Abby The Intern Weight In On Work: A Blog Series
If we’re writing a New Book of Work in 2020, as I think we are, we ought to spend time with digital natives who grew up with a direct connection to the whole world. Think about that. If you don’t remember a time without the internet, smartphones, social media, and technology as a routine part of everyday life, the lens through which you view WORK and how it’s DESIGNED is vastly different than digital immigrants who need to wrap our heads around Then v. Now.
We scooped up Abigail Von Bank for a digital student internship this summer. This blog series is where she shares her experiences.
Jess: Abigail, you’re a student, so you’ll appreciate the grading exercise I’m about to ask you for. You’ve been working alongside Leapgen for around 6 weeks now. You did a lot of research before you started – our website, our social media, whatever you could find about who we are, what we do, and how we do it. Did your initial understanding of Leapgen match up to what you understand now, being on the inside? As you know, I shape our market messaging as our Head of Marketing; how could I do better?
Abigail: I knew next to nothing about the world of work and HR when I first looked at your website. The research I did laid a basic foundation of understanding around your values and what you do. Being on the inside is filling in the gaps and cracks in that understanding, and we’re also building on it and making it stronger.
So it’s not so much about what you could do better: the website communicated everything very well, it was easy to navigate, and I could find everything I was looking for pretty easily. It gave me a basic understanding of Leapgen, but reading about the company versus experiencing the company are two different things.
There are so many components to what Leapgen does that I didn’t understand before being a part of it all. I understood your values — including that you valued each other, not just as coworkers but as a real team — and seeing that from the inside just brings it to life. My perception of Leapgen has changed from you guys being this digital transformation giant in big business to a team working on and with people to make a change in the industry. You guys are still digital transformation giants, but now I can break that down into the different parts that make you guys huge.
Jess: What about our culture, our Leaper values, what we stand for? The job of our brand is to attract potential clients who need what we deliver, but the brand also needs to attract the best talent in the industry to help us do this work. What’s the before & after on the values and culture you expected compared to what you’re experiencing?
I wish more companies asked their talent, new and seasoned, for this transparency, by the way. Brand performance should be measured often, realistically, and not just by demand generation and market penetration. A brand should work as hard for existing talent as it does externally.
Abigail: I knew your values when I started and that they really were an important part of everything. Company huddles are what made me realize just how centered the company was around these values. At the beginning of each company meeting, Jason gives time for people to call out other team members and recognize their hard work using the values for reference. Whether they exhibited Love, Energy, Audacity, or Proof, Leapers recognize each other and explain how they live these values with their actions.
Being honest, I didn’t expect such a close knit community, I can’t really find the words to describe how I felt about everything: maybe intimidated, and like we’d silo off from each other? Guess I had the classic image of everyone in their own cubicle working their projects and handing them off when their part is done. I sure was wrong. Depending on who you’re talking to, they could be in the same state, three hours away, or six states away and around 24 hours away; it doesn’t matter, you still feel connected.
Another thing: I’m not looked down upon for being new to this, and I’m not being given busywork. The projects I am given have actual impact, whether it’s culling followers on Instagram to boost authentic engagement, double checking names and grammar in important client-facing presentations, or researching high-value prospects, the projects I am given actually help everyone else’s projects run smoother. The culture I was expecting, I guess, was colder and less connected than the culture I really got.
Jess: Speaking of, you’ve met a bunch of Leapers now! I think you’ve had 1:1 interviews and direct working experience with at least a dozen of us, not to mention exposure to the entire company on our morning huddles and in company wide meetings.
This is probably the first year where this becomes a true statement in some organizations who would never have imagined saying it: “You might never meet the people you work alongside.” Having experienced a 100% virtual, digital internship for yourself, what suggestions would you make to companies who are recruiting, hiring, and onboarding people they might never get to welcome to a physical workplace or meet in person?
Did you feel welcomed, connected, and personally acquainted with Leapgen upon starting and getting to know us digitally? What do you think made that so? What else can employers do?
Abigail: You’re right, I don’t expect to ever meet any of the people I am currently working with, besides my Aunt Jess, of course. When hiring remotely, it’s so very easy to become connected with someone. One click of a button and you’re “friends” on Facebook or Instagram or whatever the workplace uses to connect people. One click and boom, you’re connected; but you probably lack an actual connection. Your status can be “friends,” but do you actually know the person well enough to be friends? Leapgen helped me set up Slack and Zoom so we could be connected, but they did that with the intention of staying connected and forming a connection. They didn’t just give me all the tools and the job description and say here you go, get to work; they gave me the tools, a job description, and let me know they’ll check in and be there if I need any help.
