Written by Sherry Yang | 3 min read

Finding a first-year internship can be an intimidating experience. After all, why would a professional company willingly invest time, effort, and money into an 18-year-old? When I embarked on my search for internships, I pondered, "What unique value could I offer to a company?" Graphic design became that defining factor. So, when Onova humorously posted an MS Paint meme parody stating, "We're seeking a graphic designer," I eagerly applied.

The inspiration behind the Onova hiring graphic I encountered in September 2021.

Working at a startup for my first internship was an exceptionally distinctive experience. A corporation resembles a precisely choreographed Broadway musical, where everyone must synchronize their actions flawlessly. In contrast, a startup is akin to improvisational theatre, thriving on the "Yes, and" mentality.

  • Yes, the team is youthful, with many individuals having travelled the world and initiated their own companies and organizations.
  • Yes, there exists a safety net, but the stakes are also significantly high.
  • Yes, my role was that of a graphic design intern, yet I was immersed in countless other responsibilities and constant learning.

You learn to wear multiple hats; sometimes, they can be really quirky hats.

One of the highlights of my internship was the opportunity to work on interdisciplinary projects. Right from the start, the projects I engaged in provided me with chances to develop skills across various areas while working on exceptionally creative and unconventional endeavours. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

  • In early 2022, during the rise of NFTs, I learned to create 3D-rendered versions of the Winning Together Fund Logo.
  • I designed astronaut animal mascots and crafted a comic strip for a bank's innovation sprint marketing campaign.
  • After learning After Effects, within a week, I produced an animated video showcasing the services Onova provides to clients.
  • I took charge of branding brainstorm workshops alongside senior executives from client teams.
  • I conducted research, coordinated, and arranged elaborate balloon bouquets for our onsite client events.
  • I designed patterns for reusable tea bags and even used a sewing machine to sew them together.

So, despite holding the title of graphic designer throughout my year and a half at the company, I also took on roles such as seamstress, animator, workshop facilitator, event space planner, and more. I wore multiple hats, some of which I never imagined having the opportunity to use in a professional setting.

The team seeing Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean” in Chicago!

I can work anywhere, as long as I enjoy working with the people.

During my year and a half at Onova, the people I work with have defined my experience. The company's people culture is truly the driving force behind its success.

Despite being a remote-first company, I feel a strong connection to my coworkers. Whether it's co-working in Montreal during the summer and indulging in delicious food or exploring downtown Chicago together on a day off, the time we spend together in person is extraordinary, and every face I see online radiates friendliness.

In a startup environment, it's not just about everyone fulfilling their daily responsibilities; each person's personality carries significant weight. At Onova, you'll encounter a group of individuals who value transparency, vulnerability, and humility while also being driven and ambitious. Each team member possesses unique quirks that make them stand out. There are no anonymous colleagues here; everyone contributes to the vibrant dynamic, making it both rare and special.

Ron and I at a delicious vegan home-style meals restaurant in Montreal

Experiential learning is the best way to learn. 

When I started this job, my goal was to develop more technical skills and improve my professional presence. I believe I have achieved both, but it was a deliberate process where I set goals and tracked my progress.

To acquire new technical skills like 3D rendering, video editing, animation, and motion graphics, I actively sought opportunities to practice these skills on existing projects. For example, when assigned the task of creating a new website header, I requested additional time to craft a dynamic 3D animation.

Enhancing my professional presence proved to be a more challenging endeavor, but I tackled it by regularly engaging with my manager/mentor and embracing the mindset that no question is too trivial. Their invaluable feedback helped me refine various aspects, from the tone of my emails to my demeanor in meetings and attentive body language. The experienced and external perspective they provided immensely aided my growth.

At the end of the day, I consider myself fortunate to have landed such a rewarding first internship. Internships should encompass growth, learning, and enjoyment, and Onova has delivered all three.

As I transition to my next chapter, I will carry the skills and experiences I gained at Onova with me. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such a talented and supportive team, and I will continue to cheer them on as they expand, grow, and embark on new projects.

Interested in seeing how we can support you and your business in your innovation initiatives? Book an introductory call with Victor Li, Founder & CEO of Onova.
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