If I was working anywhere else, I can’t imagine how I’d build the courage to tell my manager that I’d been feeling sad about the thought of my family going to Vietnam for the first time in 20 years without me. Equally conflicting was that I didn’t want to jeopardize my internship and relationship with Avvo. At the time, it had only been two weeks since my internship started, but I had already fallen in love with the company, its values, and the problem I was to solve. Simply put, the onboarding was the best I’ve ever had, the UX family is well-respected in the community, and the entire product team is comprised of vibrant, friendly peeps.
But as the days went on and the FOMO (fear of missing out) grew on me, I internally felt like I had no choice but to tell my manager, Puja Parakh, about the Vietnam trip. Surprisingly and not surprisingly, Puja firmly responded,
“You’re getting on that plane. I’m gonna make sure of it. Family comes first and you’re young. You have the rest of your life to work. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Worst case scenario, we terminate you since it’s so early in your internship. That way, we can potentially find another intern. I don’t want that to happen, so let me talk to Joni to find out other options we have. And please, don’t worry about burning the bridge. We chose you for a reason, and we want to make the most of your time here.”
I left that meeting speechless with teary eyes because of the outpour of genuine support Puja provided. I had never worked with anybody who wanted to hear the truth so bad, and provided nothing but the truth in return. The thought of being terminated scared me, but what was even more unsettling was feeling like the worst intern ever because Avvo treated me with the utmost respect and kindness, yet I was tarnishing an incredible opportunity that 104 other candidates applied for. I felt like Avvo didn’t deserve what I did, and I sure didn’t deserve the internship.
I recognize that such leniency rarely occurs, and I am thankful for having had the opportunity to work with empathetic colleagues who gave me a second chance. In the two weeks that all of this happened, I felt like I had already learned so much.
With all of this change going on, I wasn’t let off the hook that easily. To make up for the time loss, I worked my butt off for the remainder of my internship (which was 4 weeks). With my internship totaling 6 weeks, I was still treated like a regular, full-time employee. I had a large project that kept me busy every minute of the working day. Beyond upholding responsibilities of a UX designer such as forming hypotheses, conducting competitive analysis, and designing mock-ups, I had goals that kept me refreshed and challenged:
I was able to accomplish all of these goals except for #7, which was a reach goal given the little time I had remaining. A critical item that I did not add to my list of goals, but that naturally (and gratefully) happened anyway, was that I learned how to bounce back from failed tests. I say this was gratefully presented to me because Avvo was my first proper UXD internship, and prior to that, none of my UXD academic projects really failed since many of them never got shipped. Though I was a bit disappointed that none of my tests presented significant statistical change, I was glad it happened at Avvo because the UX family here is a safe place to learn how to improve from a failed test.
Throughout the summer, I got to work in the Limited Scope Journey team, which focuses on products that help consumers find the legal answers they need. Within the LTD team, I specifically worked with the Activation & Retention scrum team, which focuses on figuring out how to get prospects to register on Avvo and continue to use Avvo services. Very broadly, my summer project involved improving the high traffic, Ask a Question (AAQ) page on Avvo's Q&A product
I’ll share the user-centered design process that I adapted in this project at a later time (on my portfolio), but for now, I’ll broadly share that I tested two hypotheses, both of which failed. Fortunately, in-between each fail was a finding that supported the subsequent test and learn. Throughout this project journey, I used both soft and hard facts to form assumptions and hypotheses. I also led a design review to gather feedback on my solution sketches from UX designers, content strategists, and visual designers from colleagues that weren’t in my direct LTD team. I even learned how to interpret data from usability test studies and collaborated with a software developer to implement 2 different A/B tests to learn if my hypotheses improved the problem at hand.
Overall, despite the internship lasting a short 6 weeks, I’ve learned and accomplished more at Avvo than I have at previous internships. I believe a large part of that has to do with the fact that Avvo is a start-up, thus things move faster with less bureaucracy. Each member of the LTD team welcomed me at first sight (literally, since they were trying to persuade me to join their team vs. the Full Scope Journey team) and reminded me throughout my internship that if I ever needed anything, they are a Slack message away. The amount of open-invitation support I was handed at Avvo made work more enjoyable, comfortable, and creative. I truly felt like I had no limitations, and that I owned my project 100%. I believe that all of these things contributed to my success at Avvo!
As sad as I was to leave Avvo, I got to leave with happy memories, lasting friendships, and learning experiences. None of this would’ve been possible without the UX Family, the Limited Scope team, Kaitlyn Schirmer, Puja Parakh, Sandra Bilbrey , and Joni Vanderburg-Paner.
Thank you all a million!