My first week at Innovatemap as an Xtern back in June 2021, I was new to tech, nervous about this new-to-me marketing job, and had no idea what to expect in the coming months. I awkwardly introduced myself to the team, and they embraced me with open arms. Everyone went out of their way to engage with me by asking me questions and sharing about themselves. The environment was efficient, exciting, fast-paced, and all very foreign to me, but nonetheless very welcoming.
Though there are many anecdotes I could draw to show how truly exceptional my experience as an intern was, my favorite occurred not long after I joined the team. I sat down to have lunch at the village table and, to my surprise, Mike Reynolds sat down across from me. He asked me questions about myself and shared about himself humbly, treating me as an equal rather than a subordinate. At this point, I still had very traditional, hierarchical ideas about the workplace; the CEO has an office and engages with his exec team, who then pass information to their managers and the chain continues. A CEO’s role did not include having a casual lunch with the intern. But Mike doesn’t conform, and Innovatemap is no ordinary workplace.
Early on, my team showed me the importance of trust to happiness at work. I didn’t need to clock in because the team trusted me to show up on time. I was told it’s okay to take breaks to do the crossword with Spencer, because we trust each other to get our work done. The team encouraged me to spontaneously take a long walk on the Monon with Jesse and Erica, and to head out for the day an hour early if I felt I needed it, because they trusted that I can manage my time and get my work done.
The mutual respect and humility extended to me by Mike and the team in my first week is a staple of Innovatemap’s culture. Without a hierarchical foundation, we work in circles, structured to promote growth at every level. Each team member contributes a different function to the circle based on their goals, interests, and strengths. Interestingly though, the circle changes, and your role in the circle also changes. Every team member faces different opportunities for leadership, regardless of seniority. We lift each other up.
While I supported tasks like expenses, event planning, and marketing strategy, I owned client stories — not just “my name is on this and I can put it on my resume,” but real ownership. My mentor, Sara Croft, allowed me to experiment. She gave me the resources I needed to solve problems in a way I could be proud of, which made my successes all the more rewarding because I knew I’d earned them. When I asked questions, Sara would often ask me what I thought the answer was so she could listen to my logic and learn more about how my brain works. I always received honest detailed feedback that helped me get to the why.
The why is a necessity here.
An unfortunate reality for many interns is that, because they are temporary, they get the “sparknotes” version of a full-time position. Busy work is not uncommon, and there is never enough time to experience it all.
I’m very lucky, then, because my experience was the opposite. From day 1, I felt a real part of the team. My coworkers invited me to work functions and non-work functions alike. I didn’t need to prove myself, because I was accepted and embraced from the beginning. This meant I was never afraid to ask questions, and even though I felt the sorrows of my last day creeping just around the corner, my new friends took the time to get to know me.
A great example of this — once, I asked Jon Moore, UX principal and very busy man, who I should interview for a story. I asked him this because I did not understand at the time how exceptionally busy he was. Instead of giving me the answer and wishing me well, he took half an hour to map out the entire structure of the company. In typical Jon Moore fashion, it was thorough, yet clear, and afterward, a lightbulb went off in my head. I never had to ask again who to interview, because I now understood the differences between the Product Brand team and the Product Management team. And not only the differences between them and who goes where, but why those areas work together to make something greater than the sum of their parts. Even though he thought I’d be leaving in a few weeks, he rewarded my curiosity with meaningful dialogue to make me better.
The truly remarkable part of my experience — the reason that I never missed a day of work, smiled until my face hurt, and accepted my post-grad job offer within moments of receiving it — was the people. My experience with Mike in the Village, though an industry unicorn, is nothing new to Innovatemap. Since my first week, Mike and I have gotten much more familiar with each other. He celebrates my wins, even the small ones. We talk about our love for Eddie Vedder and Wrigley Field, and he hugged me on my 21st birthday.
Everywhere I look here, there is inspiration, excellence, kindness, opportunity, leadership, and trust. We’re a company of leaders. It’s the reason that I absolutely love going to work everyday. I enjoy it so much, in fact, that I drive hours down to the office on breaks from University to have lunch in the village with Mike, do the crossword with Spencer, and take a walk on the Monon with Jesse and Erica.