Journalism Internship 2017: An Analysis

Example of a rare job. Building a customer PC for a client.

As the end of 2017 is neared, my journalism internship at CONCISE Computer Consulting comes to an end. This could not have been a better way to dip my feet into both worlds of information technology and communications.

One thing that I really took note of during my time in Oakland’s journalism program was the need for students to be highly proficient with technology. I took classes with many students who were great at writing and general journalism skills, but did not have very good skills behind the keyboard. As a result, their work took much longer and generally did not look very great in the end. While I don’t regard my skills in writing as the greatest, they are definitely not the worst. My skills with a computer are well above average. When I found out about the open communications internship position at CONCISE Computer Consulting (via a friend), I jumped at the opportunity.

This Office’s Workflow

For the first week, I was briefed on how the company operates. CONCISE is a small business with only six employees currently. They provide IT services to hundreds of local metro Detroit small businesses. Generally, a call comes in from a client with a problem, the office manager creates a ticket in an online system for the issue, and the next available technician then opens the ticket and calls the client. The technicians each have their own desks and computers where they use a remote software to access clients’ computers.

Solid and predictable communication among the employees is 100% necessary for the work to flow properly. If the office manager fails to make a new ticket in the system, and instead transfers a call directly to a technician, the technician now has to put their job on hold to create a new ticket on their own. Missing this first step can add an extra 5 minutes of work to the technician’s workflow. The office manager not only needs to make a ticket, but the ticket must have enough information (including contact info for the client) in it to be useful for the technician. When I began the internship, this process was being significantly improved.

An example of a ticket that I created using the online ticketing system.

Once I understood the office workflow, I was given the task of answering telephones when it was too busy for just one person to handle. Over the course of the few months, I must have spoke with over 100 clients on the phone, and created at least 35 tickets. I had to adjust my speaking style depending on the client’s attitude. Some people preferred a casual conversation while others were very formal and expected the utmost professionalism. The latter were generally much more difficult people to deal with. I was not the only one with this opinion. Overall, I believe I excelled in this verbal communication task, as I was able to successfully talk to many clients and keep them happy. At the same time, I was able to operate the online ticketing system and create useful and highly verbose tickets for the technicians to use.

When the office wasn’t so busy and the phones weren’t ringing off the hooks, I put myself to work on more menial tasks. This often included basic intern (grunt) stereotypical duties. Yes, I washed the dishes in the kitchen numerous times, emptied the trash cans, swept the floors, and picked up lunch for the office. These times were great for getting out of the hustle and taking a moment to relax, a necessity.

Social Media & Online Presence

Social media was a mostly blank slate for CONCISE. They had previously hired somebody on to take care of this, but after a short period they left the company. I was given the task of updating the Instagram profile, which is much more important than you may think! As a matter of fact, one of the technicians was hired on via Instagram. They had found a job posting via a hashtag that had been posted. The technician is still employed! Under my watch, many photos were posted, as well as hashtags. I tried to take pictures that were emblematic of the company’s mission statement (concise, quality, good work). These pictures are often used with CONCISE’s blog posts.

The office supervisor.

The blog was pretty barren before I was invited on-board. I made it a point to have us all update it more. As of today, a new blog post is made at least once per week by all employees on a rotating schedule.

I have contributed a few posts of my own. Each of them are posted here on my medium blog and will be posted over time to (check out that picture of me). Here are the titles of some of them:
 - The Cordcutter’s Manifesto, pt.1
 - The Importance of Backing Up Your Data (Backup Your Data!!)
 - Random Access Memories
 - Tech Minimalism
 - From HDD to SSD: The Jump to Hyperspeed

The Ticketing System

One thing that I noticed about the job was the abundance of spreadsheets and overall hyper-redundancy. Everything was required to be noted down meticulously. Every remote job by the technicians were required to have a ticket. Every communication (email, phone call, voicemail, walk-in) was required to be logged in every ticket. Every job performed was to have minutes written for its corresponding invoice. Often, technicians were required to update three to five different locations (spreadsheets, tickets, calendars) every time a job was completed, not to mention all of the communications to be logged in between. While I can say that this expectation made many things or events in the office easy to track down and take care of, it also slowed everyone down and reduced the office’s productivity.

In our technologically advanced 2017 world, surely there must be a better, more automatic way to get this done. The biggest drawback to the process was the ticketing system itself. It was a custom project that was very slow and feature-poor. I would have suggested using an off-the-shelf product. These days, pre-made ticketing systems are incredibly advanced and customizable. They are far cheaper than creating your own, which requires hiring programmers (who are not cheap!). These systems often automatically create tickets, assign them, add events to calendars, log communications (via VoiP phones and email) into tickets, and generally cut down on loads of manual key strokes. By using a pre-made system, I think the amount of quality communication into and out of the office would drastically increase. It would cut down on a lot of work that the technicians should not have to do.

Example of a pre-made ticketing system (Zen Desk).

As a workplace?

In general, everyone seemed to enjoy their job, for the most part, at CONCISE. Of course, like any other workplace, everybody had numerous complaints from A-Z. Complaints were usually handled in a satisfactory manner.

Weekly meetings came on Friday evenings. Everybody would stop what they were doing, the phones would be muted, and a huddle was formed. The meetings were a great way to observe others’ communications skills. Some people were happy to speak up about their concerns and questions, while others did not say much until nudged. The best part about the meetings was the open-floor section. We were allowed to bring up any topic we wished.

To improve this workplace, I would highly suggest more democracy. I believe if the workers were allowed to play more a part in major decision by the company, the workplace would be even happier. When workers are happier, they tend to stay at their jobs for much longer. Many decisions came from the top down at CONCISE, despite there being near total disagreement on the issue among the staff. In my opinion, most things should be decided on as a group. No singular person is vastly more intelligent than another person, especially when it comes to somebody exerting authority over a job they do not do.

Example of a typical technician’s desk setup.

All About Communication

First and foremost, CONCISE is an IT company providing computer services to many small business clients. From a business standpoint, they are a profitable shop that is well known in the area for what they do, and they are growing bigger every year. Behind the scenes though, this company operates successfully not just because they charge money for service, but they are successful because they are skilled communicators.

To sell new hardware to a client, you must be able to communicate why they need it. To sell your services to a new client, you must be able to communicate why they need you. To keep a good rapport with a client, you must be able to consistently communicate with them on a level that makes them feel comfortable. They must feel that they are in good hands if the company wants to keep making money. Once again, I do not think I could have found a better internship for communications study than a small IT company like CONCISE.