Dear Out-of-Town Interns

Dear Out-of-Town Interns,

I don’t think you understand just how much of a positive impact you have made on my summer. Whether we worked at the same company or met through during the Austin Area Picnic, I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to have met you. You are amazing, yes, you.

The 40+ hours I spent working this summer didn’t seem so bad because the lunch breaks laughing with you made them worth coming to the office. The weekends spent exploring the great city of Austin with you made me realize once again why I love this city so much. The road trips, long car rides, endless amounts of food consumed – I wouldn’t have enjoyed each moment if it weren’t for you.

When you all leave, one by one, within the next few weeks or even next week, just know that I won’t forget. Thanks to the modern source of social media, I can actually follow your lives – in a not creepy way of course. Let’s keep in touch. Let me crash on your couch when I finally save up enough to travel around the country or better yet, the world, consistently. You’ll always have a place to stay when you’re visiting Austin – as long as you give me a heads up.

Out-of-town interns, thank you for making my summer memorable.

With greatest regards,

Vi

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The source of my obsession.

At some point in every internship, every mentor, manager and colleague always sits me down for coffee and asks, “what made you choose technology over every industry?” That’s the part where I cue the shortened version of my very cheesy story.

When I was applying to colleges, I didn’t fully understand what I wanted to major in; all I knew was that science wasn’t my forte and that I liked communicating with people. Come senior year, I enrolled in a professional internship program course and found myself listening to a variety of speakers across several industries. One in particular stood out to me. He was a systems engineer for Cisco who had immigrated to America and achieved what many would classify as “the American dream.” After he spoke, I emailed him and thanked him for the opportunity to listen to him and then he offered me something that would define my career goals: a tour of the Cisco campus.

When I ventured to Cisco, I knew the fellow interns who toured with me were all engineering or computer science – I was be sole marketing kid. I looked around at all the products, became mesmerized by the equipment and admired the engineers who spoke technical terms in such an eloquent manner. In that moment, I knew what realm of PR and marketing I wanted to pursue.

As I’ve said a million times before and I’ll say it again, I’m perfectly happy with my decision to enter the technology and engineering industry. I don’t know if the systems engineer knew how much of an impact that one tour had on my career goals, but he did and for that, I am forever grateful.

Confinement Isn’t An Option.

I’m closing in on the one month mark of my summer internship and the initial skepticism has blossomed into pure excitement. I have reached a point where I understand 99 percent of the projects I’m doing, the products the company designs and am comfortable with the people and culture. This summer just might have the potential to go down into the books as one of the best summers I’ve had.

I honestly think that part of my happiness from this job not only has to do with the supervisors I’m working with, but also because of the interns I have met. Like I mentioned in a previous post, there are 225 interns from 60 different universities. This huge number seemed intimidating at first glance, but now that I have actually gotten to know a fair number of them, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the best part about  being a marketing and communications intern in the sea of engineering interns is the massive amount of information I’m learning. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I want to work with engineers after I graduate and what better way to prepare for the future than immersing myself in a sea of future engineering professionals?

After two weeks of lunching with engineering interns because none of the marketing and communications interns were at the office, I reached a point where I was learning about each department of the company through the hands-on work the technical interns were doing. By the time I finally started the simplified version of product training, I already knew the majority of the information presented and I wasn’t lost during the course. Shout out to all the hardware/software interns that talked to me about their projects because I believe everything you’re doing is fantastic.

What I have learned within the past few weeks is that confining myself in my comfort bubble would have restricted me from the potential of this internship. I’m meeting people who process information different that come from different parts of the state, country, and globe. The melting pot of views will be the main source of why I enjoy this internship as much as I do. I may be receiving the lowest hourly wage I’ve ever had at an internship aside from the unpaid ones I did in high school, but the experience is definitely making up for it.

So, to all the marketing, business, and communications interns out there who are interning in-house this summer, go mingle with the other departments – you won’t regret it.

Marketing Princess + Reality Engineer

As I am sifting through my emails from companies and reading all my usual publications, I can’t help but notice that there is a constant push for more STEM programs and an emphasis on increasing the number of candidates for degrees in engineering/science programs. As much as I support this push and lord knows our society needs it, I can’t help but wonder if my focus in the technology industry has gone unnoticed. I am not majoring in engineering or any science, unless you count that computer science minor of mine, but that’s another story.

As you know by now, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in public relations. While the majority of my peers tend to steer towards the path of the “glamorous” side of PR, I chose a different route. I am a strong advocate of engineers and the technologies they create. My mind wasn’t built to create the same technologies, but my goodness I want to be a part of it. Which brings me to my main point: students in marketing, communications, PR and any other similar major should consider the technology industry.

At times, I have felt that my classes have focused solely on acquiring a position in large PR/advertising agencies to a degree that the in-house opportunities go unnoticed. Or better yet, sometimes classes focus more on the “cool” industries such as fashion and entertainment. Can I be a marketing princess and a nerd too? I geek out so much when it comes to the latest products and software innovations. The technology industry is quickly growing and so is the world of public relations, so why not pursue both?

