Starting at a Startup: My summer internship experience
BY: SHAIRI ISLAM
If you asked me 4 months ago what industry I wanted to work in in the future, I would not have said “technology” or “start-up”. I can’t tell you how much this has changed since the spring.
Over the past summer, I was given the opportunity to intern at a startup company called Global Skills Hub (GSH). GSH helps Canadian companies hire top international technical talent, manage the immigration process, and ensure successful candidate integration into the workforce.
What started out as a summer job evolved into the experience of a lifetime.
Landing the Position
My internship journey begins with Councillor Michelle Holland challenging the team at GSH to put on an event for Digital Literacy Day. Fast forward a couple weeks and Yousuf Khatib, the CEO of the company, and Ivana Lochhead, VP Growth, find themselves on a panel for an Entrepreneurship in Tech program
that a community organization called Bangladeshi Canadian Community Services (BCS) was hosting. I had worked on multiple projects with BCS over the past couple of years and was set to attend this event, however, as luck would have it, I had a shift at my other job and was not able to make it.
Gutted that I had missed the event, I decided to message Yousuf on LinkedIn. I shot him a quick message to try and schedule a call, not thinking much of it. I had sent out a couple dozen other emails during the summer and not a single person responded so I was wonderfully surprised when he replied a mere two minutes later, graciously accepting my invitation.
We chatted the next day at 9:30 PM over Google Hangouts. Despite hosting an event that day and still being in the office, Yousuf took the time to talk to me about his company and answer all my work-related questions. A couple of emails and a video resume later, I was offered an internship at the company.
Starting at a Startup
If I were to describe my start-up experience with one word, it would be ‘fast’. Initially, I was supposed to work part-time for the first couple of weeks and gradually move to full-time. However, in true start-up fashion, half-way through my third official day, due to the crazy pace the company was executing at, I was brought on full-time.
Everyone at GSH thinks and works at the speed of a thousand miles per hour. Although it was a lot to take in, I learned more in my 8 weeks of work than I did my previous two years of school. I was never confined to one job or one portfolio as Yousuf and Ivana ensured I made the most out of my internship by letting me experience the company as a whole.
I got an opportunity to do everything from sitting in on strategy meetings to managing sourcing channels for different positions. I spent time interacting with candidates, sitting in on client meetings, contributing to reports and slide decks, creating marketing proposals, and assisting the Talent team with candidate prep.
Not only was I given the opportunity to learn, but I was also offered a chance to contribute. I was always encouraged to provide my input and perspective and challenge and build upon the ideas of my teammates. I met some of the hardest working individuals working in the Toronto office and also got to learn from my international team members in Romania and Germany.
Throughout the process, Ivana took me under her wing and mentored me every step of the way. Whether it was professional advice or just watching how she carried herself at work, I learned something new from Ivana every day, and have officially decided that when I grow up, I want to be her.
Making an Impact
Although the experience I got working at GSH was invaluable, my favorite part of the job was being able to be a part of a process that made an impact on the lives of others.
As I sit and write this article, the GSH team is on their way to the airport to welcome a candidate and his family on their arrival in Canada. Although this will be a huge professional move on the candidate’s side, I can’t help but think of his 7-month-old daughter. Being the daughter of two Bangladeshi immigrants myself, I see myself in her and get excited thinking about all the opportunities that will be available to her as she grows up in this wonderful country, just as they were to me. All the long hours and hard work become instantly worth it with every new placement that is made and every new airport picture that is sent.
Although my summer internship has come to an end, I am very excited to announce that I will be continuing on with Global Skills Hub officially throughout the year. I am looking forward to watching the company grow and evolve and continue to impact more people and the Canadian tech ecosystem as a whole.