Future friendly internship series: Nadia LadakCulture · Aug 8, 2019
As I began my first internship, I was worried I would spend the summer solely completing “traditional intern” tasks such as building or formatting slide decks, making coffee runs, taking meeting minutes, and periodically being called upon in meetings to share my opinion, instead of receiving a breadth of experiences that would allow me to also develop strategic thinking skills. However, much to my surprise, my internship at TELUS Digital as a strategist, has been the opposite. I led a strategy project from end-to-end, ran meetings with key senior stakeholders, presented to hundreds of TELUS Digital team members, and made the occasional catering run. The past three months have been immensely rewarding and resulted in three valuable lessons that I will carry throughout my career.
Lesson #1: TELUS Digital is an ideal place to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
The Strategy Team at TELUS Digital is responsible for collaborating across the organization to help define the Digital Transformation strategy for all of TELUS. We lead strategy projects on areas such as customer experience, AI and machine learning, and evolving our optimization and personalization practices. During my internship, I led a project to scale our optimization, A/B testing, and personalization capabilities across TELUS to enable our teams to provide data-driven and personalized customer experiences. Coming from the Ivey Business School with a limited background in these technologies, this project challenged me and took me outside of my comfort zone. However, throughout the summer, my team was invested and supportive of my learning and career development. They fostered a safe environment for me to ask questions and grow. Furthermore, they encouraged me to continue to challenge myself by placing me on an even more technical strategy project involving the evolution of our internal technology and Digital Platform. Through this internship, I’ve developed the ability to learn quickly and be adaptable. This will equip me to continue to challenge myself to try new experiences, grow quickly in my career, build confidence, and develop new skills and perspectives I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to gain otherwise.
Lesson #2: Take initiative and your team will support you.
Over the summer, I was able to pursue one of my interests in Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace by taking the initiative to join the TELUS Digital Diversity & Inclusion council. The group focuses on creating a safe work environment within which all team members can thrive. Through my involvement, I identified an opportunity that could support individuals who wanted to become more effective allies in the workplace. I took the initiative to begin developing a guide on how to be an ally in the workplace with the goal of creating a more inclusive community at TELUS Digital. The team was very supportive of my idea and has since asked for my advice and input on other initiatives that the council is leading such as our diversity resource guide, safe space council, and diversity survey. My contributions to the council led to the opportunity to present our D&I work at an all-team meeting including all TELUS Digital team members across the country! Throughout my career, I will continue to take initiative and provide meaningful contributions to my team. I’ve learned that this will result in exposure to new opportunities to deliver an impact.
Lesson #3: Never underestimate the importance of workplace culture.
TELUS Digital embraces agile ways of working; at our Toronto office at 25 York St, the floor is open, and colourful workspaces are constantly buzzing with collaboration. The teams move quickly and are eager to share and learn from each other. There are several rituals that enable knowledge sharing within the TELUS Digital community. For example, within the strategy team, we hold stand-ups twice a week where every team member can share what they have been working on and discuss any challenges or blockers. This encourages transparency and collaboration within the team. We also hold weekly working sessions with the entire team to allow us to “jam” through a challenge that we have been working on and to provide constructive criticism on each other’s work to improve the quality of our team’s outputs. In addition to these positive team rituals, the team has welcomed me with open arms, supported my career development, and provided me with new opportunities to grow and learn. They created a safe environment where I felt comfortable to express and bring my truest self to work. And above all, they have become friends and mentors that I will value beyond the summer. Because of this positive environment, I’ve realized how important it is to work with a team who is supportive and invested in your success. Throughout the rest of my career, I will prioritize creating a similar culture that provides an inclusive environment for individuals to learn, grow, and contribute their best work.
In addition to these lessons, I’ve also gained valuable consulting skills. These include:
Defined and identified an ambiguous strategic problem to solve, established a project plan, and managed stakeholder expectations throughout the process in order to develop a robust roadmap and drive meaningful outcomes.
Refined my presentation skills and story-telling abilities through numerous presentations in front of managers, directors, executives, and our hundreds of TELUS Digital team members.
Navigated different kinds of feedback from stakeholders across various levels and departments of the organization, to ensure the project and messaging was relevant to them and their teams.
At the beginning of the summer, I believed that the scope of value I could deliver as an intern would be small. However, after pushing myself to try new opportunities, taking initiative, and being supported by the incredible team here at TELUS Digital, I’ve been able to drive outcomes that will leave an impact even after the summer is over.