It feels like it was just yesterday that I was starting my internship with the Integrity Institute, and I am now in my final weeks as an intern. Looking back at the goals I set for myself at the outset of this internship, I feel that I met several of my goals. I got to learn about the culture of a non-profit organization and a think-tank all the while learning about some of the ethical conversations happening within Big Tech. One takeaway from my internship is that change is common and that there are several moving pieces within a think-tank. Prior to my internship, I was not acquainted with the culture of a think-tank; I feel that this internship provided me valuable insight into what a think-tank looks like.
During my internship, I learned how vital communication is in developing ideas and the overall success of the think-tank. My goal of establishing a sense of unity with my team was partially met. There were times throughout my internship that I wondered if my experience would have been different had I been working in-person, but I am overall appreciative of my colleagues who made concerted efforts to get to know me and supported me throughout my internship.
This internship has also helped clarify career interests. Prior to this internship, I do not think I would have envisioned myself working in the tech sector. However, this internship opened my eyes to ways that individuals can make contributions in Big Tech without necessarily having a comprehensive background in coding or machine learning. I still have a desire to attend law school after college; I am leaving this internship even more interested in exploring internet and privacy law.
Not only did this internship illuminate professional interests, but it also aided me in learning about myself in the workplace. I am a diligent worker so I can get work that I need done remotely, but I think that this internship helped me realize that if I am working remotely, I need to be surrounded by a team with strong communication skills. As the adage goes, communication is key. In reflecting upon my internship experience, I realized how much I value communication. Perhaps going forward I will explore in-person internships, or if something is a remote opportunity, I will inquire further about the communication culture of the respective organization to see if it fits my style.
With regards to advice I would give to a student interested in an internship, I would say embrace the opportunity with open arms and go for it! It has become increasingly difficult to get an internship, so if there is an opportunity that sounds remotely intriguing, consider applying. The worst someone can say is no, and with every experience, one will undeniably walk away having learned something new.
Further, throughout my internship, I gleaned the importance of flexibility as I had the opportunity to take on a myriad of different tasks. This was made possible in large part because I consistently reached out to colleagues to see how I could get involved. In essence, show that you are eager and willing to learn on day one. Obviously, there comes times where one may need to set boundaries and decline taking on tasks, but generally speaking, accept anything that comes your way. Oftentimes we grow the most when tasked with projects that seem rather unfamiliar at first, so try to be open-minded and say yes to all new opportunities.
More specific to remote work and interning with a think-tank, I would say that being proactive is critical. A lot of growth is dependent upon how much effort you put into the process, so setting up one-on-one meetings with colleagues and reaching out for feedback is poignant. Similarly, if you face roadblocks during your internship, make time to collaborate with those who you feel supported by. If you are someone interested in interning with a think-tank, I would advise you to consider how a think-tank operates. In this type of work, things tend to move rather quickly and you are likely working across disciplines. If you like to wear many hats at once and immerse yourself in research, a think-tank may be the right fit for you!
Overall, I am proud of the initiative I have taken throughout this internship. From the very first days of my internship, I reached out to colleagues and tried to integrate myself within the team. I think that doing so influenced the trajectory of this experience. It is bittersweet that this internship is coming to an end, but I am grateful to have had this opportunity.