Written by Troy Anderson, 2020 Berlin Internship
My name is Troy Anderson, and I am a rising senior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, double-majoring in Economics and Medicine, Health, & Society. As I prepared for my Spring 2020 semester in Berlin, Germany with CIEE, I was particularly drawn by the opportunity to participate in an internship as I believed it would be the perfect supplement to my academic immersion experience abroad. Ultimately, after four interviews with a few of CIEE’s corporate partners, I had the privilege to complete an internship with a Berlin-based firm called AtomLeap. With the COVID-19 pandemic, my time in Germany was cut short unexpectedly. However, thanks to the flexibility of CIEE and my supervisors at AtomLeap, I was able to complete my internship completely remotely from my home in Chicago.
First, a bit about the company. AtomLeap is a tech-based Berlin startup focused on data analytics and artificial intelligence, with particular emphasis on the dynamic innovation and R&D landscape globally. The company’s primary mission is to help companies make strategic decisions through practical data insights and technological applications. Because I completed my interview in January, I had the opportunity to see their physical office space -- a modern renovated warehouse/factory building -- in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin, not far from the Global Institute on Gneisenaustraße. The office culture of AtomLeap is young, international, and wholly diverse. On my team, I worked with people with perspectives far different from my own, which contributed to an overall collaborative and eye-opening work experience.
I served as an intern on the Business Intelligence Team at AtomLeap. To put it briefly, my main tasks for AtomLeap involved conducting a large amount of research on innovation in the insurance sector (especially in the realms of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things) and completing annotations to help train their machine-learning algorithm. It was very rewarding work and gave me hands-on experience in an industry I had absolutely no prior experience in.
Remote working is by no means easy and is perhaps even more challenging than going into a physical office regularly. However, I took on the obstacles presented by COVID-19 in stride and faced difficulties that ultimately helped me develop professionally. Despite working remotely on and 7 hours behind AtomLeap’s employees, they still made me feel like an integral part of the team! They granted me access to many corporate documents so I could better understand the company’s operations as well as its key clients. Furthermore, I participated in group conference calls via Google Hangouts and also could regularly interact with my supervisor and the rest of my AtomLeap coworkers through Slack work messaging. My favorite experience was delivering a 30-minute presentation on innovations in the insurance industry to the Business Intelligence Team and receiving a lot of positive feedback and comments from my coworkers. It was so rewarding to complete such a valued and purpose-driven project. Overall, I really appreciated AtomLeap’s ability to adapt to my unique needs as an American intern working in Central Time and am so grateful for their flexibility.
In terms of communication, I learned a lot about myself with regards to the best ways for me to express my opinions and contributions, especially in a remote internship environment. In video conferencing, I discovered the importance of maintaining eye contact and asking questions and paraphrasing during my discussions, as well as following up regularly with my supervisor through email or Slack messaging. I also made sure I woke up early (7:30AM) in order to work with the Intelligence Team members in Berlin, who were seven hours ahead of me in Chicago. Working with Germans in Berlin, I acquired the important skill of being able to communicate professionally with a culture that tends to be far more blunt and straightforward in their responses when compared to Americans who sugarcoat feedback. Time management was probably the most significant challenge I faced throughout my internship. In a remote environment, there are so many distractions and there is less pressure to be productive than when you are not in direct view of your manager. This was my biggest source of struggle, and I was worried that some of my work would be done pretty last-minute due to my tendency to procrastinate. Thus, self-scheduling became a critical area for me to work on throughout my internship, and by creating and sticking to a schedule, I found that I was able to meet my deadlines and create high-quality deliverables for AtomLeap.
All in all, I absolutely loved my time at AtomLeap, and am so grateful to the company and CIEE for their help and flexibility throughout the entire process. I highly recommend all students studying abroad with CIEE to consider an internship as a part of their international program. The experience is truly transformative, not only professionally but also personally. From my perspective, it has greatly augmented my understanding and appreciation for German culture and has helped me develop valuable skills as a global citizen.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any further questions about the internship process with CIEE or my own experience! You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.