As a Design student at Kendall College of Art and Design, User Experience is not a specific major, but when it was incorporated into a few of my classes, I knew that’s what I wanted to pursue. I realized that to learn all aspects of user-centered design, I needed to find real work outside of the classroom.
When I found the internship opportunity at CQL, I couldn’t wait to get started, but even then I had no idea how much I’d learn. In the last six months, I’ve had the opportunity to do internal design work (company branding and marketing designs) and work for clients on anything from websites to application design to brand style guides.
At the end of this semester, I have to turn in a reflection paper in order to receive school credit for my internship. One of the suggested writing topics is, “If you could have the president's ear for 30 minutes, what would you say or ask?”
After interning at CQL for six months now, this question makes me laugh. Every morning I walk by the desk of CQL’s founder (that’s right—desk, not office) and we both say “good morning” to each other. Every day I talk to or collaborate with at least one of the four owners. There are no secretaries or even closed offices, and the owners all sit at desks with the rest of us. You can literally lean over and ask the president a question, without ever leaving your seat.
What would I ask if I had one of their ears for 30 minutes? I’m not really sure, because whenever I have a question I simply walk over and ask them.
So what have I learned at CQL?
Just a few weeks after I started at CQL, we launched www.harvestbox.com. On launch day, we had a company-wide meeting to “experience Harvest Box.” I expected an overhead projector showing the live website, to be walked through the process of ordering a product, and then we'd all go back to work. I was very wrong.
The whole office gathered in the open space around a cooler of beer and ice cream sandwiches (which, honestly, what more could you want?). Once everyone was present, Kurt described how we helped grow this company from a napkin sketch to a fully functioning venture. CQL praised everyone involved, there was applause and laughing, and finally a toast to the team for making it happen. Everyone hooted and hollered and we all took a picture with the Harvest Box logo, which was sent to the customer with a heart-felt thank you.
Not too long after, we would launch www.AOP.com and have a similar celebration. It became clear right away that CQL values recognizing the effort put forth by every single employee and was grateful for the customer.
I have done more through my internship at CQL than I ever have through school or any other job. Through my internship, I had the opportunity to participate in a news article advocating for West Michigan women working in technology, which would later turn into a radio interview furthering the discussion about women in tech, something I feel very strongly about.
I also participated in my first 5k through CQL. The company sponsored a run called Bark in the Dark to benefit The Humane Society of West Michigan (animals are another subject I feel very, very strongly about).
Now, I'm even doing volunteer branding work for the Ronald McDonald House of West Michigan through a connection made with a coworker who is on the Board.
CQL and its employees have an incredible sense of community. If it matters to someone on our team, they’re willing to back you up.
I love walking into work everyday. There is a lighthearted, easygoing atmosphere at CQL that makes it incredibly enjoyable to work here.
Whether it’s someone playing The Blues Brothers in the office, celebrating the fact that we all made it to Friday, Doug’s Corgi running around, or Brandon bringing in some of his homebrewed beer, everyone is in good spirits and enjoying the work.
For my 21st birthday, I was surprised with my own, specially brewed beer titled “Intern Abby” with an awesome custom label. And when we couldn’t get a KittenUber to come to our office recently, Mark, (our president) brought in his three cats for us to play with instead.
These are the moments when I realize how lucky I am to work in a culture like we have here at CQL.
The biggest and most important reason I love my internship is because I'm treated like a valued part of this company. I’m doing real work for real clients, and I’m invited to meetings where my opinions matter.
I’m not doing coffee runs or mindless tasks; I’m polishing and expanding my professional skillset. I’m being pushed and tested, but coached along the way because everyone wants me to succeed.
As my first “real world” experience, I am incredibly grateful to everything CQL has taught me.