We Don’t Speak British!
Thoughts from across the pond
Hello! We are Brindsi, Holly, and Abi from Michigan State University. Back in January, we signed on to spend two months interning at Tobias & Tobias to learn about the field of UX design and to build up our professional experience. Aside from different accents, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect from our time in the UK, but the team here made the transition welcoming and easy. Not every company will start a bake-off in the office just because an intern says she has an interest in making cakes, but that’s the warm environment we walked into.
To provide some insight on our time here, we sat down and answered some questions that cover the core of our experience here and the skills and lessons that we have developed, along with a few fun American-UK discrepancies. These questions come from friends, counsellors, and other professionals about our interning abroad.
How did you feel coming in as an intern with limited experience to a team of incredibly talented, driven experts?
I realized, during an internship, it’s important to focus on professionalism and professional growth, rather than the title of “intern.” Internships are definitely learning experiences, but they are also the starting point for your career. Being thrown into a mix of people with years of experience can be overwhelming, but it’s important to keep in mind that the intern-superior relationship is a mentorship, and your superiors are there to foster learning and success. Tobias & Tobias treated my ideas with respect just as they would any other co-worker. It doesn’t mean that my ideas were agreed with every time, but that’s part of the learning process: there will always be challenges. When in doubt, communicate, seek feedback, and always ask questions. Your ideas are valid and worthy of being heard; coming from a different background and presenting diverse perspectives only enriches the workplace.
How is working at a company different from classwork?
The main thing that I initially wanted from this internship was an experience. It is completely different doing assignments in a classroom then it is in a work environment, which is something that I expected (even if I did not know exactly what to expect). Everything that I have done here, I have done in some capacity at school, but the environment is thoroughly different.
It is hard to name a task that I have not covered while interning here at Tobias & Tobias. My major at MSU is Professional Writing, with a focus on Editing and Publishing, which means that I have been trained to do a lot of different technical writing assignments over a number of fields. Despite this, I was not expecting to do so many completely distinct activities while I was here. From writing to editing to blogging to interviewing to transcribing to even a very small bit of design, I have done it all, and I honestly love that I have had the opportunity to do so much in such a short time. Although the assignments are similar to school, doing these tasks in a professional setting is much more fast-paced, and the expectations, though not necessarily higher, are more complex. I really like that.
What did you learn about the creative process in a company?
At Tobias & Tobias, I’ve been able to live out the process that goes into creating a website. It involves the usual stepping stones: research, design, prototyping, and implementation. However, saying it that way makes it seem simple, but there’s a lot of smaller iterations within each of these steps. This process can be very long or very short, and you might feel doubt in your idea or design at any point. If you feel that you’ve lost your way, I’ve found that reviewing your original goals and talking with others around you helps immensely. It’s refreshing and realigns your thought process, giving you the motivation you need to carry on.
What surprised you most during your time in the UK?
I really enjoy Primark.
Honestly, I think that the thing that has surprised me the most is how easy it is to walk from one side of town to another. I fell into the habit of going on 2-3 hour walks every free night that I had just to see the city, and I often ended up ridiculously far away from where I had started by accident (but always with a good story to tell)!
Also, someone has to bring up the lack of ranch dressing here. I use ranch on everything back in the States, and it will be on/with the first thing that I eat after I get back. I love the U.K., but really?
First, that England lost to Iceland in the Euro. Second, the many small differences in everyday language. Who would have thought that eggplants are called aubergines and zucchinis courgettes?
Overall, we’ve deepened our understanding of the working community and what it means to be a part of a UX experienced team. We hope that our time here at Tobias & Tobias has made us as dedicated as the team we’ve worked with over the past six weeks in both UX design and bake-offs.
Brindsi Liberty, Holly Bronson, and Abigail Whitford, Michigan State University