With summer more than halfway over, I think that now is a good time to step back and reflect on my summer student experience at Harbinger thus far. At a high-level, my experience has been meaningful and exciting; I’ve learned many different things which have opened my eyes to the world of work. But what is the true impact of hiring students in organizations? Today, we’ll take a look at the experience at Harbinger so far to understand the value for both students and organizations. I’ve taken the time to gather some thoughts from my colleagues, one being another student hire and another being one of my leaders, to get a good perspective.
With the addition of any new person to a team, there is a certain amount of disruption: disruption to regular patterns of work, team culture, or current mindsets and ideas. While disruption can be viewed as positive or negative, something I’ve learned at Harbinger is that challenges are welcomed and worthwhile, especially when it comes to investing in making our organization better. Individuals each hold a wealth of knowledge and it’s clear that diversifying your team with different talent can lead to a beneficial learning experience for everyone.
Take a deeper look into the perspective of working with student hires at Harbinger with Rachelle Su, Manager, Change Enablement & Learning, as she shares her thoughts on the experience.
Evelyn: What were your initial thoughts about students joining the team?
Rachelle: I was excited about the opportunity to bring students onto our team. It’s always exciting when the Harbinger team grows, even if it’s only for a limited period of time. It’s no question that summer students, because of the minimal work experience they have, often require more coaching and development to understand and embrace the work we do in the change management space. However, despite the extra effort it takes to help set them up for success, it is worthwhile for both the student and the rest of the team. Students bring new and fresh perspectives to the company, which is valuable for a variety of reasons–but most importantly, it helps us evaluate if our ways of working are up to date, and it encourages us to think outside the box.
Evelyn: Given your work with students in the last three months, have you developed different or new impressions?
Rachelle: While I haven’t changed my thoughts about summer students in general, I have been surprised to see which kinds of strengths and abilities each student brings to the table. The most interesting part has been seeing how each person has used the unique knowledge they’ve gathered from university, college, or different life experiences, and applied it to the workplace. Seeing the connections they make has been really interesting. For example, Carmen is constantly making connections between her educational background in User Experience to Change Management, which has been beneficial for both my own learning and hers.
Evelyn: What have you learned from our students?
Rachelle: Something I’ve learned from working with our students is that I might not be as comfortable with adapting as I thought I was. As a change practitioner, you would think that this is my strong suit, but like we always say–change is hard. There’s no exception for those of us who are constantly sharing our expertise on how to manage it. When you’re surrounded by people who are bringing new perspectives and ideas to you on a daily basis, it forces you to take a step back and reflect on the way things are done. Even when these ideas are great, it is uncomfortable to change your path unexpectedly.
Evelyn: What do you think students can learn from the Harbinger team?
Rachelle: One of the most important takeaways people can learn from the Harbinger team, no matter if you’re a summer student or tenured professional, is how we practice humility in everything we do. Humility has always been something the team has not only reinforced, but demonstrated. From my perspective, when I think of Harbinger’s culture, humility is one of the first traits that comes to mind. I’ve been able to observe the way our team puts their egos aside in the name of getting things done. This really comes to the surface when I see my teammates work with clients; we always let the organizations we work with shine—it’s our job to set them up for success, not to be the hero who saves their change from heading down the wrong path. I believe that humility serves you well in both work and personal life, and I hope our students take that learning with them.
Evelyn: Can you relate your experiences with students to organizational change?
Rachelle: Yes, it’s clear that there is value in bringing diverse people onto your team. This applies to managing and enabling change too. We often remind organizations that they need to let people in and include a variety of people across their organization when making decisions about change.
It’s important to involve the people who are going to be impacted by the change, whether they’re in the head office or on the plant floors—whether they’re senior leaders or entry level employees, when considering how to support them through it. Everyone who is impacted by the change should be informed, engaged, and supported throughout a business transformation. Like Krista Schaber-Chan says in one of our blogs, people are often told a change is coming but are rarely involved in the discussions–“Decisions are made about them and for them.”
To get a summer student’s perspective (other than my own), I had a discussion with Carmen Skoretz, UX Design and Learning Specialist, to talk about our experiences and takeaways from our time at Harbinger so far.
General impressions about our time at Harbinger:
Carmen: There are so many things that you learn at a job that you don’t learn in school— I think in school you can get away with a lot of things, but when you’re in a position where you’re accountable or getting paid, that can bring out the best work in you. I’ve learned a lot about communication and building professional relationships with people. This is my first professional work experience, so it’s going to become my reference for all my future jobs. And since my time at Harbinger has been so positive, it’s helped me identify the work culture that I’ll want to look for in the future.
Evelyn: This being my first summer work experience, I feel as though I’ve picked up many soft skills, such as general email etiquette, communicating efficiently with other team members, and working independently. More importantly, I feel that this experience has erased my misconceptions about what an “office job” is like—not in a particularly good or bad way, but in a more realistic way of understanding the everyday tasks and culture you’re part of in a company.
What we’ve learned so far:
Carmen: Seeking out feedback has been one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had at this job. When I first started, I would get nervous every time I sent something in to get reviewed, but that’s the most effective way to learn: hearing other people’s feedback. Learning to embrace the feedback—to seek it out and not get stressed about it, that’s probably been the biggest learning experience for me, and it’s really helped me expand my knowledge.
Evelyn: One thing I’ve learned at Harbinger is that learning is constant. As a team of change practitioners, we’re big advocates of adaptability, and that comes with a very positive attitude towards lifelong education. Like any other person, I’ve learned that there are some things I’m particularly good at, and other things that I need to work on. I feel as though I’ve been able to get good support from my managers, not only in the way they offer advice or help on a specific piece, but in the way they lead by example. For example, my marketing skills could use some honing, but I’ve been doing my best to follow Rachelle’s example since she’s particularly good at that sort of thing.
Takeaways for future work experiences:
Carmen: This experience has left me with more confidence in the workplace and more confidence in my work. I feel way more prepared to communicate with people professionally, to share my work and explore my abilities. It has also highlighted many qualities that I will try to seek out in my future jobs. Like finding a smaller company that offers remote or hybrid work, because those are qualities that I’ve enjoyed and thrived in here at Harbinger.
As a student, I never pictured myself working in education or eLearning. Though I’ve had a great experience designing in this area, I would love to see how my skills can contribute to different industries. I would really enjoy being in a position where I can work on different design projects from diverse industries.
Evelyn: I definitely feel more confident talking to people and asking questions. This experience at Harbinger has also helped me narrow down what I’d like to pursue once I graduate. Before this experience, I had my anxieties about what I would do once I finished my bachelors, but I feel more comfortable taking things one step at a time to further explore what I enjoy and what I want to pursue. I can continue to explore my options in the future until I decide on a path, and it’s okay for me to take my time.
While this blog is only a snapshot of the summer student experience at Harbinger, we’ve touched on the many different benefits for both organizations and students. By hiring students, organizations can make a positive impact on young professional careers and in turn, organizations receive fresh ideas and modern skillsets to add to their workforce.
My advice to all the students out there is to make the most of your work experiences by sharing your unique outlook with your team. And don’t forget to take in all the knowledge and feedback you receive to help guide you on your career path. Hiring a student or being a working student is a valuable experience for all parties, so help yourself and others by taking on the challenge and opening yourself up to change.
Communications and Community Coordinator
Manager, Change Enablement & Learning
UX Design & Learning Specialist