A note to my fellow interns or recent college grads applying to entry-level jobs:
This past May, after pseudo graduating from Bucknell University, I joined the Oceans team as the Marketing Summer Intern. With barely enough time to process that the ‘best four years of my life’ was over, I stepped into the daunting real world. A few bumps in the road, nonetheless, my past twelve weeks at Oceans has offered a whole new perspective of what qualifies as a great internship.
First, I must start by addressing the obvious: the world is a weird and uncertain place right now. But it isn’t all bad; there are silver linings – if you’re willing to look for them. In pre-COVID times, I spent my summer internships staring at computer screens, aimlessly wandering around the office, attempting to keep myself occupied, and jumping at any opportunity to get my hands on work. The days were long and mundane, and although I still appreciate these experiences, I know that I was never truly challenged. Not every pre-COVID internship was like this; finance interns worked rigorous hours; many people were enticed by a significant bi-monthly paycheck or the free snacks on each floor. But my time at Oceans has been different from previous internships for more reasons than working out of the living room in my childhood home. More prominently, the company’s culture, mission, and ambition have granted me a newfound perspective on an internship’s value.
- No matter how you slice it, finding a company that’s aligned with your personal interests and values is critical for your happiness, well-being, productivity, attitude, and confidence. Company culture plays a significant role in your individual success because then even on the worst days, work will feel like a hobby instead of a job.
- Everyone wants to feel appreciated and involved. As an intern or in a junior role, it’s easy to feel like your opinions are unwarranted since you don’t have much experience. This isn’t necessarily true, though; you offer something else instead: a fresh perspective. If you’re in the room (or on Zoom) with the right people, they’ll welcome and acknowledge your POV. Because of Oceans’ culture, I was never afraid to ask questions, share feedback, or offer my opinion.
- Confidence and willingness to take risks come from working in a comfortable and approachable environment. Being in this environment is crucial for showing your true colors and determining your strengths and weaknesses. When you feel nurtured, you’re more likely to fail harder and faster, pitch bold ideas, and push boundaries. More often than not, the greatest learning experiences and growth comes from times you’ve failed.
- Ownership is empowering, and something that interns don’t necessarily get. In a May blog post, Glenn said, “When interns do some of the heavy-lifting, everyone gets lifted,” and I believe that to be true. Being able to own a task, manage a project, and initiate a discussion creates an added feeling of responsibility and accountability. Having your name associated with a specific area of work makes commitment and success even more compelling. This summer, I helped launch the first-ever Oceans Virtual Event Series, which allowed our portfolio companies and investors to connect, discuss, and solve problems together. Planning, coordinating, and executing this event allowed me to feel a sense of legitimacy and encouragement in my position.
“As an intern at Oceans, I have been a part of the team since day 1. I’ve been able to meet with founders, handle due diligence, and take on a significant role in day-to-day operations. Oceans has given me the opportunity to set my career track and take on as much initiative as I’d like. Being an intern here is much the same as a full-time associate, which has been made possible by the great team and environment they’ve created.”
– Matthew Korinek, Oceans Summer Associate
- You should be dying to get your hands on as much as possible, and if you’re not, then maybe it’s not the right place for you. If you’re passionate about your organization, area of work, or specific tasks, you will be hungry to learn and grasp things on your own. The great thing about being an intern is that you’re much more responsive to instruction, feedback, and opportunities presented because you don’t have much prior knowledge.
- Success comes with dedication, practice, and patience. You might first learn through observation – by noticing how your teammates interact, their different work ethics, the tasks they assign you – but eventually, more profound knowledge will come from your own discoveries.
- Be a go-getter. When your workload is lighter, or it’s a little quieter around the office, do research on your own, get ahead on work, and learn more about your company’s biggest competitors or partners. Putting in the extra work on your own time will set you apart.
- At Oceans, we have weekly all-hands meetings to share updates, ask questions, voice concerns, and talk freely as a collective group. It’s critical for everyone to be aware of what’s going on in different parts of the business, and these meetings ensure that everyone’s on the same page. For me, the weekly meeting gave me a high-level angle of how Oceans operates between and amongst verticals. Glenn once said, “And make sure you include [interns]. It’s hard to see the big picture if you’re kept in a corner. Bring them to staff meetings, let them listen to client meetings and then get their feedback.” The weekly meetings allowed me to see the bigger picture – what exactly does Oceans do? What’s our mission and purpose? What are our goals? What projects are people working on? Is there a problem we’re currently facing? What role does everyone play? Who are important people, and why? And how does this all tie together?
- Correlating responsibilities with personal, team, or company goals demonstrates how your work is meaningful. Everyone wants the time they spent on tedious or rigorous tasks to drive impact in some form. Knowing that you are adding value is much more rewarding than being tasked with everyone’s busy work. And it’s important to be a part of a team that recognizes and applauds your efforts – I mean, who doesn’t want to be celebrated?!
“Oceans has been a breath of fresh air in the sometimes unapproachable world of Venture Capital during a turbulent time. This is mainly because of a fast-moving, attentive, and intentional team that quickly latched on to me as one of theirs. Their trust in me showed by empowering me with projects that actually affected business decisions and outcomes and simply asked for my perspective. This summer internship left me better than when I started, to say the least, but has shown me that Venture Capital is a viable vehicle to positively impact investing in new ideas that will better people’s lives.”
– Lungile Tshuma, Oceans Summer Intern
- Set clear daily, weekly, quarterly and aspirational goals for yourself. Personally, this keeps me on track, focused, and urges me to plan ahead while also allowing for reflection and growth. This is especially important at this stage in your career as you prepare for what’s next and will enable you to continue learning.
- It’s important to work somewhere with a clear mission or purpose – this statement acts as a north star. Your team should be aligned around a shared goal that’s at the core of every decision, question, and discussion. Having a clear vision, mission, and purpose allows you to tie your work to something much bigger than you personally. At Oceans, The Power of Together is our mission statement, so everything we do is in service of this. This trickles down to how we approach conversations with founders, partners, and investors, frame events – like the Virtual Event Series, assess what content to push out, etc.
- Because of this mission statement, leadership and people are at the heart of Oceans. It all starts at the top. Look for companies that value strong leaders and rely on role models to set a precedent for new hires or junior-level positions. From Oceans’ leaders, I’ve learned that we create something greater than the sum of its parts when we join together.
- I learned this summer that diversity = success. However, diversity goes beyond race, class, gender. It’s how people work, communicate, interact, approach situations, think, their tendencies. Balancing a diverse team is imperative for maximizing creativity, efficiency, happiness, and achievement. We all come from diverse backgrounds with various skill sets, so if I can’t figure something out, I know that someone else on the team probably can.
- And finally, believe in yourself and your work. If you’re aligned with the company mission, purpose, and goals, you know you’ve found your fit.
So yes, the world is an odd place right now that feels unstable to many people, therefore stick with things that are working well, ground you and align with your interests. My time at Oceans has taught me the value of a great internship and helped me create future job standards. By sharing these insights, I hope that I can help people who are currently seeking opportunities, too.