Back to the Future: Summer Intern Retrospective
When I arrived fresh off the plane from Minnesota in New York City ten weeks ago, I had no idea what my summer in the city and at Penguin Random House would have in store for me. After HR released us into the wilds of the publishing world (just kidding, they just sent us to our respective departments) after orientation on day one, I happily fell into a summer full of books, WordPress, article writing, and amazing friendships. As the Corporate Communications intern, I worked with colleagues from multiple departments in order to produce some of the content on our Igloo intranet homepage. I helped organize and run a book panel with our sales team that more than 150 people attended (while I guarded the free books in the back).
I was trusted to write articles about incredible things that Penguin Random House is doing, from participating in the German art exhibition Documenta 14 to renewing our environmental sustainability efforts. I sat in on an audiobook recording session and listened incredulously as a voice actress flawlessly narrated an amazing novel. I sweated my way through a July morning as I handed out free books in Central Park to people waiting in line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets. I ate lunch with the same five interns almost every day in the Penguin Random House lunchroom—and after work we did everything from karaoke to pasta dinners to touring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
No HR interview or intern orientation could have prepared me for all the books, friendships, professional experience, and personal growth that came my way, but I wanted to encapsulate the previous ten weeks as best I could. At the beginning of summer, I sent the interns a survey. Last week, I sent a follow-up, asking them to compare their answers from the beginning of summer to the end. Below, you’ll learn about some of their experiences and, I hope, see a little more into what our worlds have been over the past two and a half months (and even longer, in some cases!). I’m entirely grateful that Penguin Random House became my Penguin Random Home for the summer. – Victoria Rabuse
What surprised you during your first week? How much I’d be working with numbers and Excel.
What are you most looking forward to learning? About how Sales works with creative departments to sell books.
What, specifically, do you do every day? What’s your PRH routine like? I have a few daily assignments and spend a lot of time working on grids in Excel.
What do you like best about the internship after weeks 1 and 2? Everyone is friendly!
What’s the most fun thing you’ve done so far at work? Meet everyone in the office.
What’s your favorite part of summer in NYC (not work related)? I love Central Park in the summer.
Favorite book of all time? THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck.
Number of Books Hoping to Read/Actually Read: 8-10/5
What was the best part of your internship? Sitting in on the spring 2018 Sales conference.
What’s one thing you wish you had been able to do this summer? Pitch a book to buyers.
Are you considering going into publishing as a career? If so, in what capacity? I’m interested in editorial and managing editorial. I like working on my own writing, though, so I am considering magazine publishing as well.
What’s one piece of advice for the next round of interns? Make friends with other interns!
What, specifically, do you do every day? What’s your PRH routine like? There’s really no typical day. I could be going through the slush pile and doing mailings, or I could be taking on publicity, marketing, or design projects. I just carry my to-dos over from the next day and expect to see new, more
time-sensitive projects come up as I go along.
What surprised you during your first week? I was surprised at the sheer amount of tasks I was assigned across different departments (because the imprint is so small) only in the first week.
What’s your favorite part of summer in NYC (not work related)? The sheer amount of free, fun things to do, either with your friends or by yourself.
Favorite book of all time? A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
Number of Books Hoping to Read/Actually Read: 11/6
What was the most challenging part of your internship? Learning to prioritize certain projects over others and knowing how and when to take initiative.
What was the best part of your internship? While I loved the variety of work I was able to do, I’d say the people I got to work with were the best part. A cop-out, I know, but it’s true!
What’s one piece of advice for the next round of interns? Publishing is more than editorial, so don’t go in with tunnel vision – there are so many departments that all interact with books and their authors in different ways. There are so many people at PRH willing to talk to you about what they do, so keep an open mind and take advantage of that resource. A little email goes a long way!
How did you end up interning at PRH for this summer? What was the pre-process like? I met former HR generalist Ali Biber while we were working a Columbia University recruiting event. I was with Audible as a Researcher at the time, and Ali was working the PRH booth. From there, it was a simple process. My contract ended at Audible and I wanted to continue working with Data. Turns out I also still get to work with books.
