Internship shit

University: Questions are the foundation of knowledge, Internship: Questions cost time we don’t have

Internshit – after three weeks in my internship certain patterns start to become apparent. One of them is that I am asking too many unnecessary questions, according to my colleagues and superiors. Overall my internship is going great and I’m having a good time, but this is the probably the biggest point of critique, which is interesting because I never had this problem before.

I think I’m having this problem because the University and my internship company have rather different expectations and intentions. A University is entirely built on facilitating and supporting the learning process. Questions from students are an extremely important part of that process. My internship company on the other hand is built for designing and producing products that sell well. My purposes are, therefore, dual. I want to learn as much as possible and, as a part of the company, I want to aid the process of making profitable products. My internship company, however, is only expecting me to do the latter. Being able to learn quickly is a means to that end, but it really doesn’t matter how the end goal is reached, as long as it is done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“Since there are only four people working in the office each individual has a large piece of the productivity pie, meaning that whenever somebody is interrupted by somebody else the overall productivity slows down quite dramatically”

It is ironic that the behaviour that was previously encouraged is now discouraged, but I understand why that is and why it is important for me to adapt. In a small design company such as Fundamental nobody really specialises in anything, there are of course certain responsibilities that some people have and others don’t have, but in the end everybody does everything. And since there are only four people, including me, working in the office, each individual has a relatively large piece of the overall productivity pie, meaning that whenever somebody is interrupted by somebody else the overall productivity slows down quite dramatically. To keep the productivity up people need to be able to work as fluently and continuously as possible. Unnecessary questions can therefore be a big bump in the road.

At first, before this internship, I was happy with the fact that I don’t really hesitate to ask a question. In Secondary school I often didn’t dare to ask a question, because that would put me in the centre of attention. In University, but most notably after travelling alone for 5 months through Asia, I became more confident to disregard other people’s opinions and just ask what I wanted to ask. This made me a much more proactive learner than before.

“I like, or need, to have brief, but meaningful, interactions with the people around me to enjoy and perform my work”

I definitely agree with my colleagues and superiors that I ask too many unnecessary questions, but I also think there are reasons why I occasionally ask them that have a more positive origin. One being that I feel very comfortable in the office, which makes it easy, too easy, to ask something. Another being that I like, or need, to have brief but meaningful interactions with the people around me to enjoy and perform my work. Working quietly and intently for a whole day can be mentally exhausting. One great remedy for that is to have a laugh with other people. There is really no better release for stress. A simple question often opens up a line for communication and, thus, allows funny things to be shared as well. This is also another reason why unnecessary questions can be extra disrupting for the work atmosphere, because they often lead to more unnecessary communication.

What is positive, though, is that I’m able to tackle this issue right now before it becomes serious because I have such a good relationship with Tenzin, the operations manager. We openly speak about these things as they happen and not after they have happened ten times. This allows me to immediately act on them, even though the feedback sometimes feels a bit harsh.

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