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From Internship to Leadership

Time’s preciousness as a resource notwithstanding, Emerge recently asked its four interns to carve out an hour or so out of their schedules and write individual testimonials about their internship experiences at our company.  If approached honestly by all parties involved, such a project can be quite educational for any business, especially a burgeoning health-tech start-up like ours.

It’s not hard to surmise why a student or recent graduate would want to toil a summer away as an intern.  The connections to be forged, the promise of a beefed-up résumé and the prospect of glimpsing the inner-workings of an operating business are all obvious incentives for spending several months as the office eager beaver, politely performing what are often thankless tasks.

What about the flip side then?  Why bring aboard an intern?  This, too, seems obvious.  There is work aplenty to be done and fulltime employees must manage their time effectively.  Time-consuming office drudgery is best tasked out to the part-timers.  That, in a nutshell, is what interns are good for, right?

Well, no, not really.  Sure, interns could be restricted to office temp work.  Coffee, after all, isn’t going to go out and get itself.  However, for those organizations that approach decisions with an eye on the long term, there is valuable, far-reaching potential to hiring an intern.

Notice that we specified “hiring” an intern.  Emerge hires interns, which means we pay them for their work.  That’s worth mentioning because not all companies do this.  Quite often, an internship is considered its own reward.  By paying an intern, our message is essentially: “We literally value the work you will be performing and believe it will advance us as a company.  Now go forth and live up to that standard.”

Advancing the company entails more than just gopher errands, filing papers and stuffing envelopes.  Those tasks, while necessary, might inch the company forward across a given day’s finish line; but they do not measurably advance the business toward its main goals.

Looking back at our own internship experiences outside Emerge, we mainly recall having to perform in-the-moment tasks.  Rarely, if ever, were we challenged to think outside the box in which we were placed; to learn the business in ways that would set us up to eventually take a permanent position within the organization or industry.  We never felt that we were part of the effort to push the organization towards success.  Rather, we knew that our purpose was to simply help it get through the day.

To be clear, no business comes into existence with the stated purpose of hiring part-timers in order to inspire them or make them feel valued.  But the management of a forward-thinking modern business realizes that it is in the best interest of the enterprise to do just that.  Doing so taps into raw talent and enthusiasm, exposes the company to fresh perspectives and reveals a temp’s potential to eventually become a full-time contributing leader in the company.

Diego Acosta, one of Emerge‘s four Client Experience Interns sums up the two paradigms quite succinctly in his testimonial, noting that “an assistant and an intern have become two very distinct necessities. Internships have evolved into opportunities within a company to see whether you would be a good fit, not just a means to have tedious work get done.

Empowering interns to apply critical thinking and setting them up for future positions within the company will serve to bring out the best in them.  Kylar Gee, an Advertising & Business major interning for Emerge this summer, bears this out in his essay.  “From day one… I have yet to feel like an intern.  I am a part of the workforce and the work I do doesn’t go unnoticed.  Emerge has surprisingly given us a significant amount of responsibility and freedom to approach our work in a manner that best suits our individual strengths.

Of course, those individual strengths, touched upon by Gee, as well as personal interests, personality, potential compatibility, etc. should all be assessed upon first interviewing the intern; and further evaluated and re-evaluated during the lifecycle of the internship.  Tanner Gowing, the youngest of our summer interns, and Jay Shah, who recently completed his Emerge internship and is heading straight to med school in pursuit of his dream to becoming a doctor, are both demonstrative of the wisdom in this approach.

Gowing clicked right away with the company’s mission and culture.  In his paper, he states that “To work for a company, you must truly believe in its product and cause.”  A person tends to make a greater effort if he or she considers the effort to be in the service of a worthy aim.

Shah, for his part, made it clear from the start that his is setting his sights on becoming a physician.  His is a case in which we knew up front that we would not be grooming a future leader within Emerge.  Yet, from day one, he was collaboratively treated as part of our team.  Ever receptive to learning, Shah saw his internship as an opportunity for personal growth and will carry our company’s values with him as he embarks on his career in medicine.  In his article, Shah states: “I will never forget my experiences or my colleagues at Emerge.  The months here… provided me a foundation to base my career on.  I intend to use all the lessons I’ve learned here the next time I find myself in a new group of people, handling an unfamiliar situation, or when speaking with my first patient.

It really is all about grooming leadership, not necessarily leadership within the immediate organization.  Emerge works closely with doctors; and once he is finally ready to speak to that first patient, we will work with Shah again and build upon a foundation of shared values.

Fostering leadership, creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking among its interns will benefit any company shrewd enough to do so; either directly, by mentoring future employees, or indirectly, by eliciting the best in people and introducing that newly-tapped potential into the marketplace.

The first step to achieving this is always the same: make the intern feel like a part of the team by actually making the intern part of the team and giving the intern a chance to effect change within the company.  Relating his personal experience with Emerge, Acosta attests to this very thing: “Whenever [an intern] has an idea, it isn’t stomped upon or brushed aside.  Instead, it is explored, nourished… until it is able to become something tangible and real. An idea can come from anyone.  All of the staff treats us as if we were a real part of the team and value what we have to say instead of shunning us for having an opinion.

Acosta ends his piece with a brief yet illustrative anecdote, which makes for fitting conclusion here as well.  Upon arriving for work one day, he crossed paths with one of our managers who simply asked: “I’m going for some coffee; want anything?

Daniela Davies & Drew Daniel, Client Experience Managers Emerge Medical Data Intelligence


Daniela Davies and Drew Daniel are Client Experience Managers of Emerge Medical Data Intelligence, a company dedicated to removing the barriers between caregivers and critical Electronic Health Record data. Emerge’s solution, ChartScout, empowers medical professionals with swift, reliable access to EHR data via comprehensive patient-chart search and visualization capabilities; as well as customizable context-specific dashboards.

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