Return of the intern

Posted by on October 1, 2020

A year on from my first data science internship at FreeAgent, I’m about to start my second one, and I’m getting ready for my second first day. It’s different this time though. Aside from the fact that I am now a fully fledged graduate (scary!), this internship is going to be based entirely within my living room, as the entire company is now working remotely. I have never worked remotely before and I’ve got some concerns. One of my favourite things about working at FreeAgent was the lively office atmosphere and spending time with my team. Although I knew I’d be back in that same team, I was worried that working from home could potentially be quite isolating, and that I might not feel as involved as I did the previous year. 

Remote deja vu

Inductions took up the first half of my first day back, along with setting up my new work laptop and familiarising myself with security protocols. It felt like deja vu, a vague familiarity, remembering sitting in the office boardroom last year (with a much higher dose of nerves in my system back then) anticipating what the next 3 months might bring. In terms of working from home, I felt at ease about the fact that I had worked with almost everyone in the team in person before, and there was only one person that I hadn’t yet met. Funnily enough, it turned out that the one person I had not met before (Jack) was the person I would be working alongside the most! Luckily for me, Jack has been incredibly helpful and great to work with, and working with new people remotely was not nearly as daunting as I thought it would be. My first day was almost completely meetings; catching up with the team, meeting Jack and hearing about the project I would be working on. Everyone was as welcoming as they were the first time around, and still somehow managed to keep the same friendly, chatty atmosphere as if we were in the office. By the end of my first day back, the main concerns I had were already at ease.

My working from home setup

The first week

Last summer, I remember it taking at least a few weeks before I found my feet and properly settled into the actual work itself, understanding the data model and technologies that we use. I think I expected it to be the same this time around but that was a very incorrect assumption. Everything came flooding back so quickly in my first week, and aside from learning the new technologies we use, by the end of the week it felt like I had never left! I’m sure a lot  of this is down to the team being as welcoming as they were.

I think that the highlight of my first week was seeing a question in our team request Slack channel from a member of the sales team, asking about the practice insights dashboard I created last year. It was a really rewarding feeling to know that the work I did last year still had value and was still getting used. I knew that my project got a lot of positive responses last year but I imagined that once I had left, the momentum behind it would have slowed and people would have forgotten about it, so I was really pleasantly surprised to find out that wasn’t the case. Even this week I spoke with a member of the sales team who told me she regularly does ‘insights calls’ with her accountancy practice partners, showing the dashboards I created, and they still find it really useful.

Spot the difference

Although it was surprisingly quick to settle back into the swing of things at FreeAgent and feel at home, day-to-day life and working from home is still very different to my experience from last year. I would love to say that I enjoy working from home as much as I did working in the office, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Mostly, I miss the social interaction of seeing people in the office, but initially something I found really difficult was separating my work and home life, now that they were both essentially in the same room. My team was really helpful when I told them I found the adjustment slightly difficult in the beginning, giving me tips around making sure I take a full lunch hour and putting my work stuff out of sight over the weekends. Like most things, I think time was a big factor in the adjustment. Working from home is just my norm now, and there definitely are perks! As the internship went on and my project began gaining speed, I quickly became busier with work, which definitely helped. Occasionally, on days when work feels quite slow I find I miss being in the office more, however I think it’s important to remember (and remind myself!) that everyone has slow days in the office as well, and that’s just life. 

As for missing the social interaction, luckily I still get to catch up with everyone from the analytics and data science teams in our daily 15-minute post-lunch game of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’. Sadly,  the Analytics team has unfortunately not yet been in the lead since I started, but let’s remember that correlation does not equal causation, in other words, I would like to think that me joining is not the cause of this. Joking aside, the game is a really nice way to break up the day and have a good laugh with everyone on the data science and analytics teams, especially if there’s a day with not many meetings. It’s always nice to have a catch up and see everyone’s happy (but competitive) faces.

Woah, we’re halfway there

I can’t believe that I’m already halfway through my internship! I realise that I’ve still not given any indication of what it is that I’m actually working on so I guess that will need to be covered in a separate blog post – it’s exciting stuff though!

Overall, aside from my occasionally patchy wifi and the lack of bagel Wednesdays, it’s all-in-all not too bad working from home. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss seeing everyone in person every day but given the current circumstances, we’ve just got to make the best of what we have. I’m thrilled to be back at FreeAgent regardless of where I am working and I will say that the team at FreeAgent have done a great job of making the best of a difficult situation. I look forward to the day that I can see the team again in person!

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