for Portfolio class purposes...

Author: David Arias

Lessons from the internship

I want to take the time to highlight and share the most important lessons I learned during my internship. This was my first internship I ever got and even though it was nothing I actually expected in the beginning, there is still something valuable I took from it. The overall experience was easy going and I felt very comfortable every time I was in the office. People were nice and there was no stress at all.

As I said in an earlier post, I applied to many internships and got few replies back. Unfortunately, many of them are looking for interns just because they need help with things they don’t know how to do it. One of the main points of getting an internship is to be mentored by a professional, work in an environment similar to what you are expecting to work in the future. I can’t stress this enough, but my first mistake was to apply blindly. DO YOUR RESEARCH. If you don’t know who the company is, what they do, if they have the knowledge you want and need to acquire in order to take you to your next professional level, you might get surprises and disappointments once you get to the place. Doing some research before you even apply, will save you time.

Being organized impacts tremendously on everything you do. Since the first time I got into the internship I realized that my supervisor was very unorganized and forgetful.  We would spend almost hours trying to find passwords and important information. I often had to call the hosting companies to help me log into her accounts. Her previous interns had made them websites that were not responsive and very unorganized as well. I spent weeks trying to design and think about content, and site hierarchy before I realized she already had different websites. Instead of creating one from scratch I decided to modify one that was already done in Wix. I took out all the content but left the same deign, that saved me a lot of time. It’s important to keep track of what you have, have folders for different types of files, know where passwords and usernames are, etc.

Due to the disorganization in the office, many tasks took a long time to complete. Another important thing to consider when being in an internship is being able to prioritize assignments. If you try to take in different assignments at the same time you can get overwhelmed. Also, if you start doing something, and then start doing something else without completing the first one, and then you got distracted with a third task, you will forget about the first tasks, or you won’t be able to focus on them and  do it right. Many times I forgot to complete some tasks because Sarah wanted me to do something else, until the next week when she reminds me to finish something.

The last two things I want to highlight are: Be willing to do more things than you expect, and have a good attitude because there is always something positive you can take from something negative. There are going to be times they will need help with other, and you should be able to help. I helped Sarah many times with her computer, with files, finding information, and more. Patience is something I acquired during the internship.


My work environment

Well the place where I work it’s not the most high tech office. Sarah, the person I’m interning for, has her office in her apartment. Every Monday and Tuesday I wake up early to be on time; take a shower, eat, brush my teeth, etc… When I am on the train I send her a text letting her know I’m on my way. She always replies with lots of energy and compliments. When I get to the building the doorman knows me already, so I just greet him and tell him I’m going to the 30th floor. It’s a very nice apartment located in Forest Hills, nice neighborhood.

I always bring my laptop with me, which is where I do all my work. When I get out of the elevator I make a right and walk to her door, I ring the bell and she greets me with the biggest smile and excitement. Every time I walk in she clocks me in, she has a machine next to her door that clocks people in and out. There is a big desk in the middle of the house, with 2 computers facing each other. It is her office, but I usually don’t touch her computer. I like to work in my laptop, and they are Windows and I prefer Mac.

Every week she has a paper with things she wants me to do, but many times it is very unorganized and sometimes there are things I already did the past week. As I hang my jacket somewhere she always goes to the kitchen and asks me if I want coffee and something to eat. Sometimes she goes somewhere and bring me something to eat. I take out my laptop, put it on a desk, sip my coffee, take a bite of whatever I am eating, and read the paper she has ready for me. We usually sit down and talk about things, what she has done, what she is currently doing, what she wants, we talk about what could we put on her website, etc.

Since the apartment is on a 30th floor it has a beautiful view. I like to hang around the window for few minutes every time my eyes get tired from the screen. She usually compliments me on my clothing and taste, also on my work and responsibility. She complains a lot about my generation because she has had bad experiences with young interns, and there was even a time some lady stole some clothes from her when she brought her on a show. Since she does public relations and other things, sometimes she place her customers on tv segments or magazines. I tried to show off her work history on the site, which I think is important as a business.

