My 6 months as an Inlander — the lessons learned

I joined Inland in February 2018 for six months as a service design intern and a thesis maker. I was welcomed by the team that a month before had grown to be three persons as Kristin Swan started her internship in Inland as well. The next months we worked together with the team but also on our projects and theses. Starting the internship was an exciting time for me: the first time I was working in a service design team, and it was the time to put the learnings from Aalto University Creative Sustainability program into practice.

The internship and thesis work came with many challenges and learning opportunities: I was originally trained as a product designer and had worked a lot with artists, so this was an entirely new environment for me. Additionally, during the last one and a half years, I was mostly doing group work: now my role was going to be much more independent. Moreover, working in Inland was an opportunity to deepen the understanding about design in the public sector, an interest originating from Aalto University’s Design for Government course I took spring 2017. I shared my motivations and first thoughts also in my first blog post.

The first months were filled with new information as I settled in and got to know bit more about the place and started to work. We, two interns, shared a room that we filled with maps and post it’s as we began to get going with our projects. The starting point for my thesis was an analysis of the spatial interventions Inland had done in the offices in the Autumn. Based on the results, my focus was on experiments and a culture of experimentation: How can Inland Design advance experimentation in Migri? To answer this question, I aimed to do experiments in Migri and learn from the design team. In a way, this master thesis project was an experiment on experiments, and it meant that I had to deal with the risk of failing. However, I had the chance to participate in events and workshops that improved my understanding of what is happening around experimentation in Finland. When I listened to the experts in experimentation, I realised that I must keep in mind that this is a learning experience: I should work towards the hypothesis, and actively reflect on the process.

What I did in Inland

I ended up working on three areas, which form the experiments for my thesis: user research as a design experiment, spatial interventions as design experiments and experiments related to organisational development. Additionally, I was lucky to assist in workshops Inland did in Lappeenranta and Joutseno.

The starting point for the user research project was that Inland had been working a lot internally with our co-workers, and now it felt like it is time to work together with customers, too. The project had two primary objectives:

  • Search for future projects and experiments that can bring value for customers, Inland and Migri
  • Arrange co-design workshops with different customer groups

The findings from the user research project were turned into three spatial interventions, as we wanted to present what we had done to others in Migri. These included an interview video, informative origami and user journey poster. One part of the user research was a workshop with students and you can read more about it and the results from this blog post. Designing the interventions gave me the opportunity to practice how to handle and analyse data, how to present it to others, improve visualisation skills and learn video editing.

During my internship, Migri’s Helsinki office moved to a new location. The relocation opened an opportunity to work together with the moving and development team, and we tried new ways of collecting feedback and insights from the personnel. Working more closely together with another team was also an excellent way to learn more about Migri as an organisation. On the other hand, this project was an opportunity for me to practice facilitation and communication with other teams.

Conclusion: the learnings to cherish

In this post, I have briefly described the things I got to do during the six months in Inland and Migri. Of course, there were many other things, small and big, and many phases and learnings not included here. At this moment, as the most significant learnings and valuable experiences, I would highlight that through the different tasks and roles — assistant, interviewer, facilitator, managing my projects — I had to leave my comfort zone and challenge myself. Second, on a practical level, my colleagues here taught me a lot about project documentation, planning and attention to details. Third, in the different projects, I got to practice facilitation also on my own. In other words, during the internship I have to build connections between the theory and practice, that is a good base for me to continue my personal development. I am going to present my thesis in October, and those who are interested can find it from Aalto database around Christmas time.

As I look for the next challenge, I thank my co-workers in Migri and especially the Inland team: Mariana, Suse and Kristin. I warmly welcome the new Inlanders onboard!

Writer: Anna Kokki

Contributors: Suse Miessner