Time flies when you’re having fun, and I’ll be the first to say that these first three weeks at IDEO have flown by remarkably fast. It seems like just yesterday that I was walking into the office for the first time, and yet in a blink of an eye, my internship is already 1/4 of the way over. I still can’t get over how much IDEO feels like home, despite having been here for such a short time. It’s almost paradoxical to be in a new place that feels so familiar.
As I’ve spent more time in the office and gotten to know more and more people, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks—some shared, some discovered.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe full immersion is one of the best ways to learn and quickly get oneself up to speed. As an intern, you won’t always get a curated introduction or invitation to things. It’s not because people are intentionally trying to exclude you, but rather it just doesn’t always occur to them to explicitly include you. Only you know what you want to get out of your internship —who you want to meet, what you want to learn, what you want to try, what you want to refine, etc. So it’s your responsibility to make those things happen. And the best way to do that is to simply ask.
In my case, I’m currently working on a team with a few engineers and project managers and I was curious about how their work fits in and aligns with the work I do as a designer. I reached out to my Project Lead and asked if I could be included on some of the upcoming team meetings and planning sessions. They said, “Absolutely!” and as a result I was able to gain a lot of insight about the needs and considerations that surround the hand-off between designers and engineers. I had a lot of questions and by the end of it all of them had been answered. But none of this would have ever happened if I hadn’t asked.
One of the great things about meeting so many people and asking lots of questions is that people will let you in on their own little secrets—tips and tricks of trade they’ve learned themselves over time.
One specific example is becoming a Proofreader.
Being an agency and consultancy, IDEO has a lot of client projects and as a result deliverables have to be up to par. The bad news is this can mean crunch-time towards the end of projects. The good news is people are always looking for fresh eyes. And this is where the subtle art of proofreading comes in.
Making yourself available to others as someone who can come in and check twice for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. is a great way to get in, meet new people, and read up on what they’ve been working on recently.
It’s a win-win. They get to avoid the risk of embarrassment due to human error, and you get to see what they’ve been up to. Plus now you have a really great excuse to —you guessed it— ask questions :)
Nice to Meet You ______
This trick isn’t so much something I learned from the people I’ve met, but rather just from the fact that I am meeting people, period. On average I’d say I’ve met 2–3 new people every single day since I started working at IDEO. It usually plays out something along the lines of this:
Person: I don’t think we’ve met before, you must be new.
Me: Yeah! I’m interning over the summer.
Person: Cool! I’m [insert name] *reaches out for handshake*
Me: *shakes hand* Nice to meet you! I’m Bibi.
I then promptly forget their name.
So how can you avoid this? Carrying a notepad around with you wherever you go and pausing the conversation to write down the name of every new person you meet isn’t really an option. However, if you repeat their name back to them during the conversation, you’re much more likely to remember it.
Person: Hi, I’m Joe.
Me: Nice to meet you Joe, I’m Bibi.
Now there’s a subconscious connection in your brain between A) the person you met, B) what they look like, and C) how you say their name—because you literally just said it. Don’t quote me on this, I’m a designer not a neuroscientist, but I’m just saying—repetition seems to help with memory and recall.