Why being a ping pong master helped me get the most out of my summer internship at Pandora

A conversation I recently had with a friend reminded me of a valuable lesson that I learned while interning at Pandora. We were discussing our upcoming final semesters in college, and whether or not we should join clubs for the heck of it. I expressed my hesitation to join an organization as a senior in my spring semester — “What’s the point of joining anything anymore? It’s not like I need it on my resume…”

“But why not join a club purely for interest? Just meet people and do something that seems interesting to you,” he countered.

Our conversation got me thinking — why HAD I joined the clubs that I’d joined in the first place? I’d joined a professional organization, a community service organization, and a financial literacy organization. Why? Because I thought that that’s what recruiters were looking for on my resume: a professional resume filled with leadership roles in professional organizations that would demonstrate my stellar capabilities and work ethic.

Reflecting back on my work experiences, I realized that my beliefs had been challenged by what I’d experienced as an intern at Pandora last summer. My conversation reminded me of an important and valuable lesson I had learned during my time there:

There is more to being a successful intern or co-worker than just doing the work that’s given to you.

It’s important to be unique, to be able to share your passions with your coworkers. My experiences at Pandora made me realize that companies not only value an intern’s abilities to perform well, but also value someone who will bring a lot to their culture.

The employees at Pandora are all very passionate people. Of course, at a music streaming company, to say that everyone appreciates music would be an understatement, but everyone also had cool interests outside of work. For example, I discovered that my mentor is also passionate about running, and that she regularly runs marathons in her free time. Occasionally on our lunch breaks, we’d jog around Lake Merritt together. On the other hand, my manager was a ping pong MASTER. She was a really great data analyst as well, which intimidated the heck out of me, but playing ping pong with her helped me relate to her in a way that was comfortable and genuine. I got destroyed the first time I played with her and vowed to get better over the summer so that I’d be able to pose a real challenge to her. I practiced with other interns and employees and then challenged my manager to a game. The games that I played with not only my manager, but also other employees, helped me get to know my coworkers outside of a strictly “work” relationship. I was able to relate to them and establish a more genuine relationship, which I believe is essential in creating an enjoyable and supportive work culture.

My efforts to establish good relationships at Pandora were mirrored by the efforts of the company to help me have a really great internship experience as well. The University Recruiting team put on a costume ping pong tournament for the interns and their managers, which fostered a sense of camaraderie, and demonstrated just how much Pandora values workplace culture. The fact that they felt it important enough to establish a community for interns spoke volumes about the company’s values.

PERGs — Pandora Employee Resource Groups — are another way that Pandora demonstrates just how important company culture is. PERGs are internal “clubs” within the company where employees can get together, nerd out about something they love and meet people outside of their immediate teams. PERGs at Pandora range from the ice cream PERG to the running PERG to the coffee PERG. In addition to the yoga PERG, I also joined the ice cream and running PERGs. PERGs introduced me to a lot of interesting people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met, allowed me to feel comfortable at work, and helped me get to know the values of the company. These programs allowed me to immerse myself in a unique and passionate company culture, ultimately helping me to be the best intern that I could be.

I titled this article “Why being a ping pong master helped me get the most out of my summer internship at Pandora” because I think it’s a good analogy for the lessons I learned at Pandora:

Being passionate about something outside of my expected work responsibilities helped me to get the most out of my internship experience.

Playing ping pong might not have helped me succeed in my role as a Pricing and Yield Intern, but exploring my hobbies allowed me to relate to others and participate in a work culture that prizes individuality and passion. My internship at Pandora helped me realize that there more to being stand-out applicant than maintaining an exceptional GPA and showcasing leadership qualities — it’s also important to have passions and interests.

More importantly, I learned that it’s equally important for companies to establish a unique and fun company culture that allows employees to thrive in the workplace.

It also helped me realize that I want to work at a company like Pandora, because it is refreshing to be in an environment where company culture is valued. I want to work at a company that allows my inner ping pong nerd to be the best that she can be.

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