All posts by Hannah Thurston

Did You Get That E-mail?

Final exams are happening and the semester is ending, which means I have published my last post until next year. Before I finish my internship blog for the year as well, I wanted to document one more lesson I’ve learned.

I posted earlier about how I’ve learned about not just managing my own time, but trying to work around the schedules of others. There was another factor to that learning experience that has been reiterated in these last couple weeks of work.

Trying to collect responses has turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. I have a very type-A personality, and when my work (or e-mails) pile up, I find it stressful. Thus, I tend to keep my time organized and respond quickly. Many of the posts I have written this past semester required quotes from outside sources, and I have sent quite a few e-mails to collect those quotes. While writing my final post, which included anecdotes from alumni about a retiring professor, I was on a timeline and relying on the responses I received to make up the bulk of the post. A few days went by and only one e-mail had popped up in my inbox. I started to worry. When meeting with my internship supervisors, they spoke of how important it is to know the preferred form of communication of those that you work with. Some never check their e-mail and would respond best to a phone call. Some like a text best. This can save both parties time when information needs to be shared, creating a more effective flow of communication. This is a lesson I hope to take with me as I pursue a career after graduation and have to work with others, participating  in ongoing conversations and trying to contribute my own ideas and work.

Your Time, My Time

Past teachers and professors have always emphasized to me the importance of group projects. I’ve heard about how such projects should cultivate my skills in teamwork and teach me how to see an issue from multiple viewpoints.  This has been true in some cases, but through my internship I’ve come to recognize a third factor I previously had not noticed.

Though the physical writing of the articles I post is independent work, I have often had to reach out to other to collect my content. Several instances have required me to conduct interviews as well, including my articles on the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, “Bedroom Farce”, and “Sticking It to the Man”. With others, like my article on CASAG, I have had to collect information through e-mail conversations.  This process of collaborating with faculty members, alumni, and fellow students has taught me that third factor: planning for the time of others.

Practicing personal time management is a completely separate matter, something most students learns early on through the challenge of rigorous courses. Appreciating and learning to plan around the time limitations of others has been a lesson I’ve learned through my internship. Just because I am available on Tuesdays and Thursdays does not mean I can expect the same from those with whom I need to collaborate. I’ve had to learn further ahead, recognizing differences in schedule. I believe this is a lesson I will carry forward into the future years of my professional career as I enter the workforce.

Website Security

I didn’t anticipate learning about website security through my internship, but I’m glad to say I have. Most of my efforts so far have been focused on content. I’ve met with individuals on a few occasions, like the interviews I conducted for the FEIA and “Sticking it to the Man” articles. In other instances, I have gathered information through e-mail conversations or typical online research. My focus has been more on the department website’s material than the ‘web’ side of things.

I had a learning opportunity a few weeks back when a notification arrived in my e-mail inbox. It was a comment on my most recently posted article, and WordPress was requesting my approval for the comment to be posted. That seemed harmless enough to me, but as with anything new, I figured I should ask Dr. Wolek first before taking an action. I waited until our next meeting to bring it up.

As I should have expected, it wasn’t so simple as clicking approve. Dr. Wolek explained to me how comments can be used to gain greater access to a website, and therefore threaten the website’s security. Sure enough, the one that had appeared in my inbox seemed to match the description he’d given me of security-threatening comments. With a far stronger background in the writing aspect of my work than the web aspect, this was all news to me. As the internship expands, I hope to expand my understanding of how websites function.

The Value of a Team

I’ve always thought that being a web designer or a journalist would be an independent job. With so much of the work being done on a computer—be it typing, editing, or working in a program like Photoshop—very little involves human interaction. Thus, I thought my work as a web intern would be relatively independent as well. 

The past few weeks have taught me otherwise. 

When my supervisor, Dr. Nathan Wolek, was out of the office sick, I still met with my faculty advisor, Laura Glander. The meeting was productive and concise. We listed a few tasks, I took notes, and that week’s job got done. But parts of the system I had grown familiar with fell apart. There were areas outside of Laura’s expertise that I needed to question Dr. Wolek about. I realized quickly that I was far from self-sufficient. My tasks were not going to get done unless I figured something out of my own, did a bit of trouble-shooting, and carved a path to the answers I needed. 

The following week, Laura was out of town. Then the week after that, Dr. Wolek was unable to attend our weekly meeting. 

My faculty adviser and supervisor are back, and I’m thankful. More gets done at a meeting and time is used more efficiently. We can plan ahead for future projects and there’s room for me to ask questions about improvement, both things that cannot do on my own. As much as my mix of journalism and web work is a solo job, I’m coming to understand how valuable a team can be. 

So That’s Why They Call It the Internet

An overarching theme has become apparent in what I’ve learned thus far through my internship: interconnectedness. Perhaps the word “internet” should have made this particular lesson a no-brainer, but I had not realized how much of a good web presence depended on linking to other websites. I am becoming more and more aware of the true network that underlies all that is posted on the internet. 

In the article I posted most recently, I included links imbedded into words for the first time. This was a suggestion from my faculty supervisor, who explained that it was a way I could avoid congesting the article with too many URLs while still providing helpful links. More links means more connections. 

A second learning opportunity came up when a pingback arrived in my e-mail. Because the Creative Arts Department regulates the website’s comment section, comments must be approved before they can show up on the site. This precaution helps to prevent someone with ill-intent from gaining greater access to the website. While we want to prevent bad comments from showing up on the site, it’s important to also increase the connectedness of the site. This is why pingbacks and retweets are significant. They create more avenues of access.  

I have a feeling my awareness of these connections will only continue to grow the more time I spend in this internship.  

Reset Button

I had planned to post my first blog two weeks ago. It seemed like a good place to start: give myself enough time to become acquainted with the intern position and WordPress, but post early enough in the semester that I had a truly fresh take on the work.
That didn’t happen.
Despite it being a whole month into the semester, I only have one article up on the department webpage. Like most students trying to readjust post-hurricane, I feel a bit behind. Maybe, though, this is my first real-world learning opportunity for the internship. The learning objectives I’d listed at the onset of the semester were focused on more technical skills, but right now, I’m learning about how to deal with unexpected hurdles.
This past summer, I interned with an insurance company for eleven weeks in their cubicle-style office. Needless to say, it was a very different experience. I clocked in at 8 A.M. and was given a daily schedule that I followed until clocking out nine hours later.
Working with the Creative Arts department, there is no time sheet and no head popping around the corner to ask how my task is going. I am the one making the work schedule, determining when and for how long my time must be allotted. I may not have anticipated it on the onset, but perhaps one of my greatest learning opportunities will be to develop time management between many different tasks.
Unlike my summer internship where long hours were focused on one subject, I am currently dedicated to my classes, senior research, a work study job, studying for the Law School Admissions Test, and the internship. The hurricane was an unexpected twist that had me hitting the reset button and trying to get back into the rhythm on campus. One week in, I’m glad to say that the stress of rerouting has dwindled and taught me that focus can overcome frenzy.