I started working when I was 12 years old. My dad (and mom, I suspect) didn’t want his girls playing all summer, talking about, thinking about, dreaming about boys. So I rose at 5:45 in the morning, threw on a heavy polyester nurse’s uniform, and stumbled out the door four days a week. When your dad is your boss, an interesting dynamic is created. I never did learn how to relate him in the office and often had difficulty figuring out if I was talking to my dad or my employer. Twelve-year-olds need dads but they don’t have a lot of use for employers. I got it wrong, a lot.
For the last week, I’ve been an intern at a software company and I find myself in the same sort of predicament. Not that I’m working for my dad, wearing that god-awful polyester straight jacket, but because I operate in the space outside the typical employee-employer relationship, somewhere between a guest and employee. I feel that weird dynamic again.
I have a desk, a computer, a phone and I even have email accounts from the company. I start at 9 and try to leave by 5. There is someone to oversee my work, someone to fix my computer when it misbehaves, and someone to show me how to work the coffee machine, but they notice the difference. A grunt who’s not a salaried grunt, a quasi-person.
But I came to learn, to get experience, and to sharpen my mad writing skillz. So far it’s been like drinking off the end of a firehose. New people, new systems, new programs, I have had to hit the ground running. All my spiffy A’s didn’t prepare me for new product releases, crisis mode management, and manuals that need to be delivered by yesterday last month. My department head who had to approve my internship suggested that this environment requires a certainly amount of flexibility. What he didn’t know is that it’s very difficult to keep up with my leg wrapped around the back of my neck. Flexibility I got, speed is what I need.
Wish me luck…