I can hardly believe I’ve already been in Berlin for a week. We have already seen and done so much in such a short time. Last week, we had extensive tours of the city and saw many famous landmarks. We also were able to meet with members of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and the Green Party to learn about Germany’s political climate.
Today was the first day of my internship, and it was very different from what I was expecting. I am interning at a fintech startup, and the employees there are highly educated and have a significant amount of experience in the field. Their website is professional, organized, and advanced, so I expected the work environment to be very serious. Much to my surprise, the attire was pretty casual and the environment was fairly relaxed. Another intern and I met with the founder in the morning, and he took time out of his busy schedule to treat us to lunch. As he talked about the company and its vision, he told us that he did not want interns to be viewed as lesser or irrelevant. He said that in his office, interns and employees were treated as the same with equally important responsibilities. This mindset was evident in the way that the team was so welcoming and helpful to us on our first day.
The fintech industry is growing very quickly and there are many available opportunities. I think the key to success in this industry, specifically for startups, is to have a strong concept backed by clear evidence. This is necessary in order to procure funding from investors as well as gain name recognition in the market. Even after only one day of this internship, I can already see how important funding is if the company expects to be able to take on new projects or make improvements to their product, especially if those require new technology.
Behind all of this is the ability to speak confidently and competently about the company, to be knowledgeable about the competition, and to be personable. These skills will put the company in the best position to increase support from investors. They will be able to clearly understand the vision for the company as well as realize the benefits of its product, and how their investment will in turn benefit them. Additionally, it is imperative to understand Microsoft Excel, as much of the company’s data is compiled in lengthy and complex spreadsheets. In this company specifically, it would be very beneficial to be fluent in German, as many of the employees communicate with each other in German by default, even though they know English. All of the files and data are in German as well. While there are many available resources available to translate these files, such as Google Translate, communication would be smoother and clearer if I was able to join them in speaking German.
My company is seeking to create a product that services all of Europe, and unlike U.S.-based companies, they have to consider multiple languages, countries, and cultures. Even a very large company in the U.S. will only have to consider one language, government, and potentially one set of regulations. A pan-European company faces the unique challenge of having to consider a multitude of factors specific to each country in order to make the product available to and usable by more customers. This makes it very difficult for the company to expand its reach and develop rapidly. The process of considering all these factors, planning and mapping out the changes, integrating them into the service, etc is very time consuming and makes it difficult to gain influence.
I am very excited about what the next eight weeks have in store for me professionally and personally. I feel like I have already learned so much about Berlin’s culture and have been able to experience some of the differences between Europe and America, however small they are. I have also been able to see how working in a startup is very different from working in a corporate setting. Since my company is very small, it is more laid back than if there were many more employees. We even have a company dog that roams around the office all day! I am excited to learn how startups forge their own paths in their markets, set precedents for themselves, and create routines and patterns where there were none before. After only a week, I have learned so much and feel prepared for what is yet to come.
Until next time,