Heidi Kulmala // April 03 2020

Interning at Digitalist as a design student

Heidi is a third-year design student at Aalto University. She interned at Digitalist for 2,5 months during the Fall of 2019. After the internship, she was hired to work as a part-time designer at Digitalist while finishing her studies.

“After the second year of my bachelor’s studies, I realised that I would have a perfect time slot to do an internship during the first semester of my third year. I was really impressed by Digitalist’s extensive clientele and international nature, so I contacted Digitalist and inquired about their design intern needs. Fortunately, our needs met perfectly.

Before starting my internship I wrote down some objectives I wanted to achieve during the 2,5 month period I was going to be interning. Mostly I was hoping to get some concrete experience working with a design team, and have more confidence in my own work. I felt that during my studies I had gathered a lot of knowledge and skills, but did not really understand how all of them were connected and used in practice.

My professor was really supportive about including an internship in my curriculum, and we agreed for me to receive 10 ECTS for it. After the internship I was expected to write a brief report, so I took a lot of notes to keep track on my tasks.

On my first day, I was warmly welcomed to the office at the weekly Monday breakfast where I got to socialise with my new colleagues. It was easy to find my own desk since it had a green balloon (how did they guess my favourite colour?) floating above it, accompanied by a bowl of candy. I think it was a great way to make a newcomer feel welcome, as well as making it easier for the other staff to come and say hi.

After getting familiarised with some general practices I immediately got straight to work. Already on the second day, we had a kick-off for a client project, and right away after that, I started to unravel and analyse some stakeholder interviews. During the next week, I got to do some serious user research myself. In parallel, I did some general research and benchmarking for the project.

On week three my service design skills got to a real test while compiling a customer journey and personas based on the research. We also started with some initial conceptualisation by facilitating a workshop with end-users. The following week we had an extensive, two-day workshop at the client’s premises. The workshop was the most exciting part of my internship – I got to create my own solution for the company, and it received really good feedback. Some features of it were even chosen for development. This workshop gave me reassurance that I really am on the right path with my career choice.

For the rest of my internship, I took part in developing the solution and its UX flows and did some storyboarding to showcase it to the client. I also participated in another, shorter project with another client. Overall my tasks were tailored based on my interests, know-how, and targets. It was important to be open, forward and self-imposed, but I was always offered the support I needed.

I adopted many new design and facilitation methods and got acquainted with some new programs and tools as well. The community and client base is relatively international, so my English skills were put to test everyday. I learned a lot about interacting and working in a team, and being on display while having presentations.

During the last weeks of my internship, I signed a contract with Digitalist to continue working with them. If it is up to me Digitalists are never getting rid of me – I have gained so much by working with these lovely, supportive and bright people! Yes, they have a pool table, regular after-work meet-ups, clubs and meal, sports and culture benefits, but none of it would matter without the amazing spirit that people have among each other. It is a spirit of empathy, constant self-development and respect for one another.”