"I found Myself an Internship!" | Team Spotlight: Christy
How I met Schoolhouse
On a night in January 2021, I lay on my bed and saw an email newsletter from a community called Ladder. They announced a Q&A session with Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy and Schoolhouse.world. It drew my attention because I have a strong interest in and curiosity for the EdTech industry. I immediately typed in schoolhouse.world in my browser and learned about it.
Many students including myself benefited from Khan Academy. I even motivated my brother in 6th grade to get ahead in Math by practicing on KA. My appreciation of Sal and Khan Academy brought me to Schoolhouse.
The first time I met Schoolhouse.world.
At the time, I was a graphic design student at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. As a designer, I was interested in designing easy-to-use tools to assist and advance learning, and felt it would be meaningful and fulfilling to see my work impact thousands of students and their future. When I first looked at the Schoolhouse website from a design perspective, I saw the opportunity to contribute as a UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience) designer. I filled out the volunteer application form and applied to become a design volunteer.
The next morning, I woke up and received an email from Mariah, the Head of Community at Schoolhouse. We talked and I got right into it by designing some marketing ads and social media posts. During this journey, I met many passionate young students in the community and friendly co-workers. I felt my work was valued and recognized here. We discussed actionable next steps, and celebrated the successes together. I managed to work on around seven sets of promotion materials across five months, while I was also taking six classes at school.
Here’re some marketing posts that I designed voluntarily for Schoolhouse before this summer internship.
Why intern at schoolhouse
In April, I was looking for a summer internship, and I realized I wanted to intern at schoolhouse.world more than other unfamiliar companies I applied to online. I was looking for a company that offered accessible mentorship and had a supportive and collaborative culture, and I realized that Schoolhouse was the right fit. On top of that, I’m fascinated by the fact that Schoolhouse is a fast-growing company in which our product is consistently improving and testing new features. I realized that I was already working for my “dream company.” Therefore, I reached out to Jackie, the only designer on the team who joined a month ago, and expressed my interest in becoming an intern this summer. The interview process was very smooth because I was very clear about what I was looking for. After a round of a presentation and design exercise, I officially joined as a Design Intern in May.
What is interning remotely like
Although the entire internship is remote, I feel connected with my colleagues. I have check-ins with Jackie, product team standups twice a week, and design critique once a week. Having frequent and informal check-ins not only helps me stay on track and make sure I’m moving in the right direction, but also makes me feel less isolated and able to get to know my coworkers personally. Because the projects I’m doing are often collaborative, I get to communicate with my teammates often. Distance doesn’t set us apart. We host fun parties for different occasions like birthdays, post-launch and farewells that make me feel we are friends and family. Schoolhouse is a very caring company. After the launch of the “series” feature, every full-time employee got to enjoy a free massage to treat ourselves! We always like to play the game “Gartic Phone” together, which is my favorite! We have a ton of fun and share so many good memories and jokes.
An animation of “Christy criss-crossed carrying cakes” that we drew frame by frame.
What I like about schoolhouse
There are so many things I like about Schoolhouse including the people, our product, community, company mission, and the team atmosphere. Everyone here is eager to learn and help each other succeed. We have a #high-five channel in slack that we shout out to team members whenever someone does something amazing. Learners are motivated to seek learning opportunities and tutors are excited to help as many people as they can. When I conducted usability tests for one of the projects, I felt the love, gratitude and excitement they had for Schoolhouse. It made me realize the value and impact of the work we created, and I’m proud to work on such a mission-oriented and fast-growing product that is still in the discovery stage. I also like the flexibility that I’m free to propose ideas and initiate projects. They are heard and get implemented. I take ownership of the projects and I can work on a variety of projects from illustration to UI/UX. I’m happy to turn on my laptop everyday, check slack messages, chat with people, and design on Figma, the design software we use. I really do enjoy my work and my role as a Design Intern here.
I drew an illustration of the team as a thank-you gift.
What I learned in this internship
Being able to work at a small startup allows me to get involved in product discussions and participate in the decision-making process. I learn much more than just design, I also learn about product thinking and business strategy. Learning from my colleagues about how they think and ask questions, setting quarterly goals and roadmaps, and meeting with people outside of our organization with far more experience are valuable experiences for me. I got to understand why I’m designing certain features and how it fits into the bigger picture.
