What lessons did you learn during your internship that you just couldn’t learn in the classroom or from a textbook?
I think the 2 best things that I’ve learned on the job as opposed to the textbook are: time management and adaptation skills.
I am a meticulous person by nature, so I like to plan everything out as far in advance as possible. Throughout my 10 week internship, I planned my projects out so that I would have no surprises; however, other components of the projects shifted dates, so my plans were sort of useless towards the end of the internship. For example, one of my main projects was to create training documentation for an internal application. However, because the dev and uat sessions were pushed back so far, it actually knocked my project completely of scope.
The other skill is adaptation. I believe that this comes in conjunction with your time management skills. Another project of mine was also pushed back for dev and uat reasons, so the training documentation I originally had 2 weeks to write(180 pages) got pushed into this last week of my internship(however, some screenshots are still not available for me to be able to write about). So by rescoping me and my managers expectations and still finding ways to work around what I don’t have, I feel that I’ve learned to adapt more quickly and intelligently to situations that are out of my control.
Some skills that I have learned from my internship that I otherwise would have been unable to learn from a classroom or text book was with communication skills (for example using email, phone, instant messenger as channels for communication). Also Prioritizing your tasks and getting them completed in an efficient order and time span (could be considered time management). Also a big skill that is learned from the internship that you could not learn from a classroom or book is learning to adjust when things do not go according to plan. For example, One day I had planned to complete a couple reports after lunch, however there was a big security breach via an Email requesting ID information sent to several hundred Merck employees. So I was required to ditch what I was doing to assist some of my team members with that situation. Or another example would be I would be in the middle of doing something, when out of the blue I would be required to ditch what I was doing and assist with testing of a project. By ditching what I was originally doing, and taking on the new task; I had to adjust to my environment and “go with the flow” and get back to my original tasks at a later date.
I think I learned a lot of communication and organization skills. I have learned how to send out quick emails that sound friendly but are short and to the point at the same time. I have even learned that if you talk to someone a lot at work it is okay to use IM slang. I usually have to talk to the same people every day and they don’t mind me instant messaging them and just shooting them a quick question without a “hi” or a “good morning”. I think I learned a lot of organization skills here because I have a lot of small projects to work on so it gets hard sometimes to keep track of what I did and what still needs to be done. Our server is a little slow here so I can be doing 3 different projects at the same time while the other ones are loading into our database. If I didn’t keep it organized on paper, I would probably forget to load something to the system and it could cause problems later on in the week.
In school, it’s nearly impossible to learn the culture, company practices, processes, and any other skill sets which are very specific to the company you are working for. Some of these can be as broad as how long you should stay after your day technically ends if you still have work to do… to how to handle a situation where a manager is waiting on you for a late deliverable which is out of your hands to complete. In regards to the latter, I had to do a lot of BA work this summer which required me to get business requirements from project managers for PMO reports, and work with the developers to get the reports built in our Cognos system. If the project managers want the reports a week after they gave me the requirements, and the developer working on it still hasn’t finished it when there is one day left…we have an issue on our hands. I had to deal with this type of situation somewhat frequently, with different people. Depending on who you are working with, there’s not always a clear way to handle it. This is something that can’t really be learned in a classroom because these dilemas need to be dealt with on a case by case basis, and are unique to the environment which you are working in.
Another example is deciding when to go ahead and make a decision by yourself vs. going to a manager or supervisor and getting approval on whatever the case may be. I was faced with this all the time, and you can’t go to your manger every time you have a slight uncertainty such as how a particular column should be formatted in a Sharepoint page. You have to absorb everything possible when working at a company, to figure out a proper balance between making your own decisions, and pausing your work to check with a manager or stakeholder for specifics on how a task should be done.
I learned a lot of VALUABLE information that I couldn’t have learned in school. Since a lot of my job was troubleshooting and fixing computer issues it is hard to learn that from a book. Almost my entire job was learned through on the job training and REPETITION. I learned how to replace laptop monitors and keyboards as well as install numerous programs such as SAP, Lotus Notes (huge pain!!!) and more. I also learned how to install images to computers via a server and USB drive. Other than the technical side of my job I learned that the business world is pretty laid back at least at ICG commerce. People would make personal phone calls at their convenience and on Fridays take longer lunch breaks. It is a lot different then I was expecting. Through my internship I was able to talk with a lot of my co-workers and found out that a lot of them didn’t even graduate with technical degrees. So that just proves that you learn how to do your job at your job.
One of the main things I learned over the summer is that is impossible to know how you truly feel about a certain subject until you work hands on in a real work environment. I was never a huge fan reading up on coding and database management. However when I was assigned application development projects, I found that I very much enjoyed building different things. There’s also only so much someone can teach about the real work environment. The best way to learn is to use what you learned in the classroom then adapt as you go along. I have learned a lot so far through training and just asking questions.
I gained a few new skills while working at my internship that I could not learn from a textbook or the classroom. Time management was very important during my time at AmeriHealth Mercy. While college students must manage their time effectively, it takes on a whole different meaning in the working world. Each day, I would plan out my goals for the day and would have to adjust if something new was assigned to me. With school, I feel like there are no major reassignments or projects that appear out of nowhere. At work, new projects (or extensions of current projects) could occur at anytime and you had to know how to manage your time properly to complete all of your assigned tasks.
Also, I improved my multi-tasking skills. I know I discussed this in a previous post but before AmeriHealth, my multi-tasking skills were essentially non-existent. Through a couple projects I worked on, I learned how to mange multiple systems and various tasks at once. Because of this internship, I can more effectively multi-task.
Finally, I also learned how to interact in the corporate world. Through various meetings and one-to-one discussions, I am become more confident in my speaking abilities and how to represent a company. Each company culture may be different but I believe the fundamentals of being a professional apply to any line of work you decide to become a part of.
One of the things I learned in my internship that I couldn’t have just learned in the classroom is effective communication. i’m sure that sounds very basic, but it’s different when you are working with people from Singapore and Russia. More specifically, when I conducted a series of UAT sessions, testers are treated like customers and therefore need a specific approach in communication. For one, they aren’t technical users, so all the language used in communication should be in business terms. Another instance is communication with the actual project managers, I’ve learned to be proactive in my communication and detailed when reporting the status of my assignments.
In general, I’ve learned how to approach communication effectively depending on the specific audience I am targeting – especially when they are in different regions and the culture is very different from my own.
An important lesson that I have learned during my internship is staying open minded. Sometimes working in teams, people are more pushy about an idea because it is their idea. They forget about the task at hand and the business value at the end of the day. The lesson I learned is to push back if that idea is not the best for the group or team. I have spoken up and tried to find a way to compromise so that everyone is happy.
My position included resolving users issues whether it is replacing/providing hardware, installing software, creating/modifying user account, ect. It would not have been possible to learn how to perform these tasks in the classroom. I was not able to learn these things by even watching somebody else do them. I needed to do these tasks on my own to learn. Another lesson I learned is what my companys culture is like and how to communicate with certain people which often is based off their ranking at the company.
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