Being part of a small, remote-first company has several distinct advantages. It’s possible to wear multiple hats and easily expand your skillset, moving fluidly across traditional roles. You can serve and support clients across different regions. And you can collaborate with talented people from all walks of life, located anywhere in the world. In summer 2020—during the height of a new era for remote work, and indeed, for society at large—rpk GROUP did just that.
Our team brought on board two interns: Mary Ann, who was finishing an MBA at Duke University, and Celise, who joined us from our client the Akilah Institute in Rwanda, where she was pursuing a degree in information systems.
Given the current state of the industry, it’s an exciting time to contribute to actionable change, especially in rpk’s signature style: not only by conducting analyses, but by teaching institutional leaders how to replicate analyses so that data-backed decision-making becomes a continued part of their culture.
That said, one might think interns wouldn’t get much of a chance to participate in this kind of work. Similar firms supporting higher education’s transformation might overlook the potential contributions of young people who are completing their academic studies. (How many of us have had unremarkable internships?)
At rpk, however, we’ve found that these rising professionals can offer fresh perspectives that reinvigorate our work. And in the process of teaching them, we also get an opportunity to learn.
Mary Ann joined rpk in the summer, a time when institutional teams were reaching out with a sense of urgency toward planning for the fall, while Celise came on board later in the year, when those plans were playing out on campuses across the country.
In the course of their work with us, both Mary Ann and Celise were exposed to the challenges that university leadership teams have been grappling with as a result of the pandemic. They also became acquainted with the inner workings of a team that has operated remotely for a decade.
Here are a few highlights of their experience that they recently shared with us:
- “I gained new skills and knowledge, in addition to developing my existing skills further.” Mary Ann was able to further apply and develop analytical skills while learning about the financial aspects of higher education. In a similar vein, Celise touched on the practical application of data analytics during a time of crisis, as well as honing softer skills such as communication and collaboration—critical for working across time zones and cultures.
- “The rpk team’s support was critical for a successful internship.” Supervisors were beacons in a frenetic time, while colleagues across the organization were readily available, answering insightful questions and enhancing the interns’ skill development along the way.
- “I now know that remote work is effective with the right structure.” Much has been written about the shift to an all-virtual professional existence, and to say it can be challenging would be a gross understatement. According to Celise, the team at rpk “managed to make it work for everyone.” (It’s worth noting that from her home in East Africa, Celise was a minimum of six hours ahead of her rpk teammates.)
- “I would absolutely recommend interning with rpk GROUP to others!” Landing the right internship is about so much more than submitting applications and filling up space on a resume; not only does the team chemistry have to be there, but also the kind of environment that supports and nurtures growth. We recognize that our interns add significant value to our work, just as we can add to their experience. It’s this relationship that builds lasting impact.
Mary Ann and Celise have built on their rpk experiences and taken exciting next steps in their careers. Currently, Mary Ann is working with SAP through their IMPACT leadership program, and Celise is working as a network designer at Netis Group. We at rpk congratulate them and thank them for their contributions to higher education. We’d wish them all the luck in the world on their next steps, but knowing these two as we now do, they won’t need it.
As we look toward summer 2021 and beyond, we’re excited to welcome our next group of interns. Where in the world might they be, and how will we play a part in their professional journeys? Thanks to remote work and to our commitment to learning, the possibilities are limitless.