Written by Madeleine White, Imperative Impact Intern Spring 2021, on her experiences and learnings from a remote, virtual internship.
On the first day of my internship with Imperative Impact in February 2021, I got ready to go to work – hair done, makeup on, ready for my first “office” job. This may seem silly as I wasn’t going to the Toronto office, I was heading down two flights of stairs to my basement workspace. But I wanted to set the tone for a day of work, and soon learned that this was a practice to stick with. After clicking the link for my first Zoom meeting, I was greeted by four big smiles from four brilliant and enthusiastic women. They seemed as eager to meet me as I was to meet them and immediately made the “Zoom office” feel like an incredibly safe place.
Twelve weeks later, I had established a new favourite word. Challenge. I used to avoid anything to do with ‘challenge’ and now I seek it. Challenging yourself and others is a primary building block for growth, learning, and character building. To say onboarding from my basement was challenging would be an understatement, however the experience definitely helped me grow as a person and a professional.
Over the course of my internship, the challenges varied. I had to overcome the disconnect I felt with my teammates in between Zoom meetings and find the courage to ask questions. Even though there’s a constant open door policy, I was intimidated by not knowing what my teammates were doing, how busy they were, inability to hear tone of voice or see body language and facial expressions. I had to overcome my own fears and treat the experience like we were in an office - just turn around and ask a question!
The personal development opportunities were endless. I learned the importance of communication even more so in a distanced work environment. Speaking up was nerve racking but it became very clear that the reason the team works so well with each other and are constantly on the same page (despite being dispersed around the world), is because no one holds anything back, big or little – What did you work on today? Cool, share it. My confidence in work, writing and participating improved with support, encouragement, and feedback from my team. I discovered rituals and strategies to maintain focus in my work-from-home lair such as:
Overall, I learned how to welcome new challenges and voluntarily step out of my comfort zone. Yes, I missed out on the traditional experience I anticipated with in-person interactions and the “office in Toronto” life. However, now that I’ve completed my internship, I’m actually grateful for the challenges I faced and overcame through remote learning. I’m confident that in the relatively near future, I, along with all new graduates starting their careers in this remote environment, will be better served in our careers with the knowledge attained in unprecedented circumstances such as these.
Intern, Feb - April 2021