Meg Gunson, photographed in New York City, August 3, 2018.

An Eye-Opening Water Cooler Chat

By Meg Gunson, Account Management Intern, Heartbeat

About three weeks into my second tour of duty as a Publicis Health summer intern, there was one particular morning when I was especially excited to be here. The reason? I finally found the office water fountain. After a combination of meetings and reading through the myriad emails that invariably flooded my inbox, the prospect of being able to easily fill up my water bottle for the first time since I arrived was thrilling. Baby steps, I thought to myself.

Empty bottle in hand, I left my desk and made my way to the water fountain, which — in all honesty — is just a few strides away from where I sit. As I stood filling my water bottle, a fellow intern came to do the same. I’m always delighted when I run into another intern, so I instantly sparked a conversation. After getting through the usual “how are you” and “how has your morning been,” I asked her how she was enjoying her internship experience so far. It’s a question that every manager and leader in the organization wants to know the answer to — and something every employee finds out.

“I like it …,” she said, then trailed off.

“Aw, good!” I excitedly replied, just as my water was nearly full. I felt as if her response was hovering over an unspoken “I really don’t know,” or an “I’m just so tired … this 9-to-5 life is so new to me,” but I didn’t want to presume, so I didn’t press the issue.

“I’m glad you like it!” I replied, smiling.

As I drifted away from the water fountain and walked toward my desk, I found my fellow intern walking to catch me, despite her still-empty water bottle.

“Meg,” she said, grabbing my attention. “Can I ask you what you’re doing? Like, what have you done for your manager so far? I always see you running to meetings or doing stuff on your computer. What exactly are you doing?” Her questions came like rapid fire.

I was startled by the candor of her questions. Was I always running to meetings and was I always doing stuff on my computer? I guess I do go to a lot of meetings, half of which I know nothing about, yet I am enthralled by all the information I can glean. And yes, I guess I do always have something on my computer screen that I’m working on. I guess I do spend a good amount of time looking at my screen, questioning whether or not I’m actually completing the given task at hand to a sufficient level.

The initial line of questioning left me with questions of my own, as well. Who am I to tell another intern about what I’m doing when I sometimes don’t fully understand the extent of what I’m doing myself?

I thought about what I’ve done for my team, what I’ve done for our groun intern project, and how much I’ve grown over the course of my time at Publicis Health. What began as a water cooler chat quickly shifted into a brainstorming session. We brainstormed some questions my fellow intern could ask her manager to pull out tasks that she could work on. I told her about some reports and analyses I had done and suggested that she could do the same. I explained what my manager typically asks of me, and suggested some projects and things she could do to share with her manager. Though we only chatted for a few minutes, I left knowing that she had some ideas turning in her head.

When I eventually returned to my desk, it dawned on me that the beauty of Heartbeat and the beauty of the Publicis Health Internship Program is that we’re all here to learn. We’re all here to be challenged. We’re all here to overcome challenges. As interns, we often know very little before we enter the fast-paced environment of healthcare communications. Nonetheless, our managers don’t know everything, either, and even the leaders of our company don’t know nearly everything (sorry, Nadine and James). Yet the difference lies in the fact that they accept that they aren’t omniscient. Everyone I am surrounded with each day has the courage and willingness to ask questions. Everyone I am surrounded with each day has the dignity and respect to answer every single question … always. I learned that this is apparent in our intern class, too, and I’m so proud to be a part of a team dynamic that’s firmly rooted in togetherness.

Some time after my water-break chat with my fellow intern, I received an e-mail alert among the myriad emails that flooded my inbox later in the week. But this e-mail was different. I looked at the “To:” line and saw that my fellow intern with all of the questions sent an e-mail not only to me, but to everyone on our team.

She had investigated our industry in the news that week. She took this investigation into her own hands, asked plenty of questions, then did something with the answers. She took action. I guess it goes to show that water cooler talks still do exist. Even in the seemingly most miniscule moments — such as finding a free moment to fill up a water bottle — I was able to interact with a colleague and create a change for good. At the end of the day, that’s the type of company I am so happy I have the privilege to spend my summer with and I look forward to the many water cooler chats to come.

Meg Gunson is a 2018 Account Management intern at Heartbeat, a Publicis Health agency in New York. Her journey with Publicis Health started last summer in her hometown of Chicago where she assisted with Media Planning at Publicis Health Media. When Meg isn’t in NYC or Chi-Town, you can find her in North Carolina where she is studying Strategic Communications at Elon University. Along with managing the marketing for her school’s 24-hour dance marathon, Meg loves to explore new cities on her own two feet. Last year, she ran through 11 different countries while traveling with Semester at Sea. Connect with Meg on LinkedIn.

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