Startup Life: Reflections Of An Intern

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Introduction

 ‘If you find something you love doing, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ Allow me to introduce myself in a few words. I’m a young woman studying business with big dreams. Chinese by descent, Zimbabwean born and raised, a minority among minorities, culturally complex, detail oriented, highly analytical, adaptable and trying to find my niche in a fast paced, constantly evolving business world. 

This summer I took on an opportunity that I’d never had before and I had no realistic idea exactly to expect. I knew it was a startup – an entrepreneurial venture typically described as a newly emerging and fast-growing business, but I wasn’t really sure what that would mean for my day to day tasks as an intern.

Every startup environment is different, but they all seek to solve a current problem with an innovative solution. I’ve chosen a few aspects of my internship at Pablow that really stuck out to me, taught me a lot and are what I believe made my summer at Pablow a unique experience.

Passion, Drive and Self Motivation

Compared to the life of intern at a big corporate firm – the structure of mine was, speaking colloquially, relatively ‘chilled.’ I was given the responsibility of choosing my clocking in and out time, as long as my total hours weekly fell within a given range. The duration and timing of my lunch break was also up to me. I was also given the choice of working remotely (from home, library or cafe – whatever works). For someone who is most comfortable with routine and structure this was definitely a change. I learned that while this kind of flexibility comes with a lot of freedom, it requires lot of responsibility and discipline. I was fortunate to be in an working environment of driven and motivated individuals that taught me something – that if you find something you really love doing, then you’ll never have to work a day in your life.

Use of Innovative Technology

For a company with only a handful of employees, the ball is rolling at an impressive velocity at Pablow. Steve Sherlock – my boss and seasoned entrepreneur is currently working in an Insuretech meets Traveltech startup (notice all the tech’s here). He’s a huge internet enthusiast and has the habits of a millennial when it comes to his knowledge and efficient use of all online services (i.e. it’s always Uber and Airbnb). In the beginning of this internship I felt like I had been living under a rock before and I was just starting to see the light on everything that is available in the travel industry. From the get go I learned to delegate certain tasks and work to freelancers all around the world. I watched and learned about loads of innovative online services within the travel industry and beyond, from digital guest book creators (Touchstay) to website testers and online accountants. There’s no limit to what is being created in this age of digital adaptation and Pablow is no stranger to this.

Learning by Trial And Error

On my first day, Steve sat me down where he presented Pablow’s business model, vision and products. Then I was given my role, along with a list of projects to work on, and Steve told me – there’s probably many ways out there to get this done, but how exactly I would get this done was up to me. At a startup, there’s not always a file of tried and tested programs or procedures to getting something done, and most of the time it’s never been done before – so it’s really a process of trial and error. I had never created a full survey, infographic or a demonstration video or had the concise knowledge of any programs in particular that might do the job, but the time had come to learn. I embarked on an exciting self taught journey with Survey Monkey, Tanida Demo Builder, info graphic makers including Piktochart, Canva, Venngage, Vis.me and Animaker. I was, for the most part, single handedly in charge of a list of projects and tasks, which initially didn’t seem so extensive given the eight weeks I had, but soon I learned it’s more about the quality than quantity. Additionally I learned that most marketing projects are an ongoing process that constantly change based on a number of factors, which makes checking off items on a long to-do list difficult. I had to take my meticulous work to another level and be concise in all I did. I also learned to make use of Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics. This kind of practical, immediately applicable, hands on learning by simply being thrown right into the deep end, is probably the best and fastest way to learn.

Conclusion

Working under Steve and learning from him was also truly valuable – he is wise, calm, driven and his approach of describing the destination and allowing me to work out the path to get there was a liberating experience. Every startup culture is unique and a little different but mine has been an unforgettable and vital learning experience. The autonomy I was given forced me to find my feet and then jump high. Experimenting on unfamiliar ground – such as publishing a blog post for the first time is a little daunting at first, but it’s an unforgettable and empowering experience that I wouldn’t trade for another summer internship.

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