I couldn’t turn down the offer to spend a summer in Zappi’s marketing team. Not only could I try something completely new but, also, I could move to central London and live out the “dream summer internship” all students hope for after graduation (taking an internship after uni is more common in the UK, unlike during uni, in the US).
The first of three months is now over; it went far too fast. Here is a round-up of my top five takeaways (not a rating of Camden’s chicken shops, sorry).
1. Choose the Right Role
The experience of your internship will be determined by the companies you go for. First, of course, you need to have an interest in the sector that you want to intern in – but be open minded to new ones – I never thought I would work in tech, but now I love it. Most important, though, is the type of role the company is offering. Will you just be making tea? Or can you make a real difference?
Here at Zappi I have found lots of support for my ambition. It has encouraged me to think more creatively and become bolder in putting my ideas forward, on everything from product launches to office design plans. It feels good to know that I will be heard and receive thoughtful feedback. My voice is listened to, even as a new graduate with little experience. In a timely demonstration of how I have been able to contribute, just now as I am writing this piece, a data scientist has asked me to look over some copy for a platform pop-up notification: only a few lines but they will face the customers and help them to navigate their data.
Others had similar experiences as interns.
“All questions were welcomed, and I had plenty of space to experiment and own projects, which was exciting and empowering”.
Maria Barrios, Marketing Coordinator, Zappi
The opportunity to own projects so fast has surprised me too. Alongside having a supporting role in larger projects, I am working with current Boston intern, Drake, on curating content for the sales team. It may not be the grandest project, it may not be the flashiest or the slickest, but we set the time parameters ourselves; sometimes it is the little things that count the most. Taking a chance on a new industry has really paid off.
2. Company Culture Matters
Look into the initiatives the company supports and their working policies. Over the last few weeks Zappi has partnered with Future Frontiers, who bring a group of secondary school students into the office, for an afternoon a week. Zappi volunteers mentor the students through choosing their post school options, so they can start to feel comfortable in the work environment (and see that it isn’t too scary). All the mentors have been really positive about working on the scheme (I think they were a bit scared beforehand too). It is cool to work with people who are so happy to give their time in this way. The people are the company, at the end of the day, and their attitude says a lot about the vibe you will be working in.
The Boston office has a similar atmosphere. Drake told me:
“Upon arrival on my first day [in Zappi, Boston], I immediately made note of how open and modern the office felt, and how relaxed everyone appeared to be.”
Drake Ryff, Marketing Analyst Intern, Zappi
Here in London the office is run by our Office Manager, Daniah, who deserves the biggest shout out because she is amazing, and so welcoming, and makes us all feel more relaxed. There is lunch provided all week, a fact which nearly floored me on my first day. A particular highlight is Wednesday mornings when a yoga session, open to all employees, is followed by breakfast; I have to say that both yoga and breakfast are big interests of mine so I may be biased on this one.
There is a caveat that breakfast must be eaten in the shared space, to encourage interaction between teams. Although this has the potential to be awkward, it is happily a great start to the day and I have used it to chat with lots of people I don’t work directly with. It is an ‘I scratch your back; you scratch my back’ arrangement that works and makes me want to get into the office (and to breakfast) each morning.
There are lots of features about Zappi that make me happy to work here. There is an Autonomous Working Policy that is exciting: any employee can pursue an idea if they make a solid case and get the backing of two senior managers.
The company has won awards for being environmentally aware, even before the hype in the past few years. And they continue to work on improving. These are the kind of features that are most attractive to graduates of my generation: trust in employees, development opportunities, social engagement with the local community and a great work environment.
3. Find the Best Balance for You
Getting involved in the social life of your team and company is hugely rewarding. It adds to the sense of community, and enables you to talk to people beyond your team, have fun and do some networking. It was important for me to strike a balance between resting up and giving in to FOMO. The work-life balance problem is so individual that I can’t pretend to have the answer. But I am very happy with the social life here, and it has taught me a lot.
Before starting I was worried by stories from friends who work in companies with strong drinking cultures; it may suit some, but I don’t think that is my style at all. While Zappi is far from tee-total (looking at you, Beer Fridge) the attitude to drinking is casual and relaxed. I have found my own socialising balance in places other than Friday drinks. London has so much to offer and I have enjoyed going out with my team to explore.
We eat lunch in the beautiful Regents Park or take a walk around Camden. We have been to art galleries and yoga classes – it has been a great way to get to know London and my new team. My takeaway is to join in with events that you enjoy and get out of the office, but also to feel comfortable missing some events – you won’t make them all.
4. There is Always More to Learn
So you are (hopefully) settled in and comfortable in the company, but really you are there to learn. In marketing there is an endless run of disciplines to try to master. Graphic design, copy, content, data, digital, events, emails, and the ‘language of marketing’ all coded in acronyms and obscure terms – I have indexed about 80 to try and get on top of it – and more I’m sure I have missed. You cannot learn all this in such a short time by yourself – the people around you are experts, so use that resource.
With so many skills to learn it is natural that some disciplines seem completely alien. In my case, graphic design and data have proved the most difficult. But my team have given me a crash course in Excel, and set small design tasks so I can get to know Photoshop and Illustrator. They have encouraged me to try until I understand the process. Internships go so quickly, so make the most of all the expertise and passion around you.
There are many quotes about curiosity, but the gist of them all is: stay curious and keep questioning. So ask and keep asking: how can UTM Tagging systems become inaccurate? Actually why do you use UTM Tags? And now I think of it, what does UTM even stand for? (We had to Google this one – it’s Urchin Tracking Module). Once you start, it’s amazing what you find out; keep digging for a fuller understanding. Be warned though, it’s an endless quest.
For me the marketing and tech worlds are attractive industries to work in. There is such a wealth of knowledge and passion to engage with, on that endless quest. You cannot stagnate when everyone, competitors and friends alike, are pushing forward. The constant updates in content show the speed of innovation in the industry.
My co-workers have been so helpful in suggesting blogs, podcasts, courses, and literature to get up to speed (please comment with any further recommendations). The quality of the material available is great for anyone at the beginning stage. I recommend immersing yourself in information – it is much easier to be enthusiastic when you know a lot about the subject.
5. Push Yourself
This is all new, so don’t rest on your conceptions of what you can do; try to do more. The easiest way, I have found, is to develop a special interest. I am enthusiastic about tightening communication between sales and marketing. Working with the sales teams here is pushing me to be more precise, clear and critical of the content I produce for internal as well as external use.
Having a particular interest helps you to frame new projects in the context of your interest. For example, developing the already close relationship between marketing and sales came up again and again at a recent event I attended, which showed me that there is so much scope for collaboration within the company and team. Working with different teams is good for my own improvement too: after all, the best way to learn about the products and the business is to talk with the sales teams.
Attending the event gave me lots of context about marketing in the tech industry, and it was a great team day out too. It wasn’t an environment I had been in before, and not one that I would have had a chance to experience without the internship. I recommend you use experiences such as this as a testing ground to help you gain confidence.
In summary, based on my first month, I am enthusiastic about working in marketing and tech. I have renewed focus, and amazing new friends. I am always reminded of how good I have it on this internship when I tell other people and see their surprise about the lunches and the yoga but, more importantly, I enjoy working and learning with the people here. I am not sure what I did to deserve such a sweet gig; I just have to keep working to prove I deserve to stay.