After my first week working in an Irish non-profit, I noticed how casual the setting in this sector is. My office feels informal and open, which was obvious to me on the first day after looking at the set up of the desks. Employees don’t work in fully contained cubicles, but rather are separated from their colleagues by tiny borders around each desk. Conversation can flow freely between person to person. Additionally, everyone in the office knows what other people are working on because they can see everyone’s computer screens and hear all their phone calls. Although the space is open and informal, the employees still work hard and there are long periods in the day where little or no conversation takes place regardless of the capability to do otherwise. One of the other Pitt students here also works in a non-profit and her experience is much of the same. I think this partly has to do with the collaborative nature of non-profits and the goal they are working to achieve. They are not simply crunching numbers or working on spreadsheets. They have to communicate with donors and network with the public and other organizations. The sector has a large emphasis on communication.
Besides the set up of the office, the people seem to just have relaxed attitudes. People roll in to work at different times all day. My supervisor told me I could start at anytime from 9:30/10. This was confusing for me as most businesses in America would explicitly layout the hours they expect you to work. I decided to just show up promptly at 9:30 this week, and found myself arriving before much of the office. I think I will continue to arrive at this time, as taking a later bus may make me crunched for time.
So far, the organization of Gorta Self-Help Africa doesn’t seem much different from what I would expect of a non-profit in America. The biggest difference is the fact that everyone is so relaxed about time, but that’s not anything shocking. I have yet to feel a great deal of culture shock with my internship/office. I have been a little bit surprised by their reaction to me working there, though. Everyone had told us how friendly and talkative Irish people would be, and how they’d “slag” us, and ask us questions about America. For me, this has not been the case. My coworkers are friendly and cordial, but nobody really goes out of their way to talk to me. I haven’t been asked about America once, which I’m surprised about especially since Trump is such a salient topic. Nor have I had to explain something that I said that they didn’t understand, or vice versa, which I know has happened to some of the other students. All in all, I enjoy the work setting and feel like it could facilitate more conversation and interaction in the future.