A little over 12 weeks ago, the Digital Design Studio Internship pilot began the moment new faces arrived in our Portland office. Two eager and extremely talented ladies, Linzi Lloyd and Sedona Rigsby have brought an avalanche of creativity and energy to Phase2 - and I am filled with gratitude to be a part of it.
This program is built on a long history of internships at Phase2, and I had high hopes heading it - of increasing the capacity of design support, finding some new talent, and creating a great collaborative environment. What I did not expect was to be totally blown away, achieving these things with ease and discovering so much more in our interns and in our company.
Overwhelming Generosity of Time and Self
This program started on the premise that designers do their best, most relevant work when they truly understand the ecosystem of their industry and company. So, I called on our own internal experts to present lessons on what it is we do at Phase2. I am overwhelmed with the quality of thoughtful, insightful content produced in a way that brought our interns a wide angle introduction to the complexities of our industry and challenged them with deep level thinking and opportunities for further education and practice.
All in all, 16 Phase2 staff have actively participated in teaching the Digital Design Studio Interns. In doing so, they have completely laid waste to any expectation of the intern stereotype - ignored and neglected, coffee retrieving, mindless filing, bumbling and nervous. Those are not our interns.
Energy, Contribution, Momentum, Achievement
For all of our investment in our interns, they have given it back in a seriously powerful way. In just under three months, they have become a part of our team, brought amazing insights and actionable ideas, and along the way have produced:
A variety of materials for six of Phase2’s top client accounts - from new business proposals to a stop motion client thank you video.
Original design and positioning for a real internal Phase2 brand including selling their ideas to company stakeholders.
A fictional brand with three sub-brands - complete with design, positioning statements, audience analysis, stylized supporting images, typefaces and colors - to use for a robust Open Atrium demo.
Several coordinating templates for Phase2 proposals and pitch decks, each exploring a different client persona.
Numerous internal design pieces, such as employee birthday cards.
Pages and pages of journal entries reflecting on P2 expert lessons, insights on our business, ideas for the future, and thoughtful questions. This is a treasure trove of wonderful new ideas and perspectives.
Teaching Makes us Better
You think you know your stuff until you have to teach it. Where did this idea come from? Who are the current experts in the field? What is the strategy behind this thing I have been doing for years? These are things you do not often ask yourself as you go about your work, but they become critically important when you have to teach it - especially to beginners.
During one of our lessons, the “Careers in Web” panel, one person from each major discipline explained not just what they do from a high level, but how they actually spend their time, what keeps them up at night, and what successes give them butterflies every time.
We learned that John Cartier considers endurance, patience, and multi-tasking the cornerstones of project management the process he uses to determine a client’s emotional range. Anne Sturdivant shared what she loves about the open source community: “Nothing feels better than contributing to a project that gets used by the world over. The trick is finding your ‘voice’ and overcoming the barriers to contribute.” And Chris Strahl shared the earnest advice: “If you want to do a thing, do it. Find a way, poke around, create some things, ask some people, experiment, make it happen.” We learned that no one in the room had a direct path to their current job, and that our varied backgrounds made us all more interesting and valuable.
These are the things we would never think to teach, but when we do, everyone in the room learns in profound ways. There is a freedom of exploration that comes when you teach. You are invited to step back and consider what you do in a larger context, experiment, extend beyond the bounds of your job, and collaborate beyond your immediate sphere.
Lesson Learned, Once Again
I wish I could say that I have learned something revolutionary - something that will change what we do in a fundamental way. Instead I have learned once again something Phase2 has known for a long time: You simply cannot fathom the payoff when you invest in your people.
New and exciting things are coming to Phase2 internships including a wider range of design, development, and experience disciplines. We are so excited to let you know all about this soon. Keep an eye out! In the meantime, send us a note with questions or to express interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.