[This is the story of my first summer internship, that was thankfully sponsored by Tufts' FIRST Resource Center, under their Yes, And Program, which sponsored first-generation college students participating in unpaid internships for the Summer of 2020. While this article is primarily aimed towards those considering an internship at a startup, I figured that this article would still be relevant to some given the current pandemic circumstances. I'm also excited to share what I've learnt through the summer, thanks to FIRST!]
For first-time interns, starting out at an internship with a boss in a startup can be a challenging experience. This article demystifies the experience, and provides useful content that can help interns ease into their work.
At the time of writing, it has been 4 months since I started interning at Brave Dynamics.
For those yet to know, Brave Dynamics is a podcast-hosting startup (located in Singapore) that features senior leaders from the tech, startup, and public sectors on its weekly episodes. We create leadership insights for aspiring entrepreneurs, working professionals, and anyone interested in understanding what leadership looks like in different spheres. As part of my work, my team and I work with Jeremy Au, a serial exited founder who co-founded the nanny-sharing childcare startup Cozykin!
I wanted to share some things that I’ve learned while working with the team, and show what goes on behind the scenes in Brave Dynamics.
Podcasting is really new to me. Despite being a regular consumer of content, I have always preferred listening to my favorite Youtubers in video format and thought that that was the “best” way to learn on-the-go. So when the time came to edit podcast episodes, I was doubtful. Doubtful whether people were interested in them. Doubtful that people would stay and listen. Unsure if I was asking the right questions.
Instead, what I found out was people who care about their work and their expertise love to dive deep into their thoughts and share about it with others too. This leads to some deep sharing about their motivations and the way they go about recounting their personal journeys, along with interesting leadership insights. For instance, I was particularly enlightened by Looi Qin En’s thoughts on how the leader has a responsibility to systematically de-risk possible points of failure, as well as Andrew Ive’s points on the importance of having courage to defy others’ expectations of you and pursuing your own goals and aspirations.
I'm proud to say that we’ve been using these insights in our regular team meetings, which has helped us unlock new ways of thinking in our conversations with one another! They have also been particularly useful to me, after I had woken up late once, well after our meeting had ended. Thanks to that experience, I now have two alarm clocks in my room, and no longer rely only on my phone for waking up or attending meetings on time.
After creating my fair share of content with investors, founders and public servants, it became increasingly clear that podcasting is the best means of storytelling currently. Besides the convenience, it’s also a much more accessible means of exploring the expertise and personality behind some interesting people.
Sometimes it feels like the best thing to do is to not ask questions for fear of looking stupid. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. As mentioned, as interns, we’re always learning! That being said, I’ve really benefited from asking specific questions that help to shape the direction of the conversation.
When asked, clarifying questions can help ensure that the right deliverable is prepared before the next meeting. These questions also help to ensure that the meeting is focused on defining the scope of the product, or the type of action that needs to be taken.
These questions are simple and can follow the 5Ws and 1H. Some examples here:
Some might feel that asking them may “take up [their boss’s] time or space”. What I believe is that it is more important to know the next steps forward than to waste time thinking about it on your own. After all, the point of an internship is to learn while contributing in whatever way you can.
Our (current) meetings are early. Like 9am early. It’s normal to see half of us hop onto Zoom bleary-eyed. On the bright side, we try to keep them short so that some of us can go for morning classes afterwards.
That also means that during our talks, good communication is important, as it helps to clarify problems and keep meetings short. We make sure that our job is done well while actively improving our work process. And when all is done, we can get back to editing, or catching up on that sleep debt.
To ensure good communication in Brave Dynamics, everyone updates the agenda and reads through it before the meeting. We follow it during the meeting, keeping all our items within 3 categories:
We also make time to ensure others can ask follow-up questions, especially when they’re related to more complex projects or require a bit of ‘thinking through the ambiguity’.
Being part of the team has been one of the most fun experiences I’ve had this summer. It was a heavy responsibility to be in charge of ensuring the audio quality behind these episodes, both due to worry and excitement. My team has some pretty awesome, eager people who have enriched my life outside of work! As I move past the summer and finally begin my sophomore year in Tufts, I’m happy to have spent my time with the team at Brave Dynamics and look forward to the journey ahead.