What surprised you during your first week? I had three separate computers in my first week.
What are you most looking forward to learning? Oh! Pipelines. So much of what’s done on the technical side is in managing the flow and transformation of resources. Familiarizing myself with these systems is exciting…bear in mind, I’m a mathematician.
Are there any challenges you already see coming? The aforementioned three computers speak to a challenge: set-up. There are many moving pieces on the Data Science side. Even just knowing where things are, is a challenge.
What, specifically, do you do every day? What’s your PRH routine like? At any time I have open: a terminal window for talking to servers, an SFTP client running to shuttle files between my machine and the server, Slack and Outlook for team communication, a browser for research, and an editor for coding. Outside of meetings—and book club!—I move about tending my software menagerie.
Number of Books Hoping to Read/Actually Read: I hope many, expect several, and have read few/Not as many as I’d hoped.
What was the most challenging part of your internship? New technologies. The best and most difficult part of my time at PRH was in developing new skills in Docker, R, and Stan.
Are you considering going into publishing as a career? If so, in what capacity? I’m considering PRH, certainly, but in a technical capacity as a Data Scientist.
What’s one piece of advice for the next round of interns? Ask questions. Eat with your team. As much as possible, learn from people around you.
How did you end up interning at PRH this summer? During my second year at Barnard, Penguin Random House attend a career fair and I connected with a PRH recruiter. I applied for a semester internship program in the digital development department, which was a fantastic introduction to the company. As an economics major, I decided to re-apply to the internship program in an area that was more focused on my interests and skills. Since fall of 2016, I have been interning in the International Finance department. Every time that I interviewed for internship positions I had unexpectedly personal and comfortable conversations with such accomplished leaders and mentors in the company. Clearly, I didn’t want to leave!
What surprised you during your first week? Even as an intern my contributions are valuable. Already I can physically see my work being implemented into decks and presentations that are used as visual tools to explain financial trends and summaries to necessary business managers.
What are you most looking forward to learning? I’m most looking forward to learning how to interpret a P&L sheet quickly, gleaning key insights.
What’s the most fun thing you’ve done so far at work? I got to sit in on a board meeting with both the CFO and CEO of Penguin Random House!
Favorite book of all time: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie
Number of Books Hoping to Read/Actually Read: 3/2
What was the most challenging part of your internship? I was fortunate to be invited to department-wide meeting this summer. It was sometimes a challenge to understand the financial and publishing terms that were often used throughout the meetings. Consequently, it was also a challenge to integrate these new terms into my vocabulary. It is helpful to write down and ask your supervisor to define the terms after meetings! My supervisor was more than happy to go over definitions and concepts with me.
What’s one piece of advice for the next round of interns? If you meet someone in a different position or department that you have an interest in, don’t be afraid to request a meeting for coffee or lunch at their convenience!
What, specifically, do you do every day? What’s your PRH routine like? Every day is different in publicity and marketing. I do a lot of mailings. Sometimes I do research, take Instagram pictures, or other (fun) activities like making playlists or writing Facebook posts. There is no strict routine and that’s why I love marketing/publicity. It’s never boring.
What surprised you during your first week? How fast 9-5 really goes.
What are you most looking forward to learning? I am looking forward to learning how a marketing and publicity campaign for a book is launched, from its pre-stages to the end.
Are there any challenges you already see coming? Organizing all the tasks and making sure things don’t take longer than they are supposed to.
What do you like best about the internship after weeks 1 and 2? The people!
What’s the most fun thing you’ve done so far at work? Walking around the West Village to take Instagram pictures.
Favorite book of all time? THE NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahiri
Number of Books Hoping to Read/Actually Read: 15/8
What was the most challenging part of your internship? Trying to balance short term and long term projects while dedicating enough time to both.
What was the best part of your internship? Everything! I loved the people and the opportunities I had.
Are you considering going into publishing as a career? If so, in what capacity? Yes, probably continuing on with the publicity and marketing path.
What’s one piece of advice for the next round of interns? Be open and don’t be afraid to ask for things you want to try and learn!