I always have an easy time there, everything is calm and informal. I can wear whatever I want, but I usually dress semi-formal since I don’t really wear snickers, t-shirts or jeans. Some Tuesdays I get to see Bryan, which is someone working for her and has been there for many years. Sarah trusts and relies on him completely, the only issue is that he is not the best with technology. He must be on his thirties. We barely talk because we are focused on our computers trying to finish whatever we’re doing at the moment, and he is the one that utilizes the other computer in the office. Sarah uses the other one. Not long ago me and Bryan had a bonding moment for few minutes when he shared a cigarette with me and we went to smoke on the 4th floor where there’s a big patio. After I am done i just pack my things, grab my jacket and tell them “Good bye, see you next week”.  On Mondays I go straight home which takes me like an hour or more. Or I just go to class on Tuesdays since I have a class at 6pm. That is how the work environment is in my internship.

CityTech Alumni and Students Networking

This is one of the most interesting networking events I’ve been to. The design club organized this event for students and alumni to mingle. The president of the club “Kelvin Medina” was the one in charge. The location was in the name building, in the room next to the cafeteria. They provided snacks and drinks for everyone. They also had games to break the ice and everyone was very welcoming.

Each person was given a blank sticker where we write down our names, and the students were given a green sticker while the alumni were given an orange one. That way we could differentiate one another. We sat in small groups and two alumni joined each group. We asked questions such as: How long ago did you graduate from CityTech? Where are you working right now? Did you like the time you were a student at CityTech? I recognized one the alumni who was one of my classmates few semester ago.

I brought with me business cards to give away, and gave it to people who have jobs with agencies or departments I could be interested in. There was only one guy who was in the same module as me, Web Design. Everyone else were in Advertising or some in Illustration. I asked many questions to the guy who graduated as a web designer, and we had conversations about User Experience and the field. Some topics we talked about are that there are tons of different job titles out there that represent the same thing. The job description would be the same, so we should not be stuck with only one title.

Another alumni gave great recommendations, he was an art director and I felt he was being very honest about the workspace out there. He suggested that it’s good to be well rounded when it comes to the design field, but we have to specialize in a niche, be really good at one thing. That sometimes we as students feel the pressure to know a lot of things, even the ones we had no previous experience before or with things we really dislike. He suggested that we should focus on our strengths, and what makes us happy. We should know ourselves and we should know our weaknesses as well. He also emphasized the importance of not just following other people, but following your own path because each person is different.

His statements made a lot of sense to me, and I loved the honesty I perceived. Overall I really enjoyed the meeting, it was very informative in the sense that I got to talk to people who already graduated and received great advices from them. I also gave some of my business cards away in case they need an intern. I was happy I decided to go, even though it was at night.

A typical day

A typical day at my internship is very simple. Every time I go in, I hang my jacket on a little closet where everybody hangs their jackets, I greet Sarah and Bryan if he is there. I go to a desk and take out my laptop while Sarah makes me some coffee and tells me about what is going on at the moment. What she is doing, what is happening, her clients stories, etc. Every time I go there she has a paper typed out a list of things to do on that day. I have to ask her many questions since the paper is written in a messy way and I can’t understand it. Or sometimes it just doesn’t make sense, like doing SEO for words she doesn’t have on her website but she wants people to find her using those keywords. I spend a great time explaining to her technical stuff, about websites, web content, practices, why some things are good or bad idea, what some words mean, how to do certain things  like upload videos on  youtube or use Google Drive, etc. I always have to repeat myself every week because she does have a short term memory and she gets very nervous when machines are not working.

She usually wants me to work on something on the website, and she lately has requested different features for the website that I haven’t done before. I spend a lot of time learning about Wix, features, how to do stuff, and more. I watch videos and read articles. And honestly at least I get to learn new things, and spend lots of hours in the internship learning. I always get to drink some coffee and eat snacks or sandwiches she has ready for me. There is another guy that has been working for her for many years, Bryan. Sarah is tougher and more strict with him, and I don’t know why she never asks him if he wants coffee or something.

She also tells me how she wants me to teach her and Bryan things like Social Media, but she is very forgetful and Bryan doesn’t really seem interested in it. When it comes to the social media i just know the technical stuff, and I help out whenever I can. However, I am not a social media expert and I don’t know much about how to get new followers, influencers marketing, etc. I am more into the website design, content, development, and SEO. Lately I’ve been learning a little about PCP as well which is paid advertising on search engines (mostly Google).

