By Manpreet Dhesi, on 11 September 2013
UCL Student, Carlo Martuscelli, took part in UCL Advances SME internship programme and worked for WikiFestivals. He gives us an insight into working for an SME and what he’s learnt.
It would be hard to overstate how lucky I have been in my placement at the UCL Advances SME internship programme. Out of the four job options that were on offer, three of them were related to fashion and cosmetics. Knowing my strengths, and more importantly my weaknesses, i.e. my absolute ignorance of even the basic conventions of attire in civilised society, I grudgingly chose WikiJob as the company to work in for the two month duration of my internship programme.
My first day started, entirely due to my own stupidity, badly. For some reason I was convinced it was starting on Wednesday; Sunday night I had the foresight to double check, and lo and behold my placement started at the beginning of the working week, how bizarre. I had worked in an office before, but just doing clerical duties: cleaning stuff up and setting up conference spaces. I was unsure how I should dress, tie or no tie? Was a jacket overkill? I settled for a white, button-down shirt, black pants, and leather shoes. No tie. Clean shaved, tidy, who could complain? It was only in the tube that I realised I was dressed like a waiter.
Upon my arrival I was greeted by Edward Mellett, one of the two founders of the company- Chris Muktar, the other one, was away hitchhiking across America. I was surprised by how young Ed was, not much older than me. My worries about attire were clearly misplaced, t-shirt and jeans was the closest thing to a uniform in the office. Ed filled me in to what I would be doing, and how I could help. Much to my surprise, and I won’t lie, delight, I would be working for WikiFestivals.com, WikiJob’s sister company. WikiFestivals is a website with a wiki-style user created database of festivals, as well as a forum and blog dedicated to music festivals. I like to think I know a little about music, so this was something I could get behind.
The initial orientation was a little overwhelming. I would be updating the blogs section, writing daily articles, that part was straight forward enough. Then we got to search engine optimisation, link building, marketing, all things that were new to me. I dutifully took notes and tried to keep up. Having been introduced to my other co-workers, Alex and Dmitri, I was left to my own devices. This is one of the big advantages, and at the same time potential pitfalls, of working in a SME; everyone has a lot to do, and there aren’t enough people to do it. No one is going to be looking over your shoulder, breathing down your neck to do work. In practice this means that independent-minded people will get on well, while people that need guidance and leadership might feel a little lost.
So far the experience has been great. I’ve learned what search engine optimisation entails, I’ve learnt the difference between black-hat and white-hat SEO. I’ve written news letters and press releases, as well as done the hard, thankless, but absolutely necessary work of calling people up to flog it. I’ve practiced my writing everyday, so that now I can churn out 500 words in half an hour while before it was the mental equivalent of having one of my teeth pulled. I’ve learnt about some really bizarre music festivals (you can read my article about Japan’s Kanamara Matsuri here, NSFW). One of the best parts is that I can get free tickets to music festivals as press, a privilege I have yet to abuse.
Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I would really recommend UCL’s SME internship programme. My only apprehension is that while you definitely do learn valuable skills, it doesn’t prepare you for the grim reality of the corporate workplace.
In 2013, UCL Advances funded 100 students and recent graduates to work in some of London’s most exciting SMEs. The opportunities allowed students to get involved in all aspects of business, readied them for the real world with employability skills, and offered employers who would not have otherwise been able to take on paid interns an injection of fresh energy and resources to grow.