During the spring semester of 2019 I was a UX Intern at Visma in Stockholm. Today, I’m writing about how the common insecurities most of us feel when it’s time to head back into the real world after academia, and how finding the right internship can make all the difference.
The final semester of my three-year bachelor program was approaching at breakneck speed, and I knew I would soon leave the sheltered academic sphere and return to the real world. I was terrified. Would I find myself in a situation where I simply had no idea what I was doing, clutching a bunch of academic literature?
One winter afternoon a few years earlier, just after applying to university, I had sat in the kitchen together with a close friend confidently claiming that “I know that I’m not supposed to know everything when I’m a fresh graduate. Heck – it’s like getting your drivers licence, the first few years after getting that little slip of paper is just the government telling you that you can finally practice on your own.” That moment in time was now utterly forgotten, and impostor syndrome had taken a strong grip.
And now it was time to look for somewhere to do my internship.
Designer brains working together
I knew from the start that I wanted somewhere where all design work was done in-house, and where I would be supported by senior designers if needed. I was also careful to assess whether the company in question would actually have the time and resources to make it a meaningful experience for everyone involved.
The first day at the Visma office, I was immediately introduced to the whole ecosystem of new lingo, software, routines, and some 50 odd new wonderful colleagues (and learning where in the building I could find the best coffee). The friendly and open atmosphere in the office made me feel right at home. Within a few days, I had my hands full with my assigned project: to design a concept and recommendations for data-visualization in a procurement software, which had been in the pipeline for some time. My supervisor, Nina Boljang, let me know that she’d be supporting me during the entire process, and after an introduction to the project together with her and relevant stakeholders I was set free to decide on how I wanted to tackle this new, unfamiliar design context myself.
With a hands-on project and supervisors and colleagues who always wanted me to succeed and challenge myself further, Visma has been the perfect organisation for my internship period.
Wait, what? They’re actually letting me steer this ship?
Impostor-me was undeniably skeptic, but looking back I can see that this was the entirely right decision made by my supervisor. I made a rough draft of what I wanted to achieve and set out to find users to interview and other sources of insight. This was the moment I realized one of the greatest strengths of Visma – the people. A committed UX Community whose knowledge I could tap into, as well as a large network of dedicated users who had an almost uncanny knowledge about the system and their work. I was regularly set up (thank you Daniel!) with people I would never have thought of myself to get in touch with, whose experiences gave me a whole new perspective on what you can achieve when your organisation actively works to share knowledge and insights between teams.
The UX Community at Visma would passionately discuss the latest UX gossip and techniques, and I would gratefully absorb their ideas. I would be invited to join other UX Designers in their work, from agile grooming to client meetings, and each time I would learn something new. Similarly, anytime I needed to have an extra pair of eyes on my own work I’d find a colleague to help me out.
The source of the best coffee in the Visma Stockholm office
Of course, it was not only a well-swept path of progress. I learned how to not be afraid of staying in the “forest of the unknown”, as my supervisor said when I was worried that my user research was trudging along too slowly without producing any actual designs. I learned to be humble before the fact that I’ll probably never learn everything about the system I work with, and that’s fine. I learned that sometimes this cool new method just doesn’t work all that well for you, but at least we had fun trying.
Business impact mapping
My time as a UX Intern at Visma has given me so much. Not just what the daily life of a UX Designer at a large software company looks like, but also that I know and can handle so much more than I think I can. With a hands-on project and supervisors and colleagues who always wanted me to succeed and challenge myself further, Visma has been the perfect organisation for my internship period.