Everyone on the team is so talented in their domains. I’m amazed by Justin’s data analytics, Akshay’s projects management, Anees’ wisdom in code, Mariah’s coordination with the tutor community and thoughtfulness, Drew’s forward-thinking, Jackie’s attention to details in design and collaboration with engineers, Elysa’s efficiency, and Joy’s creativity in coding. I’m so grateful to work with a diverse group of open-minded people. I learned to think from multiple perspectives, always ask for help and clarification, and think of all the different possibilities and scenarios when I design.
Fun fact: Other than being a learner and designer, I also became a tutor on Schoolhouse to test our new feature, “series.” I hosted a “Design a Personal Website” series on Schoolhouse. I was surprised to see people’s curiosity in design in a math-centered community and eager to share everything I know about design. I put myself into the user’s shoes and discovered pain points and areas of improvement as a user, which we call “dogfooding.”
My proudest/favorite project
Without any doubt, my favorite project is the user dashboard design. It’s a new design that I led with help from Jackie and coding from Justin. It connects all the pieces together and improves the infrastructure of our platform. With the new dashboard design, it increases users’ efficiency of joining a live session, makes hosting sessions clearer, encourages discovery for sessions users may like, improves the UI of viewing your upcoming/past sessions, and overall enhances user experience. I’m glad to see it come to life and make users’ lives easier and happier on our platform!
I was able to work on it from research, design, user tests, to engineering hand-off. I went through a lot of iterations on every small detail and had many rounds of design critique with Jackie to iron out the best solution. I interviewed nearly thirty users in two weeks and had them walk through the design prototype. Watching users navigate through the prototype and hearing their feedback directly helped me identify areas that I missed in the design. I consider this the most challenging yet rewarding project in this internship. Many thanks to Justin for working nonstop to merge on the last day of my internship!
Here is the Overview portion of the dashboard.
A Figma screenshot of all the iterations, feedback, and prototypes.
What was the biggest challenge I faced
As an introvert, I tend to listen more than speak up consistently. In the first few weeks, I felt stressed and uncomfortable during weekly stand ups because I didn’t have enough context about the project to share my opinions. I felt the urge to catch up and hit the ground running. After I shared this feeling with my boyfriend and mentors, they made me realize the charm of being an introvert. I just needed to stay calm, observe, ask more questions, and feel comfortable to listen and share my thoughts. Once I accepted the fact that it’s ok to be quieter than others, and that doesn’t mean my thoughts are less valuable, I became more comfortable. As I slowly got to know more about the projects, I had more insights and feedback to share. Going into a new environment in the beginning is always a challenge for me, but I’m glad that I was able to realize it, talk about it with others, and seek opportunities to step out of my comfort zone.
What I like to do outside of work and school
I like photography (both film and digital), exploring new places and food. I bring cameras with me everywhere I go and take photos of people and landscapes. Before the pandemic, I travelled abroad during summer and winter breaks. Now, I like going to beaches, hiking, museums, and discovering new restaurants in LA with my friends during weekends. I workout in the gym three times a week. On my lazy days, I lay on my bed and watch Netflix.
Advice for budding designers or people interested in getting involved in Schoolhouse?
Schoolhouse is such a welcoming community. You can start by becoming a learner, tutor, or volunteer in Schoolhouse. If you’re a designer who is interested in getting involved in Schoolhouse, I would suggest doing some research and identifying areas of opportunities and then reaching out. Many opportunities are hidden unless you take the first step. At least that was how I did it!
Where I’m going next
In September, I’m going back to school to continue my undergraduate study in Graphic Design. However, I’ll continue to stay around as a part-time design contractor to help with branding and marketing design. I’m taking Type, Communication Design, and UI design classes this upcoming semester. I hope I can bring what I learned in this internship to my classes as well. I’ll be graduating in two years, and I see myself being a product designer at an innovative and impactful tech company in the future.
Lastly, thank you everyone for the support and encouragement. I have a fruitful and unforgettable summer internship. Schoolhouse will always hold a special place in my heart. I wish Schoolhouse the best and look forward to seeing its bright future.
A surprise that the team prepared for me at my farewell party
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