When they say anything is possible, (I don’t know who “they” is, but “they” have said it for sure), interning for one of the fastest growing e-commerce companies and a stand-out NYC startup from a couch in Norman, OK was not among the possibilities I’ve considered before. Twelve weeks and thirteen hundred video calls later, I’m here to share a little bit about my experience with Public Goods, what I learned, and why my thoughts towards work post-college has changed.
Last summer, I was challenged by Mike Basch, an entrepreneurial leader living in my hometown of Tulsa, to apply to internships exclusively out of my comfort zone. Wanting to work for a consumer goods company producing ethically sourced goods (i.e. bioplastics, innovative recycling, sustainable production, clean energy, etc.), Basch helped me with some tips on cold emailing and introductions to companies on the East and West coasts. After several months of emailing and calling, Lloyd Ellman, the Director of Operations at Public Goods, offered me an internship. By then it was mid-April, and the country was in full-fledged corona time, so my chances of living it up in NYC for the summer were very much gone. The abrupt transition to Zoom University in the spring had left some room for improvement in terms of working on group projects and learning virtually, so I was curious on how the virtual internship would work.
All my life, I’ve been pretty self-sufficient, so I wasn’t too worried about not having as much direction as I would in person. However, I’d never been part of a team that’s nearly perfected the balance between teamwork and autonomy like the team at Public Goods. Lloyd told me we’d hit the ground running on Day 1, and considering I hadn’t run in a while, the work piled up quickly. After about 30 minutes on the job, I was tasked with taking over the product launch coordinator position, which was my main role as an intern. In addition, I had a chance to dive deep into market research, ideate future product launches, source domestic and international vendors, create a database for vendor compliance documents and tackle other projects related to operations, sales, inventory management, customer service, and website design. Needless to say, I got a taste of just about every item on the Public Goods work menu.
Aside from learning how to accomplish a wide variety of tasks, I learned how a startup operates. I learned the “why” behind sourcing and pricing of products and the consideration of opportunity cost that comes before a product launch. I learned about prioritizing bandwidth on a team, knowing that the finite hours in the day are played against a seemingly unlimited list of tasks, further emphasizing the importance of working efficiently towards company goals. I also learned how to really work well on a team.
The freedom to maximize my problem-tackling potential and license to be creative and share my ideas at Public Goods was unlike anything I’d ever been a part of. I worked on projects with the goal of answering an open-ended question like “What products should we launch in the next 12–18 months?” or “What are other e-commerce companies doing better than we are?” After coming up with an answer, it was up to me to figure out some next steps and a plan to implement them, or I could decide that my time would be better spent fleshing out a different initiative. This exercise really pushed my critical thinking, helped me see all angles of a problem, and forced me to make quick decisions. With this style, I felt my contributions were not only valued but completely my own creation.
I loved my time at Public Goods. The work was incredibly enjoyable, I felt productive, and my impact was noticed and appreciated on the team. However, for as many positive comments I could make about the work load, I could make twice as many about the people and the culture at Public Goods. As everything else during this time, there have been adjustments made to what used to be ‘normal,’ but the people who make Public Goods what it is haven’t adjusted their ability to bring others in and treat them well. I started and ended my internship without meeting a single coworker in person, but I made real connections at work.
There was an incredible mix of individual, authentic people who brought consistent hard and high-quality work to the table. The value of work life balance was very apparent, and from the first conversations that I participated in during our Monday morning meetings, I could tell that the team cared about each other as people and considered their relationships to transcend the professional scope. Once again, the importance of real relationships was shown, and I’m very thankful for those I’ve made at Public Goods. Here’s the biggest takeaway of the summer: if the people are good, then it’s all good.
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