What I learned hiring my first intern

Hand drawn name tag. Hello...visual communication intern

This past summer I had the beautiful opportunity to hire my first employee. Through the amazing support with Venture for Canada I hired Ada, my first official payroll fancy-pants intern. The awesome thing about having a unique business like mine is that you can kinda just make stuff up so I had the luxury of creating a make-up title for my new intern.

What I landed on was…

Ouu la la!

Through the interview process, I felt Ada was the perfect fit for my business. She’s currently attending NSCAD studying art history and sculpture and has had some experience in digital animation. Extra bonus is that she can draw WAY better than me. Not joking.

I was having a chat with Carolyn Ellis, a graphic recorder in Ontario prior to working with Ada and asked her if she had any advice as I was entering this new relationship. She talked about going into this process willing to learn more about myself and my own way or working and processes then trying to get my intern to do ‘all the things’.

Looking back on this experience I wanted to share some interesting insights I that I had about myself, my business and moving forward.

Someone can do things just as good, if not better than me. 

I’m the creative AND the business person in what I do. I gotta do it all. Or do I? We had an amazing opportunity to work on a video project for Leaders Expedition. We had a tight turn around and other contracts on the go so I let go of some of the creative control and let Ada start the storyboard and creative pieces for this project. It was fun going through this process with her as she held the creative vision of this project and I was there to help keep the big picture and clients vision top of mind. It allowed me to look at the project with a birds eye view, almost like a developmental evaluator, where instead of being in the trenches working on every aspect of the project I got to keep reflecting making sure we were achieving the goal that we were trying to achieve with the video.

Involvement & Transparency 

About half way through I was feeling overwhelmed and just had to get all my thoughts out on paper. Ada and I took a good two hours one day and she was my sounding board while I did a huge brain dump of all the things that I felt like I needed to get done in the next little while. Some things would end getting priority but I needed it all out of my head and onto sticky notes (my style of course).

Ada then took that sticky note mess and put it into a document and colour-coded it to things that she felt confident that she could help out with, with little direction, and all as things that she could likely help with but would need some clarification. And, of course some things entirely fall on me - but because I involved her in that process it also allowed her to know where she could help.

I also brought her to Toronto with me to shadow some graphic recording work at a conference as well as attend one of my Graphic Recording 101 workshops. This was a great opportunity because when I referred to the workshop or being on site an event she knew exactly what I was talking about and could be apart in helping better the situations being discussed.

Ada at the Graphic Recording 101 Workshop

Don’t give them ALL the tasks. 

There were certain aspects of my business that I didn’t even bother going over. The way I write my proposals, invoicing, emailing and all that jazz is something that I felt like by the time I taught her how to do the 16 weeks would be over. Do I want help with this eventually, yes, but as of right now this short-work term there were more important things that I felt like I could lean on her strengths where I could create a balance between challenging opportunities but also things that she was excited about and excelled at. Basically, setting up everyone for success.

Thanks so much to Venture for Canada and Ada for this great learning experience!

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