(Summer) School is in Session: The World of Innovation Through the Eyes of an Intern

As a somewhat OCD individual who has had her life path planned down to the bathroom break since age 14, I had a clear idea of what my summers in between university would look like. They involved a blasé corporate job, an unflattering pantsuit or two, and lots of coffee runs. While these summers weren’t exactly dreamy, I knew they would be one step up the ladder towards my end goals of business “success.”

Enter The Idea Suite: the company I was lucky enough to work at for summer 2019. After meeting many times with both founders, Shelli Baltman and Fiona Stevenson, I had a gut feeling that this business might be just the place for me. After reflecting on the fact that a one dimensional corporate job didn’t HAVE to be my internship future for four summers, I excitedly accepted the position of Innovation Intern.

I could not have made a better decision. Each and every day, I woke up excited and motivated to head into the office and be inspired by an amazing and creative team of hardworking individuals. Along the way, I was lucky enough to have developed so many insights into the world innovation, ones that could only be learned through experiences such as an Idea Suite Internship.

Here are my top 10 takeaways from a summer spent ideating, innovating, and investigating:

1. Range is Key

I had the opportunity to wear many hats this summer. Some of them fit me better than others, but I surely got to try them all on! From client relations to idea development and iteration, I was so lucky to be afforded a diverse range of opportunities over four months. This range of work taught me how important it can be to generalize oneself. I’ve often tried to find a category to shove myself into; the quant girl, the good writer, etc., but I never felt like my skill set was quite strong enough in one specific area. The Idea Suite showed me that my range of diverse skills could be a benefit more than a burden, and I was able to apply different facets of myself to unique projects, while never ceasing to learn and grow.

2. Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

“Hey Cass, what’s your capacity looking like today?” This was one of the golden questions throughout my time at The Idea Suite. When starting with the company, I was keen to take on as much work as possible and get it all done comprehensively and efficiently. I quickly learned that taking on overwhelming amounts of detail-oriented work wouldn’t be of benefit to myself or the company. Instead, I learned to take on smaller amounts of work (that’s the under-promise part) and execute this work to the absolute best of my ability (there’s the over-delivering). Being able to surpass my colleagues’ expectations was both gratifying and reinforced my learning that a slightly lighter work load that is well-executed is more beneficial to both the company and my stress levels!

3. Work You Love isn’t Really Work

As a business student, I would hear some of my peers moan and groan about working 9-5 summer jobs at a company they weren’t particularly passionate about. I found these grievances quite hard to relate to, as I couldn’t remember a day where I wasn’t both excited and motivated to go to work. Being surrounded by hard-working and energetic individuals, all of whom were highly invested in their work, inspired me to discover everything I now love about the world of innovation. While I had often been told the old adage: “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” I never fully understood it until I started work at The Idea Suite.

4. A Little Optimism can go a Long Way

While my time at The Idea Suite was 99.9% fun, as with any job, there is that 0.01% of the time where you are challenged to persevere through difficulties. At our company, I found that optimism was key to working through any issues that arose. I will never forget one of The Idea Suite’s presidents, Shelli, coming into the main office on a stressful day and proceeding to break out in a dance party. Fun and light moments such as these are what made heavier times at work feel manageable, and I am so grateful to have been able to work alongside such a positive and upbeat team who ensured morale was high at all times.

5. Life is Just One Big Q&A

Ask questions! It’s as simple as that. While working at The Idea Suite I tried my best to push my nerves aside and not be afraid to inquire when there was a term I needed defining, or a problem I needed help solving. Basically, I treated my internship like one big Q&A. However, one must be aware of when it is a SMART time to ask questions. For example, if a foreign term came up in a client meeting, I made note of it to ask a co-worker later, rather than interrupting at a super important time. Being wary of whether or not it’s the right time to ask a question is very important, however I was never so wary that I refrained from asking questions altogether.

6. Being a She-E-O isn’t Easy

The Idea Suite was founded by two incredible women, Fiona Stevenson and Shelli Baltman. Along with all of the other inspiring people who work at The Idea Suite, these two specific ladies showed me just how challenging and rewarding being a CEO can be. I have always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, and watching Fiona and Shelli work tirelessly to build the best company possible was both daunting and inspiring. The long hours and countless demands of running a business are clearly tiring, however the incredible work they produce and company culture they have built has shown me that it can all be worth it.

7. Feedback Matters

I was lucky enough to have many one-on-one feedback sessions throughout my time at The Idea Suite. By checking in with numerous members of the company, I was able to learn about my strengths and weaknesses in order to become the best team member I could be. By taking constructive feedback seriously, instead of personally, I was able to adapt and develop my skills to grow as an intern and a human being. This was an invaluable process of change and development, that taught me the true importance of learning from feedback.

8. You are NOT Superman (or woman)!

In keeping with the tune of under-promising and over-delivering, I often had to remind myself it was okay to ask for help. In the past, when I hit road blocks, my stubbornness sometimes got the better of me. At The Idea Suite, I learned to reach out when I was struggling on a project or a task. The company’s welcoming environment made me feel like I could approach any individual to receive help and guidance, no matter how busy everyone else was.

9. Make Connections

The beauty of working with a unique team of people at The Idea Suite was that we each brought different life experiences and perspectives to our work. Learning this early on, I found myself drawing many comparisons between my life experiences and the work I was doing. Not only did this help me in my project work, but it also made me love my job even more, as I felt more personally connected to it. This lesson will stay with me throughout the rest of my professional and personal life, as I will strive to make connections between the world around me and the work I pursue.

10. Forget the Mistake, Remember the Lesson

I was by no means perfect throughout my entire internship. While I certainly tried to be, we are all humans and some things don’t go as planned. Rather than apologize for my errors and move on, I did my best to internalize them, in order to continuously grow and perform to the best of my abilities. By treating mistakes as lessons, I was able to spend much more of my internship learning, rather than dwelling on what went wrong.

Well, there you have it, my internship in review. While the confidential nature of our work didn’t allow me to dive too deeply into the tangible tasks I did, rest assured that no day was ever the same (or boring)! I am so grateful to have been able to work at a company as passionate and creative as The Idea Suite. The lessons I have learned have changed me as both a human and a businesswoman, and I look to my future knowing that I will never settle for an ugly pantsuit and a job that doesn’t inspire me.