My Summer Internship in Berlin

I just spent 3 months in Ableton AG — music software maker based in Berlin. These are some of my experiences and notes from what I've learned by working at company this passionate.

You can my photos from Berlin on Exposure
https://michaeldolejs.exposure.co/my-internship-in-berlin

Check what is Ableton all about at www.ableton.com

This article mainly describes my experiences during my internship and hopefully could be interesting for other designers or anyone else, that wants to try working in different country or never worked in company of this size.

I would also like to thanks Ed Macovaz and rest of the team at Ableton for making this all happen and for the wonderful time I had over the summer.

This is my 6th article on Medium, you can find the others here.

Story

But first, a little bit of context. The whole idea of an internship at Ableton came about from conversation I had with them during the summer 2014, where I was contacted with interesting position for Interface Designer. which I sadly couldn’t take at the time due my ongoing studies and other projects that I was currently working on.

But the idea of being in company like Ableton was still very interesting to me, especially since I felt, that I would like to try to be in a company again. I was freelancing for more than a year after my last full-time job and trying to work abroad was intriguing and something I haven’t done before, even if would be only for a short period of time.

And that’s exactly what happened — I asked, if I can do at least an internship, went for a formal interview in March and than moved to Berlin in June and began my journey!

Reason

And why did I went to Ableton and not anywhere else in Prague? In short, because I wanted to try new things and see, how it would feel to work in a different city, different country and in totally different type of company at once.

I was quite scared at first, but the more I thought about it, it felt like a thing I want to do to experience something new and going to Berlin seemed like a good decision at that time.

Even if you don’t know Ableton, you can tell from their overall presentation, that this is a company, that is very passionate about what they do and they are trying their best to create tools for other music makers, rather than for themselves.

I always admired companies, that are working on their own products, decide on their own strategies and are passionate about what they do.

Change

I was really in need of a change, since I was getting little bit of tired of working on the same type of work all the time. I really like working in teams, but never had many opportunities that fitted my schedule.

My primary work was always done as a freelancer working from home, which can get quite monotone over time, so this was perfect opportunity to get to know my limits, try something new and radical and get to know myself a little bit better.

Ableton

One more reason why I wanted to join Ableton was really also a fact, that I try to make music in my free time, ever since I started using GarageBand few years back and then got interested in Ableton Live.

You can hear some of my music here

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Ableton is a music software company that produces production and performance program Ableton Live and creates their controller instrument called Push, amongst other things.

The company is based in middle of Berlin and even before joining, I didn't really have any idea on how company like that actually works, given music softwares are usually one of the hardest things you can work on.

Happily enough, everyone in the company is very friendly and it was always interesting to hear their life stories, how they started making music or how they got to Ableton. And that’s a lot of different stories, considering there are about 250 people in two offices and 30 different nationalities.

Everyone here is very passionate about music, since at least everyone likes listening to it. This was really different from any other company I worked in, where not everyone is usually totally onboard and bought into the things, they are making.

This is really a dream job for lot of musicians/developers or designers, where they can work on apps that they also use.

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You can talk with anybody during your lunch here and always get interesting ideas out of it, try new things with their newest hacks or just chat on Slack and discuss new things in technology or politics. This place really has it all.

Workflow

And how do they work in Ableton?

It might not be very obvious at first, but working in already established companies like Ableton, can be very different, than your usual startup, which can take some time to get used to.

First thing first, you have to be a team player and leave your ego home, if you want to be taken seriously and contribute. This is a team work after all and everyone in the company is assigned to different Focus groups to solve different problems.

Lot of things are done the Agile way, where every small team has it’s own coach and things move in two or one week sprints to tackle the release circles. This was very new to me, but it works really great.

This document explains it quite well.

It's also important to be open to new ideas, wonder about how things look and work, question the problems, that you are trying to solve and think about non-designers who are you going to present your ideas to.

This was really interesting experience, mostly because I was never in context of such a big team and product, where you have to be able to articulate your ideas very clearly and be able to have a reason behind them.

All an all, just be nice, work hard and have fun!

Berlin

Even if Berlin isn’t very far from Prague (it’s just about 5 hours by bus or 3 hours in car), it was still very new experience for me, especially since I never lived somewhere else for longer time.

Even thought Berlin is not quite that different from living in Prague, where I grew up, it was still a totally different experience and first time I lived like this alone.

My summer flat was located near Riegerstraße in Friedrichshain, which has a reputation as a not exactly calm neighbourhood, but I enjoyed it regardless.

Part of my rent was also a bike, which was very helpful for getting to and out of work, but also great for discovering the rest of the city.

Compared to Prague, the city structure is different in a sense where all the streets are actually consisted of multiple building within courtyards. That means that on map the city appears quite small, but in reality it's really quite big. And since the architecture is very similar all over the city, Berlin is very lively on every corner, which is great when you just wonder around on Sunday.

Places to visit

I also visited lots of different places in my free time, where I mostly visited many galleries and other cultural places, that I haven't been before.

Here are some of my favourite places, that I enjoyed among with other parts of Berlin.

Deutsche Technikmuseum
Gemäldegalerie Berlin
asisi Panorama Berlin
Martin-Gropius-Bau
Bauhaus Archive

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I especially recommend the Deutsche Technikmuseum, which is pictured above, that has great new building and interesting way they show their exhibitions.

Summary

I hope you enjoyed this small summary of my experiences! Let me know if you have any questions or want to know more!

You can also see current Ableton Jobs here

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Thank to Ed Macovaz, Maggie Tang, Victor Mark, Gilbert Guttmann, Eric Carl and Matthias Frick among others friends from Ableton.

Give them a follow on Twitter!

What's next?

And what's next for me? My current plans are to continue freelancing and use my last year of my University studies to learn things I didn’t yet have time to do, like coding and 3D.

I also want to focus more on branding and graphic design, which I chose as my topic of my final Thesis work this year, which I'm very excited for.

Thanks for reading!

Michael Dolejš
 www.michaeldolejs.com

You can find me on:

www.twitter.com/michaeldolejs
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www.behance.net/michaeldolejs
www.soundcloud.com/michaeldolejs