Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Intern Experience: The Company Culture

I remember walking into RTC on my first day and immediately liking what I saw. The office is open and airy, styled in the company’s energetic light blue, brown, and orange. There’s a quad-screen monitor on the lobby wall and a projector that displays the names of office guests. As I sat on a couch waiting with my fellow interns, I took in the open kitchen area and the balcony (which have twins on the upper floor). There’s a conference room designed as a circus tent in the lobby and right above is a cozy screening room with couches and a large monitor. The majority of the office is a maze of cubicles where most of the action happens, but you’ll always see people walking around hurrying from one thing to the next.

Life in a cubicle is often dreaded, but it’s really not that bad. People here personalize their space to the extreme. In my time I’ve seen animals, a full-size Burger King head, a framed Elvis picture and Sad Keanu. The atmosphere is fun and friendly, “work hard play hard” if you’ll excuse a cliché. The people here are nice and quick to offer advice and assistance when you need it. If you end up sitting near your department you’ll quickly pick up on good habits and helpful hints. My first summer, I was a in a relatively empty row, just myself and my friend from school. We still learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves, but this year, sitting with the Dii team is much more fun. This row is made up entirely of women and has been proclaimed “Sorority Row” (and me). Aside from learning by listening to them work, I also caught up on celebrity gossip, heard all about Zappos and Banana Republic, and was deemed the sorority poolboy…take that as you will.

As an intern you will work hard, but there’s a lot of fun to be had as well. Numerous happy hours, both in and out of the office and monthly ice cream socials are a good chance to socialize and meet people. To get a recap on the Cannes Advertising Festival, we had a wine and cheese party and a presentation of some of the winning campaigns. I’ve been out to dinner with some of my friends from work even after I went back to school. If you interact, it can be a really fun place to work.

That leads me to my first set of advice for interns here or anywhere:

  • Embrace the culture: I recommend doing so and doing it quickly. A good example of this is with dress codes. Of course you dress professionally on your first day, maybe on the next couple as well. But if everyone is wearing jeans and you’re in a suit every day, you’ll stand out awkwardly. The same goes for office parties, meetings, and at your desk. If someone offers you a beer, take it; relax when people are relaxing and work hard when they’re working. Remember, you don’t have to speak only when spoken too. Make conversation and join in. Think of yourself as an employee, not an intern, and people will treat you the same.
  • Be social: This is something I wish I’d done more of here. Talk to people. A lot. In the kitchen, after meetings, at the happy hours, etc. Just be outgoing and meet people. I’ve met a bunch of people in my time here but I also spent a lot of time with just the Dii crew. Sometimes at meetings or presentations I felt awkward if I wasn’t sitting with someone I knew. I wish I’d gotten out of my comfort zone a little more. Get to know as many people as you can, you’ll have more connections to leverage and people to hang out with.

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