When I found the ad for the internship position at Smashing Magazine about six month ago, I replied within half an hour. I wrote my response quickly because, for once, I didn’t have to exaggerate my enthusiasm. I was genuinely interested in the position and confident that I fit the job.
I waited a few days for an answer, during which time I could reflect on what I had just done. My academic semester hadn’t even started, so I would have had to make arrangements if I was chosen. Plus, did I really want to move to Germany? The decision came a few emails and a week later: I was accepted and was expected to be in Freiburg in two weeks.
Six months have gone by since then, and I have not regretted anything for one minute. I am now about to leave this city, the friends I have made and this company. To be sure, a lot has happened since February 15th.
A Team Starting-Up Together
With my arrival at Smashing Magazine, Vitaly Friedman and Sven Lennartz have had to manage regular employees for the first time. Because they have worked from home for the past few years, the beginning of 2010 was a big change for them, too: they moved to the same city and got an actual office.
Christina Sitte (the team assistant), Manuela Müller (editor) and I all started on the same day, in mid-February. I was told to expect an office still in the process of being installed, but I actually felt comfortable from the very first day. I guess putting me in front of a computer also helped me to not feel disoriented.
Even though I was the only who didn’t speak German, I never felt lost, because everyone here tried hard to speak English as much as possible. I really appreciated it, and I must say I have noticed the same with German people in general. Never would you see French people putting so much effort into making someone feel not left out.
With the intention of binding this new team together, a decision was made to launch a collective project that would belong to all of us: a bi-weekly newsletter for the magazine. That’s when the addiction started. We set up meetings to discuss newsletter topics. The meetings led to lunches, and the lunches ended up becoming our strongest habit (even more regular than our working hours): Social Sushi. These casual Fridays, during which we could discuss anything together (except the newsletter), I will really miss… those and the free rolls.
Web Design Community
I didn’t end up at Smashing Magazine by accident. After studying photography and then media, I wanted to enter a field that I liked in a more professional way: Web design. This internship happened to be the perfect opportunity for me because, in the absence of real professional experience in the field, I was still able to integrate myself, thanks to my other qualifications. In addition, I had the luxury of joining Smashing Magazine and avoiding having to start at square one. I have been immersed in this community from the very beginning, free of financial and time constraints.
This visibility, though, has been a bit frightening at times. For example, the first day I arrived at Smashing Magazine, I was given my first long-term task: report on the company and relate my experiences as an intern. I had never blogged before (not that I have much more now), and the thought of potentially 200,000 Twitter followers reading all about me didn’t exactly lower the pressure.
And yet, I was looking for exposure in writing for Smashing Magazine. The advantage of being part of such a popular blog is the visibility you get, along with another component: feedback. Whoever the author, the comments from readers will reflect an article’s quality. For this reason, writing rigorous articles was important. This was a driving force for me because it suited my perfectionist side. I made mistakes and learned from them, which is precisely the best thing that could have happened to me.
The only difficulty I faced during this internship was managing my own productivity. Even though I was already used to working a lot on the computer, this wasn’t a full-fledged problem before. When I arrived at Smashing Magazine, though, things changed, because I finally had time to dive into this lively field and engage the extremely responsive community. I started by opening a Twitter account in order to share with readers the daily life of the magazine. By doing this, I stepped into a spiral of endless conversations. At first, I had to force myself not to get dragged into all the articles I was discovering.
Twitter, email and comments were all part of the territory, and I had to handle them correctly. To do this, I did what most professionals do: impose some offline time on myself. This worked quite well, as difficult as it was sometimes. As all creatives and thinkers know, writing requires a level of concentration that is sometimes hard to sustain throughout the work day. And I don’t know about other non-native speakers, but writing in English all the time was harder than I expected.
A significant part of my internship was not so much something I did, but rather somewhere I went. I was invited to attend The Future of Web Design conference in London from May 17th to 19th. The event, organized by Carsonified, attracts professionals from all around the world and was important to me for several reasons:
- I attended a great conference that I would not have been able to afford otherwise. For example, the workshop “Words and Pictures: Copy and the Design Process” by Relly Annett-Baker I found incredibly useful.
