Sep 12

Why I Chose to Intern at a Start-Up

It may have been a silly decision to do a placement in a country in which I couldn’t speak the language, but my decision to work at labfolder GmbH was very spontaneous. I was in the first half of my placement year in South Africa for my ‘study abroad’ portion of the year when I had to choose where to go next. As a bit of an electronic music lover (to say the least) I had always hoped to live in Berlin, the hub of techno and all things electronic. From Bath’s off-cycle placement opportunities, I looked for a ‘work abroad’ placement for the second half of the year.

I skimmed all but one job application (as an Economics student, I ironically digress away from any banking opportunity), leading me to a diamond in the rough. labfolder GmbH was offering a 6-month internship in Marketing and Business Development, where all the lessons learned would be highly beneficial to develop my current and future business ventures, as well as my graphic design skills. And where better located than the city of kooks: the wonderful, stinky Berlin.

Now why did I choose labfolder? As an economist, I was initially drawn to the idea that the Electronic Lab Notebook that they supply can help increase efficiency in a lab environment. It also pulled on my eco-conscience heartstrings that this would be a way to significantly reduce paper consumption in a huge global industry. Alas, a lot of work is still needed to change the methods of scientists, as ELN software is used by a slim 20% of the scientific world. Most scientists still cling on to paper lab books as their main source of note-taking.

I distinctly remember all of my Physics mates frantically scrambling around their notebooks when coursework was due. One book in particularly triggered flashbacks to my childhood days of paper mâché. The University would save way more time on research (and provide salvation to the professors who have to read the students’ lab books) by spending some dolla on ELNs for students instead of on the infamous biscuit fund…

An ELN can be a lot to grasp at once, but it’s easier to navigate than you think. If you’re a science-based student and want to know more about the perks of this, check out this electronic lab notebook guide.

It took me a lot of sleepy mornings learning to adapt my body clock to get used to working the 9 to 6. I was initially shocked that I wouldn’t just be working the infamous 9 to 5 that Dolly Parton deplored about, but another whopping hour on top. I asked a colleague and she responded, “It’s because we’re a start-up.” Complaining about this to one of my friends on placement in a corporate job in London, he points out that he’s still in the office. And this conversation took place at 11 pm on a weekday. To say the least, I’ve learned to be grateful for my hours, that at least I work in a friendly environment that prioritises my health and wellbeing above all. From weekly meetings on my thoughts and feelings to fresh fruit in the office every day, I am pleased with my decision to work in a startup.

The benefit of startups is that a smaller team size allows everyone to take on different roles. If it isn’t already given away by my exceedingly long internship title, I was not going to be honing in on a singular skill during my placement. Instead, I was given freedom to explore where I fit best in the workplace. My roles include marketing, managing CRM, lead generation, increasing brand awareness and improving Google rankings, as well as the occasional Photoshop or After Effects task. I can proudly say that while working at labfolder I can now create animations! Half of these tools I never could have imagined learning while on this placement.

But this style of an internship isn’t for everyone. Working at a start-up, with such a small team, means that your role is significant in determining the company’s successes. Having more roles as an intern means that you have to take on more responsibilities that could make some people fold. As a professional procrastinator, having numerous completely different tasks allows me to ‘procrastinate’ on one task by doing another task that uses a different way of thinking. In the past, I’ve been referred to as having the brain activity of a spider’s web, so for me, switching between tasks allows me to keep my head screwed on.

The thought of these varying tasks may make some people shudder, as it may be better for those that like learning and refining a specific skill to look elsewhere than a start-up. But for busy-bodies like me, I’d highly recommend working at a start-up, and labfolder is the perfect cup of tea!

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