The Intern; Welcome to the Lab

My name is Sarah and I’m the new marketing intern for Coshx Labs. I’m also a rising fourth-year English major at the University of Virginia. This post is an introduction to a series on my experiences and insights gained while interning.

Expectations vs. Reality

No one holds back during the brainstorming session, not even amidst talk about mad scientists, hybrid instruments, and meshing together employee features. The question, “how do we define Coshx?” sparks ideas that attempt to capture the innovative and intelligent nature of the company. The conversation swells with images that bubble atop one another, collaborating, building. It’s thoughtful, colorful, and more free than any collective thinking I’ve ever done. The brainstorming team prods the ideas into concrete shapes and the conversation settles back on the ground with a list of ways to improve the company’s website.

This is what it feels like to brainstorm with Coshx Labs.

During the meeting, I’m struck with an idea, but regret my decision to share as I begin to speak – my idea’s already boring and out of line with everyone else. This isn’t an 18th century literature seminar, after all. In spite of my worries, someone says, “Hey, I love that,” and it turns out that I don’t have time to be self-conscious because we’re still thinking, sharing, encouraging.

This is what it feels like to work with Coshx Labs.

Or, at least, this is how I would describe my work experience so far.

I’ve only been with the company for three weeks, but I can confidently say that this is a tight-knit group, filled with seriously smart people who love learning as much as they love working. The office has that classic startup culture feel, but also has a lot of heart. The Jam-Sesh Friday drum set and the kitchenette that helps out with home-cooked-and-office-shared meals are testaments to that.

With these three weeks under my belt, I came up with a list of things I wish I’d known before starting my internship.

##The 3 things I wish I knew before starting my internship
(2 cliché pieces of advice that are actually useful + a word of encouragement to English majors)

###1. Cover letters are overrated.
I hesitated to apply here for two reasons. The first being that in order to apply, I’d need to submit a sample tweet instead of a cover letter. The prompt was:

“You are Queen Elizabeth I’s social media manager and the date is August 8, 1588. Send a tweet to the public to lift their spirits.”

I read that and hit backspace without a second thought. I’m used to cover letters. Most of us are. 140 characters wasn’t enough space to fake professional value and I hadn’t touched a history book since high school, but my closest friend urged me to try it anyway.

I felt silly applying with my tweet, almost naked without a cover letter blanket, but I enjoyed researching Queen Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada. “This is weird!” turned into, “this is awesome!” When I draft tweets and other social media posts, I’m doing the exact same thing in terms of researching and thinking about style, content, tone, and audience. Turns out that the old adage “show, don’t tell” is relevant outside of the classroom, too.

If you’re looking for a summer internship, don’t shy away from an “intimidating” opening. So long as you have the required skills and experience, go for it! It could be a surprisingly amazing experience. In a world where college students eagerly grab at internships in order to beef up their resumes, it’s easy to forget that the whole thing doesn’t have to be so formulaic.

###2. You learn on the job.
My second fear about applying was that I had no knowledge about computer science and tech startups. I didn’t know how I would promote a company within an industry I knew nothing about. While this worry was pretty legitimate, it was unfounded. My unfamiliarity forced me to constantly ask questions and learn about a world I’d never encountered before. Where else would I have learned how to differentiate crazy terms like Angular 2, Ruby on Rails, and agile development?

Whether it’s speaking up in a meeting or rolling out a new blog post, I know I can count on having a lot of feedback and support for my work, so long as I ask for it. Because it’s a startup, I also get a lot of freedom in choosing what projects I want to work on and what skills I want to hone, which blows my mind to this day. It also leads me to my last point…

###3. Dear English majors,
You’re not doomed to a life of writing about things you don’t care about, or even a life of only writing at all. For me, I learned that I don’t have to become a teacher, journalist, or novelist to justify studying something that I love.

In school we learn how to search for patterns in language and to analyze tone, style, audience, narrator, etc. You know how to write (with flair!) and communicate on your feet. All those painfully long essays and awkward seminars are worth it, I promise.

I think it’s incredibly cool how I can implement writing principles I’ve learned in class while working in marketing. Working in an office with only software developers hasn’t proved to be a problem and I’m excited to keep learning about different industries and see where my communication skills can take me.

There’s so much more to explore and I’m excited to keep learning! I plan to post once every couple of weeks about my new findings and experiences, including:

  • Insights and tips on internships and summer productivity
  • Technical observations from a liberal arts background
  • Posts about Coshx Labs and Charlottesville, VA
  • My marketing internship and future projects

Thank you for reading the introductory post of “The Intern”! Please comment below or e-mail me at [email protected] with any thoughts, questions, or advice – I’d love to know what you think.