Embracing WFH: 4 Biggest Takeaways from a Remote Internship
Challenges & Learnings
This summer was anything but ordinary. I was all excited to spend another 3 months in the beautiful, nature-ridden state of Washington, but as COVID-19 hit, my plans experienced a dent.
This summer, I was fortunate enough to experience a Product Design Internship at Microsoft on the Outlook team (again!).
Before starting, I frantically browsed the web for stuff like ‘Remote work best habits’ or ‘How to be successful WFH,’ all the like. Since this experience was new to everyone, I knew I had to be prepared to navigate uncharted waters on the job.
I wanted to take the time to share some of my biggest challenges and learnings this summer and hopefully be of help to other peers that also feel anxious starting a new role in unfamiliar territory.
Challenges & Learnings
01 • Navigate ambiguity with curiosity.
The challenge of working remote was new to everyone, and viewing this as an opportunity to go out of my comfort zone rather than as a barrier to my professional growth fostered humbling and truly rewarding experiences.
I’ve learned to embrace ambiguous situations and learn fast by being comfortable with being uncomfortable, and I came out of the internship feeling like I’ve made an impact not only work-wise but also culture-wise.
02 • Over-communicate & be creative with finding new means of receiving feedback.
Working remote, I wasn’t able to simply swivel my chair and scoot over to the senior designer working nearby for feedback anymore.
Instead, I’ve learned to be resourceful, find tools like Loom to asynchronously share designs with my team when meetings weren’t possible, and provide updates to my manager and feature crew when possible so we can catch missing gaps quickly and manage time more efficiently.
03 • Own the design confidence to share a different opinion.
During larger discussions with senior designers and partner stakeholders, it’s easy to simply nod and go along with the suggestions you hear, especially as an intern.
However, I’ve learned quickly that as the advocate for our customers and being the one closer to user research, backing up my points with clear user evidence can shed a different light and help others understand why particular design decisions were made.
Though important to be respectful of everyone’s points, it’s equally if not more important to acknowledge and share your own side when appropriate.
04 • Involve stakeholders early & avoid silo-ing work
With a remote experience, it’s almost too easy to silo yourself and work quietly until the next feature crew sync to provide updates. Looping in my PM and AI partners during my problem and ideation brainstorm sessions in Figma early on was where the most enlightening and transformative ideas emerged.
By treating my stakeholders as equal collaborators in the design process, the experience was not only more inspiring but actually a lot more fun.