Social Sushi And Hard Work

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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 newsletter1 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.

Difficulties

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.

London

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 Design2 conference in London from May 17th to 19th. The event, organized by Carsonified3, 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 World4, 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)5) and the idea of community (Behind The Scenes of Smashing Magazine: Interview With Our Writers6). I definitely would have liked to have written about more subjects, but time flew by.

Conclusion

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!

Editor’s Note

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 Magazine7, 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!

Apply now!8

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Jessica Bordeau is a soon-graduated student whose primary interests are Photography and Media.

  1. 1

    Good read, I enjoyed that thanks

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  2. 2

    Great to hear the backstory. As I’ve mentioned before, your typography story was by far the best article I’ve read on Smashing. Good luck with whatever future endeavors you are going on.

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  3. 3

    I’m currently interning as a social media dude, and I must admit that i’m finding hard time to well manage the torrents of talks/blogs/emails/updates/queries… that I have to monitor daily. Using an additional screen force me to double my focus efforts, redundant notifications keeps distracting me… I really hope that SM writes an article about social media monitoring, things to do/not, workspace, daily experiences, tips…

    Thanks a lot Jessica for sharing your experience at SM :)

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  4. 4

    Rupnarayan Bhattacharya

    August 6, 2010 4:05 am

    I also dream of joining the smashing magazine team one day :) best of luck.

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  5. 5

    Nice work, Jessica — and thanks for sharing your experience behind the scenes of a quality publication and organization. Good luck with your future endeavors!

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  6. 6

    Does anyone have the Social Media Suicide Wallpaper. The Link is Broken and I can not find a large version of it.

    if so please mail it to bagheera AT gmail DOT COM

    Thank you.

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  7. 7

    Your writing skills are really excellent. Thank for another good article.

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  8. 8

    Mac? Check.
    Random “unique” desk articles? Check.
    Made sure to tell people about your love for Sushi? Check.
    Guy with tight fitting t-shirt? Check.
    Girl with pink hair? Check.
    Asian characters? Check.

    I can smell the trendiness from here. Here and I was really worried about the state of trendiness at SM.

    I just like to tease left-handed people for being different.

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  9. 9

    Super to hear about your work. Smashing magazine is a great website to learn from and working at the source can only make you the best.

    @Abdel. I totally agree. Some sort of Article about monitoring traffic and buzz would be great.

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  10. 10

    I have been reading SM for over a year now. I visit it pretty much every weekday. I had no clue you guys are located in Germany.

    This website has been a great resource to me. My designs have improved a lot after reading the tutorials and showcases on SM. Thanks for all the work guys (and gals)

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  11. 11

    Great and very inspiring article! I come to Smashing daily and it has been the main driving force behind me wanted to pursue a career in web design. This article has definitely furthered my desire. I love the insight of what goes on behind the scenes. Good luck Jessica and I look forward to seeing your writings here in the future.

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  12. 12

    What a great experience! Good for you….

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  13. 13

    well done, enjoyed the read. much less demanding read than alot of other blog writers on here.

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  14. 14

    This is really a good one. I love Jessica’s works too. I really hope that she keeps writing for SM

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  15. 15

    Great post – really interesting view from someone new to the industry. Cheers.

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  16. 16

    Joaquin Brenner

    August 6, 2010 6:17 am

    Great article!
    Congratulations Jessica for accomplishing exactly what you wanted. I really enjoyed your story which by the way, got me excited about wanting to do it my self but unfortunately I won’t be able to do so.

    anyways, thank you for giving me a great day start!

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  17. 17

    Wow, Jessica, awesome. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to live a piece of your intern experience myself vicariously through your words. Good luck with the rest of your education and it sounds like life will hold some wonderful professional experiences for you in your future.

    RJ

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  18. 18

    Nice, you made it :)

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  19. 19

    Wow… that was quite an experience.. Working for Smashing Mag must be worth every second!…. Awesome!

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  20. 20

    SM is German?

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  21. 21

    hey,
    enjoyed your thought and also learned with ur experience.
    thanks

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  22. 22

    @Supercheif : yup SM is german

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  23. 23

    I suspect people with clean desks of being sociopaths!
    ;)

    Best of luck to you.

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  24. 24

    Are internships ethical?

    I have a family and I don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost me to support my family and work for free.

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    • 25

      Vitaly Friedman

      August 6, 2010 1:25 pm

      It’s not about work, it’s about gaining experience. Which is why we are looking not for designers, not for developers, not for professional freelancers, but for young curious people looking for experience and some (hopefully valuable) insights in online publishing and editorial work.

      1
    • 26

      Tai,

      Internships are ethical. I was fortunate enough to get into a program that required an internship rotation. By the end of my BA, I have graduated but also obtained over a year and a half of working in the industry. I worked for various amounts of money, making more money than my parents at one point, to working for free in NYC for an audio production company. The experience and connections I made were invaluable, and have greatly shaped me into the person I am today.

