Experiences from Summer Interns: Research, Workstyle, and Work & Travel

In this blog, Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design students, Cagla Kuzu and Divya Iyengar, share some of their experiences as summer interns with Doblin.

Doblin. In our heads, it is the gold star in design consulting. So, you can imagine our surprise and excitement when we learned that we were going to be summer interns there. Two budding, bright-eyed designers from the lovely Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design, studying design research and strategy. What does that even mean? We were about to find out!

Research 101

From the get-go, you learn quickly that research is so much more than meets the eye. It's a massive undertaking that involves carefully and continuously setting objectives that become your north star and thinking through the smartest things to study and in the most effective ways. It's about having a critical eye for details regarding who you choose to recruit, and what you might ask them and balancing what you learn with your north star objectives. Basically, it's not for the faint of heart!

Divya Iyengar: I had the opportunity to work with two amazing Doblin consultants, Kelley Kahler and Julie Hecht who taught me the art of research planning, fieldwork and strategy. I spent my summer working on a project focused primarily on prototyping for a client in a relatively complex system. I learned very quickly how important it is to develop structure from the get-go through research plans, and generally the importance of finding structure in complexity.

Cagla Kuzu: I had the opportunity of working on the early-stage research project in the insurance industry. Working with Christine Kang, Connor Ratycz, and Mert Pekdemir our goal was to understand complexities of the health system and find the underlying difficulties it brought for the uninsured population. Going through stages from research to concepting, our team faced multiple surprises. Facing unexpectedness helped me to become adaptive to changes and to easily make contingency plans.

Workstyle 101

We can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a conversation on how each person in your team works. For example, our team was a mixture of introverted and extroverted thinkers, with some people who were night owls versus morning people. How you work can affect the dynamic of your team as well as the pace at which you can all get things done together. While it is very important to share your work-style and find a balance with your team members, sometimes the conditions of your project can limit your ideal way of working.

Cagla Kuzu: I had an opportunity to be part of a 10-week project, from beginning to end, and as a result was able to witness reactions to our outputs. During the project, we had to fit in framing, research, analysis, synthesis and concepting. Having shorter time frames between deliverables pushed our team to work faster. As we neared the close of the project, there were times our team worked longer hours, but our team spirit was strong, and we powered through with music, jokes, geeking about games and myths. The support each team member provided to each other made the busy days go easier, helping me to become more comfortable and confident with the work I contributed to.

Work & Travel

One additional consideration for work styles is balancing how you work with how your clients work. Because of the phase of our project and nature of upcoming decisions, we spent a lot of time traveling to and from Texas to physically be in the same space as our client. Note that adjusting to travel takes time! Being in another state for almost three consecutive weeks meant having a suitcase always packed, packing clothes that didn't need much ironing and always having snacks on-hand.

Working on a local project, you can also end up changing your work schedule according to the schedules of your client. Carrying snacks and planning ahead might sounds surprising but being in a new office, having spare food and equipment can save you time and effort.

Based on our experiences, here’s a list of our Pro Tips not to forget:

  • Get smart fast - coffee chats, chats across Doblin, drop into project rooms
  • Be okay with incomplete work and get used to sharing in any phase
  • Get face-time with clients when you can and hear their perspective
  • Always pack snacks and water for heavy field days. Eat when you can!
  • Take advantage of team time as well as alone, recharge time
  • Be open about how you are feeling about your work to colleagues, don’t hesitate to ask their feedback
  • Don’t hesitate to share how you are feeling outside of work. Your well-being comes first!
  • Remember, you're learning and each day you're better than where you were before so always celebrate your progress!

Cagla Kuzu is a Master of Design Student in her final year at Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design. She studies design research and strategy. She has a passion for understanding and simplifying complex systems through storytelling and visualization.

Divya Iyengar is a Master of Design Student in her final year at Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design. She studies design research and strategy. She is particularly passionate about designing impactful experiences for people.