This year, the team at Clay Solutions was lucky enough to acquire additional talent to our team through our internship program. Carmen Steiner joined the team as Marketing Intern in March, starting out remote in a lockdown and eventually becoming an office regular in a re-opened Amsterdam. When we first met Carmen, she introduced herself and said: “I am an introvert but I’m not shy”. This statement held true throughout her time at Clay, as over the months she showcased bold and exciting initiatives, designs, and projects.
In this edition of our beloved series ‘The Intern Diaries’, Carmen gives us a glimpse at how one can grow out of their comfort zone and additionally shares some reflections on the expectations she had prior to starting as a Brick at Clay. Read ahead for all of this and more in Carmen’s own words.
Hi Carmen! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello, my name is Carmen. I am a Creative Business student at the Hogeschool Utrecht and I have been a Marketing Intern at Clay for the past six months. I was born and raised in Austria, which is where my love for cold weather and good bread comes from (my colleagues can tell you all about my dissatisfaction with Dutch “bread” 😄).
As part of my study program, I had the opportunity to do an internship to gain hands-on experience, and I was very fortunate to become the newest addition to the Marketing Team at Clay. The past months felt like they just flew by, so, unfortunately, my internship has already come to an end, but I am very excited to go back to university to finish my studies.
What was your favourite project during the internship?
It’s really hard to choose just one, but if I had to, then I would say my ‘Leave Behind Project’. As part of my study program, I worked on a project to ‘leave behind’, and that will provide value for the company even after I am gone. The main objectives evolved around our beloved company blog and social media accounts. During this project, I conducted market research, designed templates for different social media platforms, drafted a content strategy, and much more.
I really enjoyed working on such a diverse project that allowed me to combine strategic thinking with creativity. Additionally, I was happy to introduce the team to new design tools they now integrated into their workflow for better collaboration on creative projects.
(Oh and, I know you only wanted to hear about one, BUT I also loved taking the portraits of the new Bricks who joined the team! 📸)
Do you have a clearer vision of your future career goals following the internship?
Definitely! I worked on so many different projects across these past six months, which allowed me to put different skills to the test. During my studies, I became fascinated with consumer psychology, branding strategies, and data-driven marketing. Since I had so much freedom with my Leave Behind Project, I also wanted to include some of these aspects to gain more experience. I also discovered a love for integrating emotional value into marketing processes to create something that inspires and connects people, as I did for my very first project, our International Women’s Day post.
Do you have any advice to share for the next marketing intern?
The marketing team really is, as our Office Manager Wilma put it in her welcome email, “the best”. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed, and as I already mentioned, share your thoughts and opinions. When creative people come together, it is so valuable for everyone to discuss different ideas and thoughts, and it was always appreciated when I jumped into the conversation and shared my point of view.
So, be enthusiastic and curious and share your thoughts, because your opinion matters just as much as the opinion of your teammates.
Since we are still in somewhat of a pandemic and no one knows if we can fully go back to the office, it is even more important to have good communication skills and to stay in contact with your co-workers throughout the day or week. This will also help you to build connections and make it easier to integrate into the team.
What do you think of the Clay culture?
No matter who I spoke with, no matter what time of the day it was, or whatever I needed help with, every Brick I met was so kind to me and made me feel like I am a part of the company. Even though I couldn’t come to the office regularly, I learned so much about different cultures, and I really enjoyed swapping stories with others over lunch.
These conversations alone already changed the way I look at the world and my future career so much, and I am very grateful that I was able to experience such an open and inclusive company culture.
When did you feel most challenged during the internship, and how did you overcome it?
Especially as an intern, you often find yourself struggling with low confidence due to a lack of knowledge and experience in certain areas. Nevertheless, as I became more comfortable in my role, and after having conversations with my manager and co-workers, I realized that even as ‘just an intern’, having a voice and being able to contribute to conversations is the key for you to move forward.
The same goes for making mistakes. As an intern, no one expects you to know everything, therefore making mistakes is inevitable, and it is more counterproductive to always try to deliver something ‘perfectly’.
Making mistakes is essential, this is how you create room for growth. Some of the mistakes I made turned out to be some of the most valuable lessons.
How did you personally evolve during the internship?