I like to think that the electrical engineers design the software, but I’m the reaility engineer that promotes it to the consumers, so that the market knows just how amazing it is and why it is a relevant part of daily life.

The MarCom Intern.

When I first entered college, I always believed in the concept of “go big or go home.” Maybe it’s partially because I grew up in Texas and we all know that everything is bigger in Texas or maybe it’s because I like flaunting hot shot names. Regardless of the reasoning behind my mentality, it has definitely changed. After a few small comapny internships, I have found myself at a large technology company and I can honestly say that I am scared out of my mind.

This summer, the company had a record of 225 interns from 60 different universities. Within this group of talented technical, communications and business students are 10 marketing and communications (MarCom) interns – myself included. In other words, I feel like I’m just a small fish in a very big pond. For the first time in a long time, I’m completely terrified as to how I will stack up against the other interns. Okay, so I obviously can’t compare myself to the software/hardware engineering interns, but I can definitely rate myself based on the standards set by the others. To add to the skepticism is the fact that I am this specific sub-department’s first intern ever. No pressure, right?

For the next few months, I will be updating on how I manage to survive and not become lost in the sea of interns, how I juggle large corporate life and attempt to make sure the software, hardware, and R&D departments don’t view me as a complete idiot.

#InternLife

If you have been following me on Twitter this semester, you’ll notice my #internlife tweets have increased significantly. Why? Because I actually enjoy what I’m doing this semester. But why should a student intern at all? Sure, the degree plan for some course catalogs state that we have to intern in order to even graduate or those around you are constantly telling you that an internship is necessary in order to acquire a job. Well, as someone who has interned at four different companies/organizations and entering my fifth this summer, I can tell you I’ve learned my fair share of lessons from interning.

They’re watching you.

If you think landing an internship means you’re the best of the best and you have nothing else to prove, I’m going to proceed to laugh at you – loudly and obnoxiously. I apologize for being rude, but seriously, landing an internship means you’re a good candidate and the company thinks you’re a good fit. However, you still have a lot to prove. Contrary to popular belief, everyone in the office is watching you. Don’t think just because you’re an intern that your work goes unnoticed, so make sure it’s great work. Whether it’s writing a simple press release to be put on a wire source or cleaning the office – do it well.

It’s not always glamorous.

Sure I’ve worked for companies where lunch is catered is free movie tickets are involved, but it’s not always fun and games. I’ve had to wash dishes, clean the office, vacuum, and a whole lot of other tasks that are far from fun and pretty. I have this theory that if you can do this basic chores well and do it without complaining, your supervisors will trust you with more important tasks. How can they trust you sitting in on a client meeting and presenting information when you can’t even take out the trash without rolling your eyes? Suck it up, princess.

You are part of a team.

Yes, you are an intern and you are at the bottom of the leadership ladder, but that does not mean you aren’t allowed to speak up once in a while. From my past experiences, I’ve learned that my supervisors actually like when I contribute to the team. If you can sit in during meetings and learn, then do it. They hired you for a reason; they want a new and innovative opinion on the subject matter – give them one. Which brings me to another point, if you are interning at an office where you aren’t included as a member of the team, you’re probably going to be really unhappy.

Company culture.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the fit. Never intern for a company that doesn’t promote growth and have a great company culture. I don’t care if they’re offering you a large hourly wage – you’ll be unhappy in the long-run. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Social responsibility.

I don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen every week or donate a portion of my paycheck to a charity, I admit to that. However, when choosing a company, I admire companies that actually take into consideration their influence on the community. If a CEO or founder runs the company successful while sitting on the board of a non-profit organization, my respect for the company as a whole increases significantly.

Have fun.

Internships are a learning opportunity for you to discover if this is your “calling” and you’ll discover what you like, what you don’t like, what kind of team/personality types you work well with and whether this is an industry where you will find your future career, or just another 9:00 – 5:00. Have fun with it, learn your co-workers names and their likes/dislikes. Build relationships because you never know when you’re going to have to call on these people again – from a recommendation for a future job or just someone worth knowing to grab coffee with – get to know your team.

Behind-the-Scenes.

I was initially going to write a blog update on Monday, but it didn’t seem right to write about anything during the Boston Marathon bombing event. So to those who still used scheduled social media updates during events like this, please don’t.

But I digress. Back to the original intention of this post.

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Image: Jobstr

This semester, I had the opportunity to have more hands-on public relations experience at a small marketing and communications agency. Needless to say, my decision to intern at the agency over a well-known technology company was a good choice. I have learned more from this internship alone than any of my prior ones. I can honestly say that I am definitely prepared to go back in-house at a large technology company with these tools under my belt.

