This blog post was actually authored by our summer research associate, Matt O’Connor, today – his last day in our offices before heading back to college.
It was late April 2015 and I was beginning to panic just a little. I was sitting in my dorm room at Williams College, watching the spring sunlight fade behind the green mountains outside my window, and trying to figure things out for the semi-immediate future. School ended near the close of May, which was only a few weeks off, and I was coming dangerously close applying for construction jobs to pass the summer. As a freshman at Williams, internships were the name of the game. If you had the chance to apply and were accepted to an internship program, you were setting yourself up nicely for future job prospects, and affording yourself an opportunity to gain experience in the professional world. Whether it had been through chance or family connection, a few of my friends had landed some pretty outrageous internships at some recognizable institutions (Highmark, The Martin Luther King Family Foundation, Bank of America) even though they had only been at college for a year! I really wanted to find some sort of work for myself, and I had sent out a few emails, but nothing had really worked out.
That’s when I first heard the names John Dick, Jennifer Sikora, and CivicScience. It turns out my father had done some work with CivicScience in the past, and had a business relationship with John, the CEO. I had originally planned on trying to find a program without my family’s assistance, but when my dad called to tell me about an opportunity with CivicScience, I remembered that sometimes it really is about connections (especially during freshman summer), and I jumped at the thought that someone might want to hire me. John and I talked through email, then Jen and I talked over the phone, and much to my relief, I was hired as a summer intern in a 10-week program at this early-stage tech-fueled Pittsburgh company. Thus began one of the most educational and relaxed experiences of my summer.
Going in, I didn’t really know what to expect. Would the office be strictly professional, with everyone sporting gelled hair and suits, like what I had seen in my mom’s law firm? Would I be expected to perform menial tasks, like getting the office coffee or making copies, the whole summer? I had ‘met’ a few people from the CivicScience team over the phone already and they had seemed warm, welcoming, and agreeable, so I was only semi-concerned about some sort of Dwight Schrute character tormenting me for two months.
My first day on the job I was nervous, but my nerves were quickly allayed when every single person in the office stood up to introduce themselves right as I was being given the tour. This gesture was much appreciated, and I automatically felt welcome. I was also really impressed and fascinated by the open floor plan, which allowed coworkers to chat and banter while getting work done simultaneously. The only downside was that it looked like I wasn’t getting my own office after all.
I also met Paul on the first day; Paul was the other intern for the summer. Paul is a great dude, we got along swimmingly from the start, it was awesome collaborating with him, and meeting him on that first day definitely made the whole thing go more smoothly for me, not being the only newbie and all. Finally, I met John, Pedro, and Jen in person — who were my bosses for the summer, and they all gave me an in-depth look at how the company works, what CivicScience does exactly, and what I would be doing for the summer. The rest of the first week went well inside the office (learning the system, researching things online, working with some other members of the office) but terribly outside of it (my car was towed, and I almost got lost wandering the neighborhood).
The rest of the summer turned out much differently from the vague expectations that I had coming in. I was not expecting such a laid back office, where it was totally okay to pop out for a quick snack across the street, or run to your car if you forgot to let the dog out back at your house. Dress-wise, I don’t think I saw a suit all summer, so that fear was certainly allayed, especially when our COO was actually encouraging me to wear shorts and flip-flops near the end of the summer.
My work was interesting, especially once I started to fully understand the far-reaching capabilities of the system. As time went by and I started to gain a better understanding of how to use the data, I started to really enjoy putting together small paragraphs of information to help our sales and marketing teams with their outreach efforts, and especially for developing content. What I enjoyed most were the parts of the job where I felt like I was making a real difference for the company. Writing blog posts, which potential clients were looking at, helping to make a sale with a big company, and compiling information about potential publishers were all certainly highlights of my summer.
But I think my favorite part of working for CivicScience actually occurred outside of the office, at lunch. Not to say I didn’t enjoy my time in the office, but going out to lunch with the people that I worked with, getting to know them outside of a business setting, and hearing about where they came from and what they liked to do aside from work was truly rewarding. I got to see a side of my coworkers which I hadn’t really seen before, and eat some awesome, usually free, food. But these lunch trips are where I discovered that the greatest strength of CivicScience isn’t its incredibly powerful platform, or its rapidly growing sales base, it’s the ambitious yet thoughtful people who work there.