My name is Liina and I’m a business administration student at the University of Tartu. I finished the first year of my studies this June and am currently doing my internship. I got a chance to join Contriber as a marketing intern. What I really like is that Contriber’s mission is to unlock to the potential of tech businesses by building a startup community in Tartu and providing office space, investments, mentoring events, and a lot of useful info. Since I’m from Tartu, it’s no surprise that I’m also completing my internship here, but a fun fact is that I’m working in English. I believe that this shows there are opportunities everywhere for international students also – you just need to find them. I saw the advert in the UT career mail list.
A lot of people decide to study economics because they haven’t made up their mind about what they are truly interested in, but that wasn’t my case. It was already in high school when I chose ‘Introduction to Economics’ and ‘Principles of Entrepreneurship’ as my electives. I was interested in how the monetary system and businesses function.
When I saw the e-mail in which Contriber was looking for marketing interns I was really thrilled to apply, because I had been thinking for a long time that I wanted to do my internship in marketing. I didn’t have much faith in getting the position though, since I was so young and had so little experience. I went through two application rounds and completed two interviews, and, luckily enough, I was selected.
I had no previous experience with working for a startup or working in the field of marketing. I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but I imagined that a startup team is small and people don’t stick strictly to their main obligations only, but contribute also to everything else that needs to be done. I also had very little knowledge of content marketing, but I was looking forward to finding out more about it and learning new and interesting things.
Based on the internship ad, I had the impression that I was going to work for an ICT startup, but things turned out to be a little different in reality later on. There is so much more going on at Contriber besides developing online products. However, it wasn’t a disappointment for me. During my first week I discovered how interesting the world of startups is, and it didn’t take me long to see how much variety the fact that Contriber is targeting startups adds to my job.
Every two weeks there are clearing sessions, where the whole team gets to share openly what is working for them and what is not. This means that all the employees speak one by one about what has gone well in their work and what has made them happy in the company. The second round is about sharing what has gone wrong and has not worked out or is unpleasant at the workplace. It is allowed to include your positive and negative emotions about personal life as well.
Having a little knowledge about psychology, I find this kind of culture to be beneficial. It’s good to see that there are leaders who implement in real life the principles I’ve read about in books. As I have understood, building open relationships with your employees can contribute a lot to the success of a company and help to avoid tension and problems between coworkers.
My internship supervisor is Contriber’s marketing director, Guerric de Ternay, who is working for Contriber from London. I’m impressed by the knowledge about content marketing which he shares with me. He is also a great motivation, as he is super hardworking and dedicated, putting in up to 16 working hours a day sometimes. Contriber’s other marketing person, David Plath, is also working for the company remotely. He is situated in the US. So, the main team that I’m working with is very distributed. We discussed virtual teamwork in some of the university courses that I took this year (e.g. Business Communication and Teams in Organizations), but now I have seen what it means to work on a remote team in real life and I have also faced some challenges with it.
Firstly, the main communication between team members takes place in written form. This can slow down the work a bit, as you can’t always get in touch with people instantly. It needs to be considered that the time difference between Estonia and the US is quite significant. It is good always to have some extra tasks, which you can work on in case some setbacks emerge with other tasks and you can’t get advice from your team instantly. In addition to writing, we also use Skype calls for communication at times.
Secondly, not everything is always clear from the first moment in written communication. It is possible to interpret text in different ways if you can’t hear the other person’s tone of voice or see their body language. I often need to ask some extra questions to make sure that I’m on the same page as my supervisor. But no one should worry about this small obstacle too much. As you get to know your team members better over time, interpretation gets easier and you can already guess what kinds of things they expect from you.
All in all, working at Contriber has been an amazing opportunity so far. The more experience I gain and the more I learn, the easier it gets to overcome challenges. Despite some difficulties, working in a remote team can be very interesting. It’s inspiring to see how people with different backgrounds and from different places can work together towards a common goal. Also, working for a startup and seeing the company develop is something I would recommend to anyone. It can take some time to get used to the startup culture at first, but you will definitely enjoy it once you are familiar with it. When things feel too difficult, you can try to look for motivation from your coworkers. I would advise everyone to be open to learning from new experiences.
The author, Liina, is a student at UT and intern at Contriber.