Aside from the writing and communications software I learned, I also discovered the real meaning of public relations. You see, the media portrays public relations as a glamorous job – it’s not. Public relations encompasses all forms of marketing and communications; it is a management function and more importantly, it is a behind-the-scenes role within or for a business entity. As a public relations professional, your name will most likely not be on that long article you spent hours researching and wrote for your client. No one will know directly that you worked hard to call every journalist within the southwest region just to pitch a story to your client. It’s the type of work for someone who is willing to put in the effort, is passionate about a successful outcome for the good of the client and the public, and someone who doesn’t mind not always receiving praise for their hard work.

According to an article by Business Insider, the most powerful PR professionals are the ones you never hear about. These individuals work in the background, advising CEOs and presidents and would often times prefer to stay out of the limelight. People like me might fan-girl all over top SVPs and well-known PR agency CEOs, but the majority of the world doesn’t even know who I’m talking about when I mention names like Fred Cook of Golin Harris or Melissa Waggener Zorkin of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. But who the world knows are the clients that fall under these large public relations agencies.

Contrary to popular belief, not every aspiring PR pro has a natural bitch face. The majority of are actually really excited about entering the industry and proving to the world that PR is a function that is still needed across all industries and a spotlight reward is not something we’re after. Besides, public relations is a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its publics.

Startups are Sexy.

Image: UTexas

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong proponent of the established businesses who have put themselves on the map as one of the leading leaders in their niche industry. Actually, I didn’t even care to look into start-up culture until the end of my freshman year of college. I didn’t like the idea of working with an idea that didn’t always have tangible return on investment and being the type of person who could be classified as too careful at times, I was skeptical about the risk involved in any start-up venture. However, my ideas have changed within the past year.

I blame the fact that I have been living in Austin and its start-up friendly environment. Austin not only supports the start-up community, but also promotes it. Start-up companies are often times associated with a very Facebook or Google environment where company culture is displayed on a pedestal. When I entered college, I had the mindset that money was everything – it’s not. Company culture is and I have learned it is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a job of any kind. A company can offer me a six-figure starting salary upon graduation and I wouldn’t accept it if I knew the company didn’t care about internal relations. It is my belief that if I as an employee enjoy my job, I will do it better, and I am more likely to go above and beyond what is expected of me – regardless of whether there is even a monetary reward at the end.

Will I work for a startup in the near future? Maybe. Have I worked for a small business? Hell yeah I have! And I have loved every minute of it. For one, small offices provide the opportunity for a mere intern like myself, to have more responsibility and the opportunity to turn around and ask my boss who is sitting in the room next to me questions about not only my current assignment, but pick his/her brain about the industry.

Additionally, start-ups are actually helping the overall economic community. When it comes down to it, start-ups create jobs. They can be stressful, there’s a lot of risk, but once it works, it’s going to stay around for a while. So, genius minds with amazing ideas who want to create something exciting because school work is just not cutting it  – GO DO IT. And heck, let me help you do it. I love student start-up projects.

Just a little bit.

color
Banana Republic blazer, Ralph Lauren top, Club Monaco scarf, Ann Taylor Loft belt, Forever 21 pants, Fossil watch

I’ve been experimenting with color a lot lately. A few days ago I invested in some coral pants and today I’m sporting these teal (?) colored pants. In high school, as many of you know, I wasn’t known for color, so I’m pretty darn proud of myself for investing in colored bottoms. My collection of colored bottoms has gone from one pair of hot pink shorts to a hot pink skirt, teal pants, and coral pants – that’s what I call progress. I like wearing color and it’s perfect for spring – it’s just a matter of what colors actually look good with my skin tone. Let’s be honest here, I look terrible in yellow because well, I’m Asian and there’s quite a bit of yellow hues in my skin tone. My recommendation when investing in colored items? Try them on first.

Hi

In other news, I’m heading home to Dallas tomorrow to enjoy time with my family, get my wisdom teeth pulled, and interview with a public relations and marketing agency. May the odds be ever in my favor. Happy spring and happy spring break to all!

Life and what not.

Banana Republic blazer & top, Loft belt, Fossil watch, Forever 21 jeans, boots via Amazon, Longchamp bag, necklace via Etsy

Banana Republic blazer & top, Loft belt, Fossil watch, Forever 21 jeans, boots via Amazon, Longchamp bag, necklace via Etsy

In case you were wondering what has been going on in my life lately and why the blog posts have not been arriving as frequently, it’s because classes have started and I’m still trying to convince myself that my sleep schedule will not be completely destroyed this semester. I’m taking 15 hours of coursework and interning 12 hours a week. However, I can’t complain because I’m enjoying the classes I’m taking and loving every minute of my internship. Just to prove that I love it, I even informed my boss that I wanted to work 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. this Monday, which is Martin Luther King Jr. day – a student holiday according to the academic calendar. Yeah, that’s how much I enjoy my job.

On the internship note, I’ve written two blog posts that were published this week and I am beyond excited to the point where I can’t describe how happy I am to get to include them in my portfolio. Business blogging is definitely different from the average I do on Industry & Conversation, but I enjoy it and it’s part of the learning process; that’s what internships are for right? To learn and grow from experience.

You can read the posts here and here.

Here’s to a (hopefully) successful semester!