What I Learned As An IDEO Design Intern: Day 01
For those of you who don’t already know me:
QUICK RECAP + INTRO
I’m an Interaction Designer currently studying at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco and this summer I’ve been given the long sought-after opportunity of interning at IDEO (also in San Francisco). I can write more later about how I even managed to get an internship at IDEO in the first place, if anyone’s interested. In a nutshell though, and for the purposes of this very brief intro, I’ll just say that I recognize the great privilege I have in being able to experience working for one of the top global design agencies and so I’ve made three waterfall goals for myself over the next three months:
1. Don’t take anything or anyone for granted
2. Learn and grow from every experience (good or bad)
3. Use writing as a tool for reflection and sharing
FIRST DAY OVERVIEW
I woke up incredibly early for absolutely no other reason than the fact that I guess I was just really excited to go to work. I think it’s safe to say I can give myself an A+ in Knowing You’ve Chosen The Right Career Path: 101.
10:00— Walking Tour of the Office/Studio Space
I rode my bike to the office and enjoyed some nice views along the waterfront of the bay. There were actually three interns, including myself, whose first day was today. Once everyone had arrived we were given a full tour of the space, got to know a little bit about what all the different teams do and where to find them, and learned some of the ins and outs of the IDEO office life and culture.
11:00 — IT Orientation
Nothing too exciting here. Mainly just setting up laptops, making sure all the account logins work, opening emails, all that jazz…
12:00 — Lunch on the Pier
I was originally going to have lunch with my own team, but I think they had some work they were just wrapping up and figured it would be more fun for me to go out to lunch with the two other interns and their mentors instead. We went to a lunch cafe conveniently located literally ten paces away from the office along the pier and spent time chatting about how we find out about IDEO and what we were all looking forward to most during our time there.
1:30 — Office Culture Orientation
This was really just a continuation of the tour we did during the morning—just without the walking part. More information about office life, company perks, where to find free food, and who to reach out to if we have questions.
2:30 —Mentor One-on-One
While I’d been welcomed in passing by various members of my new team as they walked by my desk, this was the first time I actually got to sit down and really talk with one of them about what to expect and things to get started on during my first few days. By nature of my position and the team I’ll be working with I technically have two mentors (I know, I’m spoiled) and so I got the chance to have a good chat with one of them and the other one, who was traveling, made sure to give me warm welcome email as well which was nice.
3:00 — Free Time
I mainly used this time to keep setting up software and preferences on my laptop and jot down some notes on things (and people—so many names and faces to remember!). I also learned how to raise and lower my desk, which honestly blew my mind because at first glance it just looks like any ordinary wooden desk but it secretly has a motor underneath. Never would’ve guessed!
5:00 — Surprise Happy Hour!
Just as I was about to pack up my things and call it a day I heard a mysterious cow bell ring. Curious, I walked over and bumped into one of my friends who also works at IDEO (and also went to CCA!) and asked what all the bells and food and drinks were for. It turned out, one of the teams was hosting a happy hour and little bit of a project share and panel discussion. We decided to stay and I absolutely loved it! Probably the best way to have ended my first day :)
6:00 — Go Home
Exhausted and excited for the next day, the next week, the next month—I hopped on my bike and rode home, except I totally ate it on the sidewalk halfway back. Oops. Hello giant elbow bruise!
WHAT I LEARNED
You Aren’t (just) An Intern
While my official title is Interaction Design Intern, it became pretty clear early on that when people met me they couldn’t have cared less whether I was an intern or a full-time employee—in a good way! I learned that everyone is far more interested in learning about where you came from and what you do and how you do it and why you do. In fact, a lot of the time people would just ask me what team I was on (a.k.a. what work I would be doing) rather what my position or title was. Although I haven’t started on any project work yet, I was also told to be aware that when I do join a team on a project I will be thrown straight in and treated just the same as if I were a full-time designer—which is to say both “hit the ground running,” but also “don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Everyone Is Really Freaking Friendly!
I think just by nature of the people who end up working at IDEO and also the open floor plan, there’s a lot of opportunities for people to bump into each other or pop over to someone’s desk for a quick chat. Obviously many of the people at IDEO have been there for many years already which, at other companies, might translate into old weather souls who have little time to spend on the new batch of interns. But I found everyone from people who sat a few desks down from me to completely random people I saw in the hallways coming up to me and excitedly welcoming me to the IDEO family. First impressions matter, and I can attest that everyone today mattered :)
This Is A Place for Meritocracy
This kind of relates to, but also goes beyond, the whole “You Aren’t Just An Intern” thing. Basically, from what I’ve gathered so far, while there are official teams and projects and titles and such, when it comes down to it people at IDEO do float around a bit—myself included. Learning to embrace ambiguity is a huge part of being a designer, and that’s more true than ever at IDEO. Proving your worth and finding your place within the company means taking the initiative, showing what you can do, and making yourself an invaluable resource to the group of people you’re working with and the problem you’re all trying to solve together. Again, What You Can Do > What Your Title Is.