5 Things I Learned from Designit Aarhus

Hello! Thank you for your visit. I still get lots of messages asking me about my internship experience at Designit Aarhus. I would kindly like to remind you that this article was written in 2016. Time flies and is transformative, so maybe what you read below is not the same as for today.

In January 2016 I moved from the hipster Stockholm to the charming and cosy Aarhus to spend 26 weeks at Designit as part of my education in the Digital Media Creative program in Hyper Island.

Here are the 5 biggest learnings I had during that time.

1 — The Fantastic Onboarding Experience

I think we all can agree that first days suck. Be it in school or at a new job, they are filled up with weirdness and different kinds of anxiety.

In the UX and Interaction Design worlds we talk a lot about the importance of user onboarding. But outside the screen, before coming to Designit, I have never really thought about how companies actually onboard their own employees.

The moment you get that email or call saying yes you got the job, how is the next information delivered? How are the formal guidelines communicated? When we are talking about a global company, this is pretty important, specially when dealing with people from all over the world.

Designit did it amazingly.

A few weeks before arriving to Aarhus, the People team (that’s how the HR is called here), had send me a landing page with valuable and transparent information about the history, values and even failures that the company has been through. It opened up my mind to what I was getting into, what to expect and what kind of people I would meet. It gets you pretty pumped.

A week before I actually started, I received another landing page with important tips for my first day, such as:

  • when to be and where
  • who to look for
  • what would happen on my first day
  • dress code

That was great to minimize the weird effect and anxieties of every first day and all those questions you ask yourself, like if you can wear your banana socks or not, what time to arrive or who to look for.

So what about the first day? Well…

It was February the 8th, I remember walking under a freezing storm (pretty normal in Denmark) and waiting for around 20 minutes under the roof of a supermarket close by, because I didn’t want to arrive so early to interrupt my mentor who would be waiting for me.

When I finally arrived, I was welcomed with great latte, croissants and an introductory meeting with the team leads, colleagues and managers to get directions of what the next six months would be all about.

Later on, I was taken on a tour where I got to say hi to every colleague (79 at the time).

By around two o'clock I was sent home to absorve all the lots of information and rest. Yes, they were mindful of how overwhelming first days can be.

After that experience, I started having a better feeling about first days. They don’t suck at Designit at all, even if there’s a freaking storm outside. It gets you like:

2 — Culture Is Everything

Tagging along the whole on boarding experience, this is part of building a strong foundation and setting the scene since the beginning. A company is nothing without a strong culture.

"Leave your ego at home" or "this is not just a corporate bullshit" are just some of the great points on the companies manifesto. I can’t deny that when I read them my eyes were sparkling with “yes, yes, yes, that’s it”.

Every year Designit used to organise a big event called Inspiration Trip, or Itrip, where all employees from all Designits in the world (yes, even interns) get together for a weekend to inspire, connect and discuss the future while having a good time. The energy it brings to the whole Designit world is incredible, lots of smiles, engagement and fresh ideas to keep going with the good work afterwards. You can watch a video or read more about it here.

What does it all mean? Well, happy satisfied employees equals the most engaged colleagues I have ever had.

3 — Inclusion

Designit understands how important interns are to challenge their work and bring fresh ideas to their everyday. They value the exchange and they will surely invest their time in getting your internship a real feel experience, not just make you serve some coffee and print some stuff.

So, be prepared to work as part of the team as any other employee.

Sometimes it was definitely overwhelming sitting down on a kick off meeting in a major project as the only intern with all the bad ass seniors, leads and directors. Great experience and sense of belonging.

4 — A Great Mentor Is Fundamental

Being an intern is not an easy thing. It is the time you have to go in depth and figure out exactly what you want to do in your career. Having a mentor you can look up to and get the right directions to dive deep is essential. Your mentor must be a knowledgeable and open enough to include you in work process, give you constructive feedback and guide you through this blurry time.

I once was told by a Hyper Island MA alumni and great strategist, that when your mentor does not fulfil those needs, you should run as fast as possible.

At Designit, I had a real bad ass mentor that gave me the feels for design research. She showed me how different backgrounds can be great opportunities for the area, which I am extremely grateful for.

This mentorship experience was very important to me, because I have had jobs and other internships in the past where I did not even have a mentor and Designit makes sure you don’t only have a mentor, but also a "buddy" that will help you settle on your first days and answer all of your questions.

5 — Hourly, Not Daily. Use Your Time Wisely.

“Hjem før femis a danish saying that says “home before 5” (Please, correct me if I'm wrong, danes).

As a Brazilian, I used to work very long hours (from 8 to 12) a day. So, when I heard 38 hours weekly, it sounded like a real utopia.

The thing is that it is not and that is one of the beauty of Scandinavian culture: incredible work and life balance.

At Designit and probably every company here in Denmark the work is hourly. Clients will be charged by hour, not by the whole project, like I have always experienced in Brazil. That had two interesting learnings for me:

  1. You have to extremely effective. 7,5 hours a day is the average at Designit. Lunch time is 30 minutes and we all eat together great food made by a cook and an assistant. So, no 1 hour bullshit where people just vanish and then come back. This way you actually get to know your colleagues, strengthen the culture and get back to work faster.
  2. Depending on the project, if it is a low budget one, you might not have time to add all of your perfections into it. It will be the minimum viable product itself. For a designer, dealing with that can be a huge pain, but great learning on how to constrain yourself.
    Of course you can hide and work from home during the weekends to reach that small detail of perfection you aim for, but then you will learn that this can also have bad consequences on your colleagues work and specially on the budget of the project.

Searching for better ways. Design Researcher. Hyper Island alumni.