      Hiring people to do grunt work to take advantage of free labor is NOT ethical.

      Internships (in their purest sense) offer a great deal, not only to interns, but the companies and firms that allow a fresh perspective grow under their wing.

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    • 27

      I tell every student to have a solid internship in their senior year of art school. It gives them not only professional experience but usually leads to a full time job at the same firm after graduation (that’s how I got my first big break).

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      • 28

        I am not criticizing the value of internships as they obviously are extremely valuable. I wish I could afford to get one. That is my point.

        It is completely unfair that a company that can easily afford to hire for a junior position chooses the internship route.

        My parents aren’t rich. I got my BS thanks to school loans.

        I hope that internships are phased out. They are throwback from a past era.

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    • 29

      Was this an unpaid internship? From the defensive reply from SM I suppose it was.

      Yes, Tai, unpaid internships are absolutely unethical, exploitive, and classist. The “work for free” system ensures that children of rich parents get ahead while people who were not born into money are locked out of career-making opportunities entirely.

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      • 30

        I agree with the ethical question about unpaid internships which sadly are too often offered. However, as mentioned, they are great to start out and gain some experience. I did a few short unpaid internships after high school and they helped me integrating some fields and making connexions.

        Now that I am about to graduate, it would be more difficult to accept an unpaid internship but I don’t think it would be a matter of money anymore (though I does count). It’s just that don’t like the philosophy of company that hire for free what they could afford, so I don’t think I would apply anyway in the first place, unless it would really make a difference in my career. Luckily for me, the internship at Smashing Magazine was paid, and in addition I got a scholarship from my university.

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  25. 31

    Nice read Jessica! Good luck in all your future endeavors.
    ” It’s all about the journey, not the destination”

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  26. 32

    regards from germany ;-)

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  27. 33

    jessica – i recall that typography post (that was excellent). proably the beginings of what would make for a good book. so glad your internship worked out for ya.

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    • 34

      Thanks Joe. I certainly wish a could dig this topic more… If you are a publisher, let me know ;)

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  28. 35

    Great article!

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  29. 36

    Great article! Enjoyed reading about your experience.

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  30. 37

    great article!!!

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  31. 38

    This is great and I loved every minute of it. You had a good set up btw ;)

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  32. 39

    Hope to see your caricature next to the 4 someday! How about you post the reply you sent to the smashing magazine internship ad on your blog? REALLY eager to know what you sent it!

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  33. 40

    I didn’t expect a lady writing here… hehe.. nice article anyways… :D

    -1
  34. 41

    Jessica,

    Congratulations on the success of your internship with SM. This was a great read, and even gave me some further insights into what goes on at SM.

    All the best in your future endeavors, and I hope you’ll keep your lively personality in your future articles and blogging.

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  35. 42

    good read indeed, and well done as a Magazine that smash the life of an intern, inspire others, great.

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  36. 43

    great article and thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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  37. 44

    I really loved your typography articles, clear, deep and really well done.
    Congrats!

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  38. 45

    @Amy,

    At the end of this article there is a wonderful blue colored link: “details of the internship at Smashing Magazine”. I am sure you will find an answer on your question there :-) I think that an internship in the foreign country in the place like SM is nothing else but the great opportunity and an experience. I wish I could have one in the past. You need to remember that you have to give first, and then maybe you can expect to get something in back… Obviously, they are some unethical internships, but definitely it is not a SM fault. BTW I wonder how much money SM have earned when they started to do what they do in 2006. I don’t need an answer, but I can imagine that it was kind of an internship where we were an employer and offered SM a full time job after a while by visiting this site on the daily basis.

    Cheers,
    Kejsek

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  39. 46

    Nice article, however, I disagree with “Never would you see French people putting so much effort into making someone feel not left out.”

    I’m an Englishman living in southern france, and whilst I make the effort to speak French, most of the french people also make the effort to converse in English with me :-)

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    • 47

      Good to hear that some foreign people have a different point of view on this topic ;)

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  40. 48

    What a great article about your time at Smashing Jessica. I enjoyed reading it a lot! Good luck for your future.

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  41. 49

    That’s a great article, really.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your internship that much, even though I didn’t see you in my classroom as much as I would have liked ! I was Jessica’s “website creation” teacher by the way… And I’m sure she learned much more about the whole internet and design industry at SM than I could ever teach any of my students.
    Good luck for the future and I hope you could come back to the University some day to share your experience with my future students.

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    • 50

      Thanks for reading this article. This internship certainly has been a great opportunity and I am very glad to be able to share my experience with others. There is still a lot to learn though :) Hopefully, we’ll have plenty of time for some geeky discussions this year (between two computer crashes)!

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  42. 51

    Interesting!

    Something I wonder about is how one can manage to live on only 400 € a month, when there is no time for other part time work? Perhaps the cost of rent and food is very low in Freiburg? In Sweden 400 € a month is below subsistence level!

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