Jacob, aged 17 from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Elstree, jumped at the chance to intern with us this summer, despite his detest for robots (we don’t judge here at FIRST). After being chucked into the deep end managing finances and social media planning, he’s made it out the other side wiser and pro-robots…. well, almost. Now Jacob is sharing his eight days of learning to entertain you all. It was great having you Jacob, we think you should take up a side hustle in standup comedy! Enjoy folks and mind you don’t choke on your tea.
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I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about my experience interning here and why I can’t encourage you all enough to do the same.
The first time I ever did an internship I spent 90% of my time doing jobs that the staff couldn’t be bothered to do and or have the time to. The other 10% was spent either sitting around not really doing much or simply being their personal assistant, making tea and coffee. So naturally, that’s what I was expecting to do here; it couldn’t have been more different.
I only spent eight days working here, but in just eight days I completed more than I have done in any other eight-day period of my 17 years on earth. I’ve never been massively involved with robotics, technology or STEM, so you’re probably sat here reading this thinking ‘Well then why would you intern at a robotics charity?’ which, to be fair, is a very valid question and let me tell you the answer. For me, personally, there are two reasons.
The first is because when I read about FIRST Tech Challenge UK online, the general ethos of preparing the young generation for jobs that don’t exist yet really excited me. I’ve never been that passionate for technology and it’s charities like these that instil that underlying love for the world of technology that I, unfortunately, never had. There was also one statement from the CEO, Ed, that particularly touched me: “I want this charity to be out of business in the next ten years” and having done a lot of charity work in the past and never heard this before, I knew this was the place that I wanted to work.
The second reason is that very simply, I knew I wouldn’t be touching a robot (not that I’m a hygiene freak or anything). My internship here has been spent working on the management side of the charity, from analysing finances through to market research and even helping to manage social media.
My first task was to code, describe, filter and essentially organise the organisation’s finances. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve never been that great with technology, and when I said that I mean even my basic excel spreadsheet skills were below par. So, when the head of finance, Muktar, placed a spreadsheet with a list of over 500 different expenses in front of me on just the first day, you can imagine how scared I was.
I had to make a good first impression. However, the office environment here — despite giving me enough space for my own independent work — was so friendly that I was able to ask anyone and everyone for help and by the end of the day I considered myself to be a bit of an excel mastermind. This spreadsheet didn’t just help me to ‘excel’ at my computing skills 😉; it helped me understand the financial side of an organisation. I’ve always been someone very set on working in the finance industry, like many other young people my age, however, I didn’t really understand what the term meant.
Working with Muktar, Ed and the rest of the team, I was able to understand how significant an accountant is to a business and how companies have to: budget, manage their expenses, overhead payments, balance their income vs expenses, track their spending to ensure airtight records for tax purposes and most importantly, how damaging amazon can be to a company credit card. Thus, despite having a rather hefty task in front of me, it really didn’t feel like it as every subtask helped me understand something new. It was fundamentally a giant learning curve.
Aforementioned, the staff here at FIRST UK really are great. Being a 17-year-old student, the only work I’ve ever done is for school, so I was always going to have a shaky start having never done any of the tasks that I was given. However, the staff made me feel welcome and at no point judged or laughed at me for not being able to do something (unless they did when I left the office :/) and hence made me feel very comfortable in asking for help. They even invited me into one of their team meetings to see how they functioned as a group, and even though I hadn’t been there long they were very open to my suggestions.
So, ultimately, I really did love working here at FIRST UK, and no, you don’t have to be a robot wizard to work here, you just have to be determined to work hard. If you’re thinking about whether or not to intern here, don’t. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Everything I did here had a learning opportunity and at no point was I bored or without a task in my hand. But, the most important reason of them all is their snack station. It’s unreal (they also have great air con here too). On a more serious note, the ethos of this place alone should be enough to work here and everything that follows is just an added bonus.
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For ongoing internship opportunities hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org with a blurb about why you’re awesome and what you’d like to learn – we’ll take it from there!