Hey everyone! My name is Phoebe Skok, and I am from Issaquah, WA, USA. At the moment, I am finishing up my Associate’s in Arts and Sciences at Bellevue College before I transfer to UC San Diego to double major in Linguistics and Environmental Studies. Through CIEE, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to take part in a Virtual Global Internship! While there have definitely been challenges, there are few experiences I am more grateful for. I am interning at Era Zero Waste, a sustainable grocery delivery service based in Berlin.
First, a little bit of background on Era. The quickly growing start-up aims to make zero waste, eco-friendly living accessible to anyone. Era embraces imperfections and works hard to empower customers and sellers to make a difference. Yet there are so many different aspects of sustainability that it can be difficult to know where to start. Our focus here at Era? Transforming our food system and reducing our personal environmental impact by changing the way we grocery shop. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, approximately one-third of all food produced annually is wasted. This is the equivalent of 8% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and an economic value of $2.6 trillion USD. Similarly, the majority of the food we purchase comes in single-use packaging that litters our oceans and is not recyclable.
Era hopes to combat both. The way we work: Era is a virtual marketplace where organic markets, zero waste stores, farm boxes, and specialty shops around Berlin can sell their products. After a customer orders online, the shop packs the order in reusable shipping boxes we provide. Then, Era picks the boxes up and, through our carbon-neutral bike delivery system, brings them to the customer. We believe that the easier it is to choose a zero-waste option, the more likely people are to do so. Currently, we are in our beta stage with 10-20 shops and limited customers, but we hope to launch fully in the coming months.
As an intern at Era, I’ve worked on a variety of projects. Each day is different! I’ve enjoyed the variety and appreciate the breadth of skills I’m learning. During my first few weeks, I worked closely with another intern to run the social media and create new posts. Then, I shifted and became a part of Era’s outreach team. My job was to research shops around Berlin, enter their information in our database, and then be their initial contact. If they were interested in discussing a possible partnership or learning more about us, I would send them more information and schedule meetings with them. Due to the nine-hour time difference, my coworkers have taken most of the meetings, but I love to tag along virtually when I’m able to.
Recently, I’ve started working with Pipedrive (our Customer Relationship Management software) in order to track partnerships and be the sole point of contact during our onboarding process. Although I had never used a CRM before and it was difficult to learn at first, I’m grateful to have learned such a valuable skill at such a young age. While I am unsure if I will stay in this role for the rest of my internship, it has been extremely rewarding to have a key role in Era’s onboarding. Now, we are pivoting away from reaching out to new shops and focusing on beta testing, communication, and fundraising, so I am excited to see what I’ll work on next!
When I applied for the virtual internship, I had no idea how it would go. I’d never worked at a company in my field of interest, I’d never worked professionally online, and I didn’t speak German. I was nervous, but I took the plunge. While there have been some roadblocks—namely, the time difference between Berlin and Seattle—working at Era Zero Waste has vastly exceeded my expectations. This experience has cemented my interest in pursuing a career in sustainability and highlighted how far you can go with enough passion and drive. I’ve learned more than I ever could have imagined, including the geography of Berlin’s neighborhoods, database fulfillment, social media techniques, and a tiny bit of German!
Long story short: if you’re hesitant about trying a virtual internship, do it. I guarantee you will not regret it.