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iSchool student Hairol Ma is interning at Slack in San Francisco, CA.

Where Work Happens: My Slack Internship

It’s hard to believe, but as I write this I’m wrapping up my third week at Slack. This summer I’m working as a brand copywriting intern on the content marketing team from a total of 45 interns at the San Francisco headquarters of Slack.

What Slack Is and Why I Use It

Slack is a cloud-based collaboration hub that allows all work and communication to be accomplished in one collective space. No more sending long email chains or falling into a cycle of unproductive meetings: Slack makes communicating with your team easy and effective.

Personally, I’ve used it for all sorts of purposes—clubs, my part time job at SIDEARM, church, you name it. Though Slack has long outgrown startup size, it still remains a Silicon Valley darling. Launched in 2013, the company reached a valuation of one billion in two years—and it’s still experiencing exponential growth.

Getting Started and On-Boarding

Given that reputation, I was extremely intimidated and nervous as I stepped off the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train at Embarcadero station bright and early Monday morning.

Slack recently moved into a new office space about a month ago, just adjacent from the massive new Salesforce Tower in San Francisco’s financial district. The moment I stepped into the immense lobby, however, and found myself greeted by an effusive hug from my recruiter, I knew I had come to the right place for the summer.

Slack’s on-boarding was a week-long process, but thankfully the recruiters, mentors, and managers were helpful and considerate as the interns adjusted to the company. Learning to use Slack at Slack has been a completely new experience that my use of the software at other organizations hasn’t quite prepared me well for, and I’m still getting the hang of it.

I had no real assignments my first week, but my manager compiled a handy immersion packet for me with materials to familiarize myself with, so I spent the spare hours after on-boarding studying our style guides and reading our blog posts.

My manager also set up one-on-ones with members of my team for the summer. I heard stories from my coworkers while enjoying cups of coffee made by our in-house baristas.

Though I had initially been so nervous my first day, by the end of the first week I was bantering with my team and finding my way to the bathroom without getting lost.

Company Culture at Slack

There are so many things to be excited about for this summer: from the work I will be doing to the company itself. Though it’s only been a brief three weeks, I’m astonished and impressed by the company’s culture.

On our first day at on-boarding, we were told, “We don’t believe Slack will change the world. In the end, we’re just on a mission to make your working life simpler, more pleasant and more productive. But accomplishing each piece of that mission statement well is a pretty hefty goal.”

As a Silicon Valley native, I know this level of self-effacing humility is hard to come by in a region amok with tech giants and legendary startups, and I quickly realized it was a quality reflected by each employee I met. Though I get to work with some of the most incredible and talented people in the industry every day, I have yet to meet anyone patronizing or pretentious.

A true mark of the company’s character was reflected last week when I witnessed my team engaging in conflict resolution. Though I’ve been in professional environments in which the first reaction is to lash out in anger or say something negative, my team instead viewed the situation from the other perspective, allowing themselves to understand and consider external pressures he/she might be experiencing.

This compassionate level of conflict resolution is something I didn’t think was possible in a company of this size and reputation, and one that I now get to look up to. It’s a company culture I’m completely smitten with. Perhaps I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but it shows no signs of fading anytime soon.

What I’ll Be Working On at Slack

I’m also getting to tackle some exciting projects this summer, and quite unexpectedly, I’m weirdly enthused about writing tweets. Before I started at Slack, handling social for an organization was something I avoided at all costs, but with the coaching and encouragement from my mentor, I’ve learned to appreciate the art of tweeting.

Luckily, the Slack voice is fun to write: it’s delightful, helpful, and humble, much like its employees. I’ve learned that ultimately, content rules over character, and even if I say something in a very interesting way, if I have nothing to say, it is a waste time to my reader.

Something I didn’t consider before I began writing tweets here, however, was optimization. Thankfully, taking IST 300 (Digital Analytics) and IST 486 (Social Media in the Enterprise) prepared me well for the industry jargon and prerequisites I now consider before drafting a post.

It’s going to be an exciting summer ahead, and hard to believe that by the end of this week I’ll have completed a fourth of my time here at Slack. I’ll continue to make progress on my projects, try all the snacks in the cafe, and soak up all the California sunshine before I return to cloudy (but still lovable) Syracuse in the fall.

Hairol Ma

Hairol Ma

Hello from foggy San Francisco! My name is Hairol and I’m a rising senior studying Advertising and Information Management & Technology. This summer I’ll be back home in the Bay Area  working as a brand copywriting intern at Slack. Over the next twelve weeks I’ll be contributing to select campaigns, honing my understanding of the Slack voice, and trying every La Croix flavor in the company fridges.

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