When you have the opportunity to apply for an internship fresh out of high school, my expectation of what the role would look like came entirely from the horror stories of my parents who’d begun working in an entirely different era. It entailed effectively being an unpaid assistant and bordered on slavery - coffee runs & manual data entry, crazily long hours and little to no growth or personal development. You accept the less than ideal work environment in exchange for work experience in a listed company - a CV gold sticker many can only dream of pre-university. The reality working for WorkflowMax, and by extent, Xero could not look more different.
Day to day, I was responsible for checking and replying to all new and ongoing interactions via social media. As someone on the verge between millennial and Gen Z, I wasn’t exactly unfamiliar with Facebook and Twitter, but using them for a corporate communication purpose opened up a whole new perspective on the way E-commerce functions. Terms like SEO, and NPS went from jargon to being immensely important, and whilst social media was once almost an intuitive game to me, I now feel like I’ve had a proper education in it’s functions, it’s drawbacks, and its use as a tool.
One of the more fun activities I got up to - Cupcakes for Deloittes
Being customer facing gives you a whole new perspective on how a little kindness can go a long way, and getting to participate in Xero’s “Delight” culture has really inspired me to carry it forward. When things go wrong, social media is often the first port of call for many people, and as someone who’s been quite demanding and heavy handed with support teams in the past, the knowledge that it’s a busy intern who’s not intentionally causing your problem that you’re speaking with has made me a far more understanding and patient customer. I’ve learnt to value honesty and accountability above anything else.
Attending the unfiltered live conference was easily a highlight of my internship. Beyond the speakers and their amazing insights, the practicality of learning how to network and curate a personal brand has been invaluable, particularly in my stage of life.
My first major project was a blog post on Xerocon - interviewing team members, drafting the post, getting sign off and transferring to hubspot. Ongoing, blogging and editing posts for publication became a large part of my weekly schedule, as did preparing the email newsletter that went alongside the company blog. Reaching out to and collaborating with other blog writers as well as working with our creative agency were also large parts of the role. I also had the experience to dip my toes into market research - both through analysing survey feedback and by creating my own outreach campaign. The mental gymnastics market researchers pull off to find out the best way to get the information we need from customers to improve their experience is pretty eye opening and I loved getting to see at least part of how that sector works.
You learn early on not to make your project your baby - in that as much as you should value your work, pouring your heart and soul into a pre-conference interview makes taking feedback a little tricky. Learning to take criticism constructively has been a major takeaway from the experience - as I was given feedback as often as I was required to give it to others. In school, we’re often babied and told everything we write is wonderful, and straightforward objective feedback is few and far between. Moving on to university, it’s easy to see why the internship has developed so many skills.
Using a smorgasbord of cloud based tech, I spent a month reporting to our Marketing Manager, Millie Vingrys, who’s Melbourne based. The experience opened my mind to a whole new way of working. I had to plan what I was doing, and when, and keep on myself so I could relate my work to Millie when we’d check in. Initially, when I first began checking up on myself, I’d realise that an hour had passed and I couldn’t explain what I’d accomplished - even to myself. It taught me how to be present, productive, and get through my work in an orderly yet adaptable fashion .
WorkflowMax heads to UnfilteredLive
To have the faith in a new employee to come up with their own work hours, to work from home, and record their own time is not something that you see very often, particularly not when they’re 18 and straight out of high school. It has given me the responsibility to hold myself accountable, and has taught me a lot about efficiency and the way in which I work best. As someone heading off to University, I feel far better prepared to handle my workload, deal with professors, manage time, and keep a healthy work/life balance.
Often, people are forced by financial circumstances to turn down internships because a waitressing job or nannying simply pays better. At WorkflowMax, I’ve had flexible working arrangements, hours, and am paid the living minimum wage. This means I can work from home, the train station, or in a cafe, because my work is almost entirely digital, and can save for University whilst also getting invaluable work experience for my CV.
If there has been one thing that I think has best equipped me for what lies ahead, it would be my time at WorkflowMax & Xero. Sure, my family, friends, teachers, education, and mentors all play a role, but nothing quite sets you up for the real world like actually being a part of it.
Lara heads off to Scotland in September to study International Relations at the University of St. Andrew's