Adapting as an Intern

In the two weeks since my last blog post, I have settled into my position as an accounting and tax intern at Devaney and Durkin. The majority of my work is for a financial services company connected to the CPA firm Devaney and Durkin. I have noticed that as I gain more experience, I can complete more tasks throughout the workday. Some days, I can work on two or three different projects. As I step through the personal tax process with a specific client, I can see how each step connects to the next one. It is interesting to learn the differences between taxes in the United States and Ireland. Additionally, I have been working on various accounting projects for small businesses. The staff members at Devaney and Durkin have been extremely helpful, and I enjoy working with them. In the next few weeks, I hope to continue learning as much as possible during this unique experience. 

Being a dancer for nineteen years has certainly taught me a few things about flexibility. Adaptability and flexibility are crucial soft skills that I utilize every day during my internship. My workday is never the same. I am constantly working on new accounting and tax projects and meeting with the staff members. However, a few specific cultural differences are difficult to grow accustomed to during this virtual internship. The first example is the format of times and dates in Ireland. The time in Ireland is always five hours ahead, but they also use the 24-hour clock. It has taken a little getting used to as I let my coworkers know when I will start the next day. The date format used in Ireland puts the day of the month first and then the month before the year. Most of the work that I do deals with bank statements and transactions for different kinds of accounts. Whenever I have to type or look at updates, I double-check the date to make sure I’m using the correct format. As I use it more often, it is getting easier to recognize and use their date format.

Another example of a cultural difference is small talk. Before I started interning at an Irish company, multiple sources explained that people in Ireland love small talk and could discuss simple topics for hours. However, I have not experienced this during my internship. I am always the first one to say good morning or have a nice day. Some of the staff members ask how my weekend was, but that is the extent of small talk during calls or meetings. I do not know anything about the staff members, and they do not know much about me. Most of the work at Devaney and Durkin is done quickly because many deadlines must be met. I think this is why the other staff members are always polite but are often focused and to the point. 

The cultural differences I have experienced in the workplace have to do with communication. When I began my internship, the directions given to me were very clear, and I did not have to ask many questions. As I work on more complex projects, the instructions are no longer clear. I always take notes on instructions during calls, but I am still often confused and have to ask many questions. This causes me to be nervous that I am completing a task incorrectly. However, I have learned to be comfortable asking a lot of questions and letting the other staff members know when I am confused. 

Formality in office communications is another cultural difference I have experienced. All of my communications with the office staff, excluding my supervisor, are done through Microsoft Teams. I use the chat and the screen sharing functions to work with the staff members. The messages that they send are often very informal, without capitalization and punctuation. On the other hand, my communications are a little more formal because that is what we are taught in business classes. Another place this difference is evident is emails to my supervisor. I always make sure to make the emails polite, concise, and formal. The emails I receive back are informal and not very concise. I continue to write my emails more formally because I want to be respectful to my supervisor.

Although these cultural differences are evident throughout my workday, I think they make my internship interesting and meaningful. Learning about another culture is why I chose to apply for a virtual internship. As I continue working with Devaney and Durkin, I am looking forward to adding a global perspective to my studies at the University of Pittsburgh.