In this article, Lila Pitcher, Student Intern with Information Services, talks about her experience of co-creating the Information Services Group (ISG) Intern Blog during the summer of 2018. She looks back on the skills she gathered managing and editing her peers’ work, and the challenges she faced…
In June 2018, I started an internship with ISG as an ‘Academic Blogging Intern’. Despite my work being primarily centred around writing help resources and testing our blogging service, reactions to my job title were usually led by an inquisitive ‘ooooo, so you write blog posts, eh?’. I was quickly dubbed the writer; the mythical office blogger. Alright, I exaggerate. Nonetheless, the possibility of letting such an honourable title go to waste was out of the question: blogging needed to become an inherent part of my placement… and all of my friends’. So, here is my story of internships turned into blog posts, and friendship turned into teamwork.
Only 2 weeks after my arrival at Argyle house, a fellow colleague, Cecily Plascott, and I came up with the idea of an Information Services Intern Blog. We were primarily inspired by the variety of internships existing around Information Services as well as the fantastic diversity of characters that made our group of friends. Thanks to an email worthy of all the best business pitches, all 17 of floor H residents were successfully convinced in taking part. Alongside the excitement of a new job, new friends and the exoticism of post-work drinks, the ISG Intern Blog was born. The blog gave fellow interns the opportunity to shed light on their internship experiences and responsibilities. Each article, written by a new intern, featured a description of a typical work day, as well as quirky references to our improbable yet extraordinary lunch breaks.
Setting up the blog itself was not the greatest challenge because I had past experience with WordPress, and it wasn’t long before Cecily and I picked a template. With the help of our design intern, Annie Adam, we created our personalised banner based on a staple of Edinburgh architecture: Argyle House.
After attributing a specific week to each intern, Cecily and I agreed on a list of tips and requirements needed for each blog post. We quickly realised that such a diverse group, while being a fantastic source for content, would translate into too great a variety in formatting and appearance: one of our fellow interns wanted to embed code into his blog posts while another wished to draw. While the beautiful diversity found in the interns’ job titles and personalities was encouraged, as was personal voice, the importance of translating this information cohesively on the platform was key. Therefore, we agreed on a template: each intern would send their blog post and pictures alongside a short bio (featuring at the start of each post) a day before its publication. I would then rework the article into a formatting used more broadly over the whole blog, while making sure to keep the essence of their voice alive.
Keeping all the interns on top of their schedule was one of the most important dimensions of the work. In that, my passion for folders and organisation definitely came in handy, as did sending weekly reminder emails to interns. Of course, beautifully colour-coded plans and weekly reminders aren’t always enough to motivate the busy minds. “Students will be students”, and retrieving blog posts on time was often a mission. Writer’s block is not a myth, even in the blogging world, and could definitely be highlighted as one of the challenges faced by the writers during the summer.
Co-creating the ISG Intern blog came with a variety of responsibilities that were incredibly rewarding as I found myself working not only on my managerial skills – keeping to a strict time schedule and overseeing the organisation of a project – but also extending my editing experience. Whilst I have been writing articles, blog posts and essays for as long as I can remember, I learned valuable lessons when editing other people’s work: How much of this can I alter without losing the voice of the author? What do I do if this intern is overly familiar and forgets his audience? Being responsible not only for my voice but that of 16 other people was challenging. The ‘No, you can’t make that sort of joke”, “Why?”, “Your employer might be reading this” was a regular conversation, and most definitely helped me empathise with all the mothers of this world. Despite this, our blog posts became more and more experimental, eventually culminating in a ‘pick your own adventure’ interactive experience. I also proved myself wrong by expanding my technical skills when learning coding and embedding jump links.
Another dimension of managing the blog came with promoting it. We soon realised that the content could be of interest to other staff members and managers in getting feedback as well as being potential material for future interns. Getting in contact with staff members, from employment managers to directors, heightened the blog’s visibility, and showcased an insider-take on the variety of internships offered by ISG. We were absolutely thrilled to see it thrive not only in Information Services but over campus.
On a smaller scale, blogging helped each of us interns understand each other’s jobs and skills more intricately. Writing for the ISG blog helped us reflect on our experience more fully whilst also being able to share it with peers, family and friends. From a personal perspective, overseeing the platform was extremely beneficial and introduced me to challenges I hadn’t come across. Editing my peers’ work made me look at my own differently. Managing a team increased my love for family trees of colour-coded folders, and, more importantly, I realised the positive impact that can come from having a crazy idea one day at work and just running with it.