I cannot believe the summer is already ending. It seems like the start of the IIP program was only yesterday. It has been an amazing journey and I am excited to sum it up in this final post. First, I would like to thank my donor (I will keep the name anonymous) for being so generous as to award a scholarship to me. Without their help, I would not have been able to participate in this year’s program which has made a great impact on my college experience and future career.
My internship was with a company called the StayCity Group in their finance department, specifically with the accounts payable team. StayCity is a Dublin-based aparthotel chain that operates apartment-style hotels across Europe in major cities. They are growing fast and opening many new hotels within the next year located across the continent with plans to expand into North America.
I started my internship with an introduction to the company and to Ireland with an HR associate. She was very welcoming and taught me a bit about what to expect from working for an Irish company. It was great to hear about her experience starting out in Ireland and she was originally from Argentina and came to Ireland not too long ago. After the introduction and Q and A session with HR, I was turned over to the finance team. The call was loud and full of jokes; it was not the formal atmosphere I was expecting. The team introduced themselves and we had a nice chat. I finished my first day by learning the basics of what the team does and how to operate Microsoft Navision.
Unfortunately, I found out on the second day that I would not be given access to the company VPN due to me having to use a personal computer for work. This meant that I could not do the original tasks I was meant to be doing. However, I was able to learn how to use the company system through my colleagues’ computers via Microsoft teams. I learned how to post invoices to the vendor accounts, how to contact vendors for information, and how the team uses NAV to manage accounts. Since I could not access NAV directly, the team was able to give me new tasks I would have otherwise not have been able to do. These included writing up training documents for the team to use for new hires, account reconciliations, managing extranet portals, and creating a payment system for German payments.
I spent some days checking statements against our NAV records looking for missing invoices. I would then ask a colleague to check the open PIs or unallocated documents for things that were missing. If it was truly missing, then I would contact the vendor for the documents. I was also tasked with fixing all the vendor online portals the team uses to retrieve invoices from that vendor. These needed a lot of updating where I needed to fix the logins, retrieve invoices, and sometimes contact the company to help me fix them. This task helped me to learn to work independently and make decisions. Additionally, while doing account reconciliations I learned how to write reports for my colleagues. In one instance I remember someone asking me to rewrite one of my reports. I made the first report with long explanations for each invoice detailing their amounts and how it was allocated in NAV. The colleague who enlisted my help returned it asking me to take away the comments and show her amounts and balances. She said, “I am a numbers person, so speak to me with numbers since that is what I know.” I rewrote that report using a table instead, and she liked it. The rest of my responsibilities included helping to write SOPs (Standards of Operations) documents and working on the excel for managing the new German vendors and payments. When writing SOPs, I was tasked with taking notes while a colleague showed me the various daily and monthly procedures for payments and invoicing. I would then polish my notes into a cohesive “how-to” document for the team to review. The team used SOPs to teach me the things I would have been doing if I had access to the VPN. I was able to learn many technical things such as: how VAT is allocated for international and domestic invoices, payment terms, what must be on an invoice in order to post it, how credit notes work, what is the general ledger, etc. Finally, my favorite task was organizing the German vender excel sheet. Germany receives payments on 14-day terms instead of 30-days. The company pays German venders bi-monthly, and this requires us to complete manual payment runs. Additionally, the company is opening new properties in Germany and acquiring new venders daily. The excel file tracks the posting/payment status of German invoices as well as lists out translates and short vender descriptions in English to make posting these invoices much faster and easier. I liked that it was a job where I needed to think about how I could make this process more efficient and how can I organize the information for it to be usable.
Overall, I gained many new technical and soft skills. Professionally, I got a glimpse of what is expected in the workplace and how to communicate effectively with my co-workers. The technical knowledge will help me to market myself as an outstanding candidate in the job market, but the experience I had learning how to interact with the team is priceless. I was working for an Irish company on a team with members from Greece, Ireland, Brazil, and Ecuador. Each person required me to adjust to their very different work and communication styles. I feel now that I am prepared to enter and do well in a highly diverse workplace. Personally, this experience has cultured me, and I learned some new things about life in Europe. I remember one of my co-workers showed me pictures of his hometown. He told me many of the towns are surrounded by these giant walls (I thought they were castle ruins at first) because that was how people defended their settlements long ago. I did not realize how small Ireland is until my colleagues talked about how they used to take the train to Dublin from their towns in order to visit work. According to the team, Dublin is the biggest city in Ireland and the rest of the country is made up of small towns where everyone can easily reach the city. People also frequently travel out of the country to the UK or other parts of Europe. This also makes being multilingual nearly essential for Europeans. This is very different to me as we don’t have easy access to major cities or international travel due to distance.
As this program concludes, I plan to share what I learned about Irish culture with my classmates, and I hope to use the skills I acquired on the job to promote myself in the job market and to be a valuable addition to my future employer. Thanks again to my donor for supporting me to have this experience, and to Program Leaders at Pitt for guiding us through this journey. I wish my fellow students well in their future endeavors and I look forward to reading all your final posts.