Part of why I feel so welcome here and like I’m really a part of the company is because when I participate in a call they welcome the interaction and thank me for contributing. So my advice is really just strive for true connection and keep it going with communication, and let your workplace become a community where participation is encouraged. It’s okay to have an air of importance with what you are doing and to be serious about the work because it is important, but let some jokes slip in here or there. Part of what helped me feel less intimidated and more welcomed was that fact that I saw people joking around and talking about many different topics before we got down to business on a call. The people who do the work are just as important as the work being done.
Jess: What else are you hoping to experience or learn while you’re with us?
Abigail: I really just want to experience everything I can; from the tech side to the people side, there is so much to learn. Designing and implementing technology that benefits both the people who supply that data and the people who study the data. Creating and maintaining connections with clients in many different work cultures. Learning how to read a workplace culture and identifying how best to interact with it would be very interesting, I think. I hope the more I experience and learn will help shape the career path I’ll follow. Even if I decide to remain on the education path, I’m sure much of what I’ll learn here could be applied to teaching. Like learning how to truly connect with students, understanding the different ways people like to be communicated with, and reading the culture of each class.
Jess: You’re starting school soon – your senior year of high school. What will it look like for you in Moorhead, Minnesota, and how will you leverage your experience from the end of last school year to navigate the beginning of this school year? In other words, does anything change in your approach and the value you hope to get out of the experience that will be delivered to you? Is there anything you can or plan to do differently to enhance your own experience?
What’s a virtual learning hack you might share with others?
Abigail: It has been quite the learning curve, if I’m being honest. My junior year was stressful enough when it was the normal schedule, with AP and ACT preparations, normal classes with extra curriculars, and the battle with procrastination. There was some advice I got from my chemistry teacher that was a good starting point; she told us to create a separate space from where we relax to do our work, like a desk. I realize now this is what my college writing teacher was also trying to help us learn, even before distance learning. She gave us class time where we could go almost anywhere on campus, and we could choose whether to work on the assignment she gave us or anything else. Through both of these teachers, I learned and built on valuable advice: give yourself multiple spaces you can go to. Whether you do your work on your bed or in your kitchen, give yourself spaces you can move to to shake it up. A change in surroundings, even if it’s just from the desk right next to your bed to your bed, can be refreshing and get you thinking differently. In psychology we learned that students should take tests in the same seat where they learn the information because even a small shift in what you see when you learn shifts what you will recall. Rotate your space, rotate your thoughts.
My hope for the new school year is to learn how to embrace the different environment. Learning and retaining the information being taught in a different environment than I’m used to seems like a valuable skill for the future. While I plan to set my desk back up again once school starts, I can say that I will not limit my space for work to it.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Abigail Von Bank is Leapgen’s first digital student intern. She’s entering her senior year of high school with plans to attend Minnesota State University Moorhead. She’s considering a major in education with interest in becoming a chemistry teacher, but she’s still trying to figure that out. Abigail is on her school’s speech team and in a club called Philanthropy and Youth. Her top five strengths are empathy, communication, ideation, relator, and developer. She spends her summers volunteering at a nursing home and in a summer job as an assistant teacher for College for Kids at MSUM. She enjoys photography and painting, and she’s getting her first experience of business and the world of work with Leapgen.
Jess Von Bank is a 17-year industry veteran and impassioned evangelist of the modern employee experience. As both a former recruiting practitioner and an expert in bringing HCM vendor solutions to market, Jess looks to broaden executive mindset to better design and deliver a workforce experience that exceeds the expectations of talent and the needs of the business.
Jess is the Head of Marketing for Leapgen and a Global Community Organizer for NOW of Work, a global community for digital transformation of workforce experience. Jess is an active community emcee and ambassador for women’s and girls’ organizations in Minneapolis, where she raises her 3 daughters.
Leapgen is a global digital transformation company shaping the future of work. Highly respected as a visionary partner to organizations looking to design and deliver a digital workforce experience that will produce valued outcomes to the business, Leapgen helps enterprise leaders rethink how to better design and deliver workforce services and architect HR technology solutions that meet the expectations of workers and the needs of the business.
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