Go Easy on the Coffee (seriously)
As I mentioned previously, one of the best and most recommended things for an intern to do (at IDEO or otherwise) is to get coffee with people. But, that doesn’t mean you literally have to go get coffee with them. In fact, I don’t think I’ve actually drank coffee on a single one of my “coffee dates” so far. Most of the time we don’t even leave the office—we just grab a spot to sit and talk. Which is good! Because otherwise I’d be jazzed up on ridiculous amounts of caffeine all day if I had a cup o’ jo every time I met someone new 😵
Despite being a Millennial-Hipster-Designer-College-Student who lives in San Francisco, I’m actually not a huge coffee fiend. While I’ve certainly relied on it for my fair share of late- or all-night work sessions, I’d say for the past five or six months I haven’t really been much of a regular coffee drinker. Even the single cup I’ve been having in the mornings over the past week or so has been significantly noticeable—I can’t imagine what more than that would do!
Sometimes It’s Good to Just Listen
Meeting new people, introducing yourself, asking questions, joining in on the conversation, etc. are all part of assimilating into a new work environment. Especially in a highly collaborative place like IDEO, it might seem at first glance like everyone is a competent and extroverted expert. But as I learned from someone on one of my coffee dates, almost everyone has a little bit of imposter syndrome. Of course, I’m not saying that everyone at IDEO isn’t incredibly talented and hardworking, but it’s not something you have to be intimidated by—especially as the new guy/gal.
For example, this past week I found myself in a lunch meeting filled with other designers and engineers, all intensely discussing a topic with which I, quite frankly, had very little experience. Not wanting to unnecessarily chime in simply for the sake of saying something, I just sat quietly and listened. I realized many of the things I was tempted to comment on were, eventually, brought up by someone else, and by the end up the discussion I had a new and vastly improved perspective on the subject as a whole.
It’s still good to bring up any questions you have, but it’s also good to listen for answers to questions you may not have even known you had!
It Really Is A Small World (after all)
I’ve had the great privilege of being taught by and getting to know a number of people over the past couple of years who have all worked at IDEO in various forms and for various lengths of time in their professional lives. It seems like everyone knows everyone and they’ve all worked together, and names are just being dropped left and right. These are the people I’ve always looked up to, aspiring to one day be as good as them and experience what it’s like being inside that elusive professional circle.
And now I’m here and I’m meeting tons of new people and I’m very quickly realizing that the circle is much smaller than I thought. The design community here in Bay Area is tight. For every new person I meet, I find that they already know someone I know. A lot of the time it’s one (or more) of my professors, but sometimes it’s one of my peers! And even though I’m usually freaking out on the inside because it’s super exciting, everyone is always super chill about it. They’re all like, “Oh yeah? You know [person]? That’s awesome. Yeah, we worked together on [project/company] back in [year].”
Obviously it’s really cool to get to know people who, six months earlier, you could have only dreamed about meeting, but it’s also really important to take a chill pill and relax. Nobody likes someone flustering about in front of them.