. The app and coaching technique are based on Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program and use a traffic light system to encourage kids to reduce their sugar and processed food intake, emphasise fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets, and work on understanding healthy portion sizes.

What does your work entail?

I work under the Chief Marketing Officer and we work with the CEO, CTO, and the sales team to create all the physical and digital marketing materials they need. We also manage the company’s social media presence, find and target new corporate clients who might buy the program in bulk for their employees, and develop ways to increase the brand’s presence and our level of engagement with our target demographics.

How did you find your internship?

I had originally planned to go back to the tutoring job I had last summer, which wasn’t career focused for me at all but paid well and was something to do. I went on Craigslist to see if I could find something on weekends to make some extra money and scrolled past an ad for a marketing intern. I work in marketing for the Playfair Project and for a textile import company called Achik, both based in St Andrews. I also did PR and publicity for Label Fashion Show, so [this internship] seemed right up my street. I applied on a whim without telling anyone just to see where it went and got an email back the next day. After a Skype interview, I submitted my web and graphic design portfolio as well as some writing samples and the rest is history.

Photo: Olivia Ives
Photo: Olivia Ives

What’s your favourite thing about your internship?

I like working in Palo Alto because I can bike to work, that it’s predominantly young working people around town, as well as that the CEO, Head of Coaching, and two of the software engineers are women and the gender ratio in the office is even. I like that I don’t have to be in the office until 9:30am or 10:00am and I’m trusted to keep track of and to submit the hours I work each month. Everyone works in one big room together instead of in our own small offices which makes the environment open and social – it’s easy to see when someone’s busy. I like that I’m the youngest person in the office but that I’m still taken seriously. Not to mention that if I tell my boss I want to work on a certain skill or develop some technical aptitude he’ll give me assignments that help me; I can bring him ideas, projects, and strategies and they’re not discounted because I’m an intern. Also, we have awesome healthy office snacks.

What’s the hardest thing about your internship?

This is probably a result of the intersection of start-up culture and marketing but there’s so much jargon. It’s really important to know it, so I’m glad I get to hear it (and then frantically Google it when the meeting’s done) but it can feel like you understand nothing if you don’t know a certain acronym or buzzword. At the same time, it can sometimes feel like we’re talking in circles and everything is just hot air hidden with fancy language. If I never hear the words ‘leverage,’ ‘platform,’ ‘engagement’ or ‘strategy’ again, it will be too soon. I know I shouldn’t like feeling a little bit overwhelmed and it is difficult to be a part of ten or fifteen ongoing projects of varying priority levels and time frames for multiple people. Still, it’s nice to be challenged because you figure out exactly where your limits are and can feel them expanding. It’s also proof that you’re being trusted with more responsibility because they think you can handle it, which is always good to realise.

Do you have any advice for students hoping to intern?

The desire to seem really capable and professional is strong, especially when you’re younger and keenly aware of your relative inexperience, but being new to the professional world can actually be a gift. It’s always better to ask about something or double-check early on because it’s less embarrassing and, frankly, it’s the reason you’re there. Say ‘yes’ to things, even if you haven’t done them before or feel like you don’t know how. There’s something you’ve done in your life that will apply in some way, so find a way to lean on those skills and watch a disgusting amount of YouTube tutorials until you can take a stab at it. And when someone criticises your work, absolutely do not take it personally. You’re in an internship in the first place to elevate the level of work product you’re putting out, so critique is a gift. In five or ten years if you keep doing things wrong and people have to correct you constantly, you just get fired. Don’t complain about a single thing until you’re home with the door shut. Obviously don’t tolerate abuse, but office gossip, decisions you disagree with that come from above you, weird things your co-workers say and do, and things like that shouldn’t be talked about when you’re at work. Also, don’t wear leggings, even if you think you can make them look professional. Just don’t. Wear real trousers, unless you’re interning in a yoga studio (but you’re probably not doing that).

Photo: Olivia Ives
Photo: Olivia Ives

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