Time really flies over there, and since it is so slow paced it takes me weeks to complete some tasks. Plus I am always distracted watching videos learning new things. Sarah sometimes has to run some errands and leaves me with Bryan in the house, we usually don’t talk and he puts music. Which I don’t mind because he puts good music. He likes to listen a lot of Rihanna and Beyonce. Whenever my eyes get tired from the screen I just go sit down by the window which has a beautiful view. She is always there whenever I need something from her, Bryan also assists if I need something as well. Whenever it’s my time to leave, Sarah clocks me out from a machine she has next to her door, and sometimes gives me some snacks to take home. One time one of her clients gave her boxes of juices and she drove me home so I could bring few of those boxes. She is kind to me. Bryan is cool too, he gave me a cigarette one day and we went to a patio to talk about work, school and life.

How CityTech skills helped me

At City Tech I have gained experience in different areas that has helped me develop skills in design, web development, advertising campaign, and User Experience Design. Since my module is Web Design I told Sarah from the beginning of the internship what I could provide. One of the things from my classes that really stuck in my head is the importance of planning before you start creating. I sat down with her many times to discuss what is her business about, who are her clients, the type of demographic she wants to target, the message and brand she wants to portray. She had too many ideas in her head and it seemed like she wanted to do it all and reach everyone. I had to explain why that is not possible and why is important to be more specific on a niche market.

Organizational skills is one of the most important skills I gained in school, not just how to time manage projects, but the importance to keep files, documents, folders and accounts organized. She is very unorganized and forgetful. It took me weeks to find account passwords, files, information that I needed, unfinished websites, and more. I taught her how to upload videos on YouTube in order to keep all video files there, and create playlists to keep it even more organized by category. I made calls, and acted as tech support many times when digital issues arrived. Patience is another thing I learned from school, which I entirely applied in the internship. I remember one professor telling me that I should imagine every client as someone with a kid mentality, that way I will explain everything clearly and simple. Clients will never understand your point if you are not clear enough.

In a more technical level, I applied site hierarchy in the website. Thus the flow of each page will make sense and it will be easy for the user to navigate. One of the most important things for web design is to make it usable for the user, meaning no complex words, navigation, no guessing where things are, no too many going on in the screen, etc. Sarah always wanted everything together in one page and I always told her about the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid, which she loved it. I tried to keep a clear message and put the brand in a good position. I designed the content of the website in a way it would show off all her history, because that is one of her businesses’ strengths, and that is also proof of her work. The website I didn’t build it from scratch, but she wanted me to keep working on one that an old intern was playing around before, which was incomplete. I basically deleted content and kept the same theme and feeling as the other one, and focused on what matters the most –content.

In my classes we always talked about “opportunities” and how we can expand our ideas or projects to something more. I told her I would teach her social media, which she can use to market her business as well, plus I knew how much she wanted to know more about facebook and other social networks. I taught her about fb pages, profiles, Instagram pictures, how to edit them, hashtags, and how she can take that to help her business and reach out more people. I’m sure that without any city tech skills I wouldn’t have been able to do anything in the internship, even simple typography issues or web related problems.

How I found my internship

This is the first internship I got, and I was very excited. The professor Maureen gave us many choices where we could apply for internships such as, or a page on OpenLab. I went to indeed and apply for few, then in and lastly I went to the OpenLab page but I didn’t see anything that caught my attention. Within the first two weeks I started getting replies, and some never replied.

The first person that replied was from an Italian theater in the city. The lady was in charge of the events and needed someone to help her work on their current website plus on new ones for upcoming events. Even though it was unpaid and there was no one who I was going to work with, I thought that having the experience to working with someone in a professional level might be a good thing to put in a resume. Also because I appreciate art in all forms and I would be exposed to learn one of my favorite languages, Italian.

Few days later I received an email from another place called Fashion Update and they wanted to meet with me regarding the application on Indeed. When I did my research I saw they do Public Relations, sample sales, showrooms in NYC, and promotions. I went to meet with the lady and she told me he business has been active since 1985. Then she proceeded to show me her clients history, the press history, and how her business has changed and is struggling since the raise of the internet. She works alone but she needs help with websites, social media, and more.

After giving some thought of the choices I had, I chose to work for Fashion Update and help the lady saver her business. The woman in charge, Sarah, was very happy that she found me. We had many meeting and we talked about the approach we were going to take in order to promote her business, and that the first thing she needed was to have a presence online. Therefore my main focus was a website.