A phrase that I always told myself during my internship was ‘I can do hard things’. I was very excited about the smooth onboarding process, but when it was time to stand on my own feet, I became a bit anxious and overwhelmed. I started to second-guess myself, picked everything apart, and only focused on the flaws. It felt like a repetitive pattern that often showed up in my personal life too, but I realized that always running away from difficult situations just kept me inside my comfort zone (and nothing ever grows there).
Throughout these past months, I became much more confident simply by following what the tagline on my shoes said: “Just do it”. At work, I started to learn new design software, so I could take on bigger projects that would’ve initially scared me. I began sending colleagues rough drafts so I could improve my work based on their feedback instead of spending hours trying to make it perfect. Or I just said yes to a new project without overthinking it, because I knew I was capable.
Realizing that I, indeed, can do hard things has definitely changed my mindset and how I approach challenges now, whether in my personal life, education, or career.
Finally, what is next in the cards for you?
I will resume my studies and then graduate next year in June. As excited as I am to get back to the campus and start taking classes again, I am also really sad to say goodbye to my co-workers and to close such a valuable chapter of my life. Being an intern at Clay was a treat, from the first day when I stepped into the, at-the-time empty, office, to outstandingly funny after-work drinks, and company events where I could gracefully underperform at every ball game.
I am incredibly thankful for Anya and Kris, and the rest of the Marketing team for allowing me to work alongside them and learn so much. Also, a big thank you to Wilma and Agnese for making me feel like part of the Clay family from day one. And thank you to every Brick I have met for being so kind. I will certainly miss the office days.
The Intern Diaries: Time Capsule
Before Carmen’s internship, we asked her to write down some of her expectations for the upcoming journey she was about to embark upon. 6 months later, we wanted to revisit this and see how her thoughts compare now at the end of her internship. Read on to find out the impact that 6 months can have in a little section we like to call the ‘Time Capsule’: Expectations (Pre internship) vs. Reality (Post internship)
Expectations (Pre internship)
“I hope I can get an insight into the marketing practices of SALTO KS such as, how much time and work goes into creating a marketing campaign, how do you define goals, and create a plan of action or a strategy. I also hope I will be able to see parts of the process from brainstorming ideas to executing the campaign or publishing content.”
Reality (Post internship)
“I can definitely say that this internship exceeded my expectations, especially when it comes to gaining hands-on experience. Not only did I get insight into the marketing processes but was actively contributing to them from co-managing social media channels, to creating content, doing market research, and much more.”
Expectations (Pre internship)
“Even though I am more of an introvert, I enjoy socializing and getting to know people. I am normally very open-minded and friendly so, mostly I don’t have a problem with meeting new people or joining a team. I also think that healthy relationships with co-workers contribute to a better work environment, collaboration, and communication.”
Reality (Post internship)
“It’s really funny to read my answers from back in March. My introverted nature has definitely not left me, but as I already mentioned above, I really enjoyed getting to know the Bricks, whether it was at the office or at company events. Just like our website says, ‘The Bricks are an awesome mix of cultures (25 nationalities and counting!), and we wouldn’t have it any other way.’ So whether you are Dutch or an expat, you will fit right in!”
Expectations (Pre internship)
“An internship is a great opportunity to “try out” a job and learn more about yourself and from others. I am generally very curious about what people do for a living, their responsibilities, how they use their skills, how they got where they are, or if they have any tips and advice for me.”
Reality (Post internship)
“I learned a lot about and from other people, about their career path, why they do what they do, and what plans they have for the future. Since Clay has such an incredibly diverse team of people it creates an environment where you can learn so much.”
Carmen, we couldn’t thank you enough for all you have contributed to our team and taught us. These past 6 months have been an exciting time for Clay, and you have played an important role in this new chapter. We will see you at future post-work get-togethers and hopefully even the ball games? Either way, you will always have your family of Bricks and we wish you the very best for your next chapter.
To get in touch with Carmen, you may contact her through LinkedIn.
Clay Solutions is the company that build the cloud-based access control solution SALTO KS, offered by mother company Salto Systems. Clay’s specialists (aka Bricks) are constantly discovering innovative access management solutions. As we release new features, our API expands so you can offer more features and convenience to your customers. On my-clay.com we give you a sneak peek and show you what goes on behind the scenes of a software company. Get to know the Bricks, read what the team is working on, what technologies we use, how we nourish our company culture and last but certainly not least: how to #becomeabrick