- I met incredible people, interactions that were largely facilitated by my “Smashingmag” badge. I was lucky to be introduced to everyone as “the girl who is interning at Smashing,” because that made me not a complete stranger.
- We had dinner at Google’s office to prepare the announcement of the Google Font API, and I just wanted to say that FTW.
- The article I enjoyed preparing the most was published by Vitaly in a London’s Starbucks at that time, also related to Google Font API. So, I was immersed in this area when it came out.
The Work Itself
The description of the internship said: “Gain valuable practical experience in online publishing, learn about editorial work, gather first-hand experience in preparing, editing, writing and publishing articles.” And this is what I got. I have been lucky to experience all of the steps that lead to the publication of an article.
Writing for the Web, I’m sure you are all aware, is different than writing for print. On the Web, we scan text more than we read; our attention span is much shorter. If the first few lines don’t grab readers, they just move on to something else. That is why the big editorial guides have special sections on online writing. However, that doesn’t prevent bloggers from writing in detail. What I enjoyed a lot was researching topics and putting it all together.
For my article The Beauty Of Typography: Writing Systems And Calligraphy Of The World, I spent almost a week browsing the Web and gathering material. The article (in two parts) was definitely the highlight of my writing work because I really got into the topic. I could have even spent much more time exploring it.
I was also particularly interested in editorial policy and understanding how an editor-in-chief manages his content. I observed more than I acted in this respect, but I wrote a few posts about my findings. I was interested in seeing what rules are applied when publishing and also what tools are used to manage the editorial process.
Other than that, I had the opportunity to explore various topics, such as photography (Uncovering Toy Cameras and Polaroid Vintage Effects (With Photoshop Tutorials)) and the idea of community (Behind The Scenes of Smashing Magazine: Interview With Our Writers). I definitely would have liked to have written about more subjects, but time flew by.
I was lucky to have been given so much freedom during my internship. The purpose of the position was to bring new ideas to the company and a fresh point of view. So, I was particularly encouraged to propose initiatives. When writing, I could choose my own subjects and, above all, approach them the way I wanted. For example, I was interested in calligraphy, but not so much in the way it was suggested to me. So, I researched and found a different angle. Even though the stakes for writing this article were high for me, I was given carte blanche.
I gained confidence in myself and, more importantly, in my ability in these creative fields that I had neglected a bit since my studies in photography. Above all, I finally found a way to combine and express all of my main interests, which were more or less separate until now: photography, visual art, writing and new technology. I learned to share my work, and I appreciate this a lot because that is the best way to evolve and gain valuable experience.
This internship has certainly opened doors for me professionally, and I will remember all the people who want to keep in touch with me because they enjoyed what I did. Finally, my collaboration with Smashing Magazine is certainly not over because I will probably keep writing for it in future (after I take a vacation).
Bis bald dann!
Probably the most remarkable about Jessica was her eagerness to learn and her ability to keep working on things to the end and never give up. When we were looking for a trainee, we were hoping for a creative, talented and hard-working person who would be able to bring fresh air and fresh ideas to the magazine and present approaches that we had never thought of. And with Jessica, this is exactly what we got. She has inspired us with her ideas, in the process giving our sometimes vague ideas a definite shape or alternative approach. Her input was sometimes the crucial spark for new projects, which would then develop into beautiful and useful results.
We will miss Jessica a lot, but she will continue working with us as a freelance author, so you will hopefully see her name here quite frequently. This means that the position of intern at Smashing Magazine is open as of now. And that’s where you come in: we would like to give you the opportunity to gain valuable experience in online publishing and editorial work, too. If you are eager to learn, motivated, curious, hard-working and confident about spending three to six months in Smashing Magazine’s office in Freiburg, Germany, please take a close look at the details of the internship at Smashing Magazine, and get in touch with us! We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Thank you, Jessica. It was a pleasure and honor to work with you over these last six months!