Bing at my job Networking

I work at a retail story in the city. In my job they rent the second floor for events while the first floor is where we sell the store products to the public. One of the days I was at work there was an event happening which I was informed, but I didn’t know for whom. When I asked who is the event for my manager told me it was for Bing, the web search engine owned by Microsoft. I decided to wait until they were done with the meeting while I was working.

When they finished they came downstairs to take a look at sunglasses and shop for themselves. I started helping few people choosing the right pair of glasses and giving them advice. Then I starting making conversations about their job, and what they do. There was a guy who had the most confidence and was very outspoken, I guessed he was the manager or the person in charge. I approached him and asked if he had any SEO recommendations for myself,  he replied that they focus on paid search.

I told him I was actually interested in getting into PPC (paid search), he didn’t really seemed very interested in conversing about the topic at the moment so I went to engage with other people. I asked for some tips from some guys and I found out the new employee didn’t even have a bachelor degree and that I didn’t really need one. At the end when we were thanking them for their time and for the sales, the first guy I talked to told me to start with internships. Usually people get into the career starting as interns and offered to contact me if he knows of any position available. I fortunately had my business card with me and I gave him one. We also talked about certifications and told me they do help for employers, such as the Google certifications. That night I went home and got Google Analytics certified.

General Assembly Networking

General Assembly is a private educational organization founded in 2011. They teach in demand skills for people who are trying to start a career or advance professionally. I saw an ad on Facebook for a free event about Digital Marketing they were having in the city. I decided to give it a try since it was actually free, and I needed a networking event. It was hold in their office located in the city at 6pm. The speaker’s name is Aaron J. Slmek, and he is the Director of Digital Marketing at Canary. However, he told us he was moving to another state to join other company.

The speaker started talking about the field in general, and why it is important nowadays. He asked everyone about our background and why we were in the event. Apparently people had different reasons to be there; some were entrepreneurs and needed those skills for their business, some were marketers and needed to advance in their skills, and some like me wanted to get in the field. You can benefit from learning these skills even if you don’t end up working in digital marketing.

He explained that in the digital marketing field we have to wear different hats, including user experience. There are many components we have to be aware of; segmentation, optimization, testing, value proposition, customer empathy, compelling content, and more. There are also certain skills we need to acquire, including the foundations of marketing, web analytics, social media, learning automation software, etc. Overall the workshop was very dynamic, informative and engaging.

He taught us a framework that helps us when we are creating marketing campaigns, it’s the Objective First Framework.  Which is an iterative process of first setting a goal, define KPIs which are things we measure to see if our campaigns are working or not, execute campaign, measure data and optimize campaign based on the data. He also taught us that when we are setting goals, we could use the SMART approach. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time bound. Aaron also emphasized the importance of really knowing your customers and your business. Learn the customer’s pain points, what they do, where they go, their interests, etc. And understand the business you work for pretty well, including how they make their money and what is important for the company.

The event was a very basic introduction. Digital Marketing is very broad and as I said before, there’s lots of skills to learn. It also changes as technology changes, so we need to learn to adapt quickly. We had an exercise where we joined in groups and he gave us something to work on. That was the only time I could engage with the others, since most of the time it was the speaker talking. People in my group were nice and friendly, I wish I had more time to engage with them and make more connections. I will totally be coming back for more events in the future.

Meet the Pros Networking

I went to the Meet The Pros meeting from the advertising agency Droga5 starring Lauren Costa, Shannon Washington, and Candice Drakeford. At first I didn’t expect much since my concentration isn’t really advertising, but it was worthy and enjoyable. There were a lot of people there, usually I’ve only seen few people in the meetings but I think they did a really good job promoting their event. I did have to stand up since all the seats were taken and I was very tired because I came from work at that time, and I was a little tired. At the end it was all worth it.

These women  introduced themselves and then explained how they got into the field, which was not straight out of college or they had the career in mind. They actually got into advertising by accident and realized that was their thing. There was a lot of people in the meeting, including many professors and I was surprised. I even had to stood up during the whole meeting because there weren’t seats available.

One thing that I learned from them is that is OK to be uncertain in the beginning, not everyone has everything figured it out. You just go with the flow and you find what you’re looking for along the way. Don’t give up and keep building skills, which can always be valuable in the end. Even though they were not exactly in the field I want to pursue, I did value their time and opinions.