Future Friendly Internship Series: Harrison HartCulture · Aug 19, 2020
To say this summer was not what I expected would definitely be an understatement. Between global pandemics, widespread protests for equality, and murder hornets, I was prepared for my internship to get pushed aside and put on the backburner – hoping the whole time that it wouldn’t be cancelled like so many other internships at this time. What instead transpired was one of the most impactful learning experiences I’ve been able to have in my life. Throughout my experience with the TELUS Digital team as an intern strategist, I’ve been met with an overwhelming amount of support in helping me develop my analytical abilities, while the team made sure that I was set up for success for whatever avenue I decide to pursue in the future. As I look back on my internship, I’ve realized that the TELUS team has taught me three lessons for both my professional and personal life.
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it
With such a dynamic environment, I was half expecting to walk into a house on fire when I was about to start my internship. My university exams had all been moved to completely online, people were hoarding toilet paper, and everyone was just beginning to quarantine due to the virus. I expected this chaos to permeate into TELUS, where I would be met with another group that was only focusing on catching up with the ever-changing current situation. Instead, TELUS blew me away with the ability to adapt to the situation and see what opportunities were still being presented. Instead of focusing on what they now couldn’t do, the TELUS Digital team embraced these changes and used them as an opportunity to re-evaluate many aspects of their business practices. During my internship, my primary focus was on conducting discovery work into the current “ways-of-working” each team follows. This work allowed me to glimpse into the strategy involved with organizing a community as large as TELUS Digital, while continuing to refine my communication skills and my ability to work in ambiguous situations. Throughout this work, the team continually pushed me into situations where there wasn’t ever a clear “right” answer I was trying to solve. Instead of skipping to create the solution, this internship taught me the importance of slowing down and properly scoping out a project before starting to do work on it. Many times I noticed that when I took a step back and examined the whole situation, both in a professional setting and personally over the summer, I would notice details which I initially thought were not important, but would come to radically change the direction I would go in.
Lesson #2: Never stop learning
As soon as I joined the strategy team, I was struck with how committed the team is to consistently learn new skills and develop themselves. The team has focused on building a culture where it’s okay and encouraged to admit you don’t know something! Being completely new to working with TELUS and large companies in general, the team went above and beyond to ensure that I was comfortable reaching out if I ever had any problems, and when explaining something to me, they would ensure that I fully understood what they were talking about. Their commitment to learning didn’t stop during work hours though. Throughout my internship, I have been able to join a TELUS reading club started by the strategy team (I highly recommend reading So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo!) and I’ve been presented many further opportunities to join educational sessions about a variety of topics. Even though my internship is coming to an end, I plan to continue developing myself and ensuring that I continue to explore new areas in my life.
Lesson #3: Don’t just talk the talk, make sure you walk the walk
The most impactful part of this internship for me was seeing how committed TELUS is to fostering a positive, productive environment for everyone at the organization. From my conversations with everyone at TELUS, I started to quickly realize that the reason people stay at TELUS is because of its culture. Whether it’s the leadership team continually sharing out their values, or the consistent practice of ending meetings by thanking attendees for their specific contributions, it’s become clear to me that the values the organization holds true are the same values that each employee strives to internalize. The people at TELUS are truly determined to be open and honest with their coworkers, and as the most junior person at most of these meetings, this culture truly made me feel as though I could openly share my ideas and I could safely share my opinion on topics without fear of being neglected.
As I continue to reflect on my experience as an intern strategist with the TELUS Digital team, I can’t stop thinking about how amazing the atmosphere was. Even though the only time I visited the office was back in January for my interview, the strategy team has been overwhelmingly welcoming. This internship has pushed me to explore ambiguous environments, manage multiple stakeholder groups, and pursue personal initiatives within the organization. I highly recommend this internship for anyone interested in learning about strategy within a large organization, especially if you are looking for a warm, inviting team to welcome you on your first day.