For Skype interviews, get a space in the library

Yesterday The Consumerist linked to an article called “10 Tips to Shred the Competition in your Skype interview.” Author Jenny Foss’s 5th tip reminded me of a conundrum I had toward the end of my sophomore year when I was interviewing for summer jobs and internships. Here’s the tip:

Don’t even think about doing it in a coffee shop. Quiet, clean room. Absolutely no environmental hustle and bustle, none.  Oh, and when I say “quiet, clean room?” Assume I mean “quiet, clean room with no weird crap in the background.”

Two years ago I interviewed for a lead instructor position at a kids’ tech summer camp. Continue reading

The difference between college and professional projects

In my summer internship, one of my tasks was designing a customer survey form. My supervisor gave me about two dozen questions that needed to be answered in various ways. A few were fill-in-the-blank, but of the rest half needed to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, and the other half had to be ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. This would have been pretty simple if I were able to write the html myself, but I needed to use an existing form assembly tool so that we could import the responses directly into our database. The form tool was not very sophisticated: I had control over the CSS, but not the HTML, so any changes I made were applied to all questions. I tried to find styling that would look good on both scales, which was nearly impossible with the HTML I was stuck with.

So rather than pull back and say, “To design this form well, I need more consistency. All the ranking questions should be 1 to 5,” I kept editing the CSS, trying to find a way to make the two styles look the way I wanted. I was so stuck on how to make different ranking scales look nice that I couldn’t step back and see that using the same scale would be much simpler. It took a review from a coworker in marketing to point this out, and when he did, all I could think was, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Continue reading

Is it sexist for my supervisor to buy me food?

I’m pleased to say that this year I’ve secured a summer internship. I am happy to be working this summer for a local tech company I’ve interned with before, and they seem happy to have me on again. I started work this week, and things are going great.

Well, for the most part.

On my first day, my supervisor invited me to lunch with him. There was good food, but afterwards I didn’t get my cash in quick enough, and he footed the bill. I thought that maybe lunch on the intern’s first day was a company thing, and he would seek reimbursement. No big deal. But yesterday as I was eating lunch at my desk, he came back from a fast food place, said cheerily, “I brought you back something,” and put a cookie on my desk.

To be frank, it made me uncomfortable. Something didn’t feel right about my superior buying food for me. The question I wanted to ask, but obviously couldn’t, was “Would you have bought this for me if I were a guy?”

It probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if a similar situation hadn’t occurred at my last internship. My supervisor at that time noticed that I preferred not to accompany him and our coworkers to the coffee shop, so one day he said, “Here, you should come with us more often,” and handed me a gift card for the coffee shop. I accepted it, assuming it contained a token amount. I was shocked when after my first purchase after work, the cashier told me I had $47.29 remaining on the card. I wish now that I had gone back to my supervisor, given him back the card, and told him I couldn’t accept it. Instead, I was embarrassed, so I didn’t say anything and kept using the gift card.

I know my supervisors were trying to do me a favor, but their actions felt patronizing. I like cookies as much as the next person, but accepting gifts from my coworkers makes me feel belittled. They’re saying with their actions, “Even though you’re a competent person we’re glad to have on our team, we’d like to help you out with food, and that’s okay because you’re a girl.”

So in response to my supervisor’s generosity yesterday, I grimaced and said, “Oh, I’d prefer if you didn’t buy food for me.” He said, “Oh, okay,” and the day went on. I’m glad I spoke up for myself, and I’m sure it won’t be a problem with him going forward, but I can’t help but wonder if I handled the situation appropriately. I would love to hear what other people have to say on the matter. Does this kind of thing happen to other female interns?