What do an internship, Hamilton, and Europe have in common?

Contributor: Filipa Mladenova

What do you expect of an internship? It is probably one of the most important affairs a student can go through in their preparation for the real world. It is not just about the experience but about understanding the path you are undertaking professionally. Make no mistake, where you do your internship matters!  A good internship should help you understand yourself, your strengths, and your limits. It should inspire you to pursue the professional path you are on even more, or, conversely, help you realise that maybe it’s not for you. And that’s ok: better earlier than later. The truth is the place where you work as an intern and the way people treat you shape your expectations of a working place. While the cliche of preparing coffee and shadowing meetings might still be true in some places, that was definitely not my experience at Tectonica. From day one, I felt like any other full-time staff, whose ideas matter. What I learnt during my short but very intense stay is beyond professional skills.

My internship was hard work and a very rewarding one as well. I consider myself lucky - not only for finding an internship during a world pandemic, in one of the cities that has suffered the most in Europe, but also for finding one in a dynamic, diverse, and multilingual environment. 

I knew that I would be working on a report with a company providing digital solutions to various advocacy organisations and political parties, and clearly I had no idea what that actually meant. The European Report I worked on proved to be one of the most ambitious projects I have ever seen! 

What makes the report so unique is Tectonica’s desire to not just construct a database, or write about progressive entities in Europe, but to use it to build a community, to help evaluate and envision what the use for it would actually be, considering the audience above all! This is not an easy feat, and I am not sure it has ever been done before! It involved work that went way beyond collecting and analysing data. Luckily, I was not alone. Another intern, Katrine, and I took notes together, helped, and challenged each other. We managed to organise and coordinate the bulk of work between us very quickly, and from day one we motivated one another. The variety of tasks we were given has not only provided me with a useful experience I will cherish, but it was also a lot of fun! Trust me, there is nothing like Disney songs in the morning and people humming along to Hamilton to start off the day. But moreover, we had daily meetings with people from the team that showed us the ins and outs and supported us in any way imaginable to make our work easier. From researching and organising data to helping organise a workshop, writing a blogpost and nerding out over a bunch of incredible tools; conducting qualitative interviews, sending literally thousands of emails, creating strategies and managing meetings… did I miss anything?! We were not just handed tasks, we were empowered to give ideas and be pro-active and were given feedback and guidance every step of the way! My experience at Tectonica has definitely exceeded my expectations and has changed my perspective on what writing a report is actually all about!

What will definitely stay with me is the unique character of this collective of diverse people! Absolute stars at what they do, with genuine curiosity, desire for understanding, improvement and great empathy. A team of young, smart people, united under a system of values that they try to incorporate in all aspects of their work and relationship with clients and with one another. And the brain behind all this? A cheerful, full of hope and enthusiasm guy with way too many tabs open on his computer, who inspired me to give 100% of myself, not by telling me to do so, but by being the example! I was initially intimidated, not by Jonas per se - the dog with a bow that proudly guards the office, known for being a great company especially during lunch breaks; but by how amazing, motivated, hardworking, knowledgeable and humble everyone was! 

This was such a rollercoaster! However, even when things seemed extremely chaotic, there was a sense of order and idea. At the end of it all, a feeling of accomplishment and certainty that the choice I have made for a professional path is, after all, the right one. Thank you for the experience, the motivation, for teaching me so much, but most of all thank you for the inspiration and passion. In a time of pandemic where it is easy to lose perspective and get demotivated, my hope in humanity and the future has been restored. Now all I want is nothing short of saving the world and knowing that there are others, aiming to do just that, is of great comfort. One campaign, one blog post, one idea, one zoom meeting at a time...