A Day in the Life of an Intern: A Native Swede Embarks on Sojourn to Kansas City

By Kiran Aditham 

We mentioned a few weeks ago that there was a good chance our summer intern series would continue into fall, and so it begins. Our first entry this season comes from David Sebela, a native Swede who is in currently in the midst of a 16-week internship at Barkley’s innovation lab known as Moonshot. Sabela, who’s here with the help of the America Scandinavia Foundation exchange student program, discusses the difficulties of actually making it to the States and what it’s like working at the Kansas City-based Barkley.

After 4+ months of struggling with long waiting times and piles of paper work, I had developed a severe case of tunnel vision. I knew that things would all come together in the end, but the process seemed like it was never ending. When I was finally holding my visa to the USA, reality caught up with me fast. I would be leaving my friends and family behind in Stockholm, Sweden and heading to the states.  Kansas City here I come…

I have now spent 5 weeks here at Barkley, working side by side with their Moonshot Innovation Lab team, an integral part of the agency’s creative conceptualization capability. My expectation of going to a company of this size was that there would be tons of long meetings, really slow approval processes and so forth. But my internship has proven to be quite different from what I originally thought. One of the things that has surprised me the most is how “agile” they are, like in a meeting today my manager said, “This technology is really cool, we need to update our roadmap to fit this in.” Even though Barkley is a big company and change can be slow, I can see how the small things like that will make change happen in the long run.

If I have learned one thing during my time in the Innovation Lab at Barkley, it’s that I can’t expect what the next day will bring. During my time here the ongoing projects vary – from electronics and soldering to programming and web services. The diversity here is really wide, it’s great fun and at the same time it’s a big challenge, as there is a likelihood that the next project we are tasked with involves something that the team has no previous experience with and will have to figure out on the fly. It can be anything from a new technology to a new programming language, but at the end of the day we know anything is possible and it’s a matter of learning as a team.

One of my most memorable moments happened during my second week. I was asked to help out on a client project – tasked with figuring out how all the electronics were going to work. I was given a bunch of motors, magnetic sensors, LEDs’s and wires. I barely knew where to start, I had never done any of that before and everything needed to be done in a programming language I had no experience with called Python. It took me quite a while to get started, but once I started to get a basic understanding of things, 2 days later I had everything working the way they were supposed to. The magnetic sensors were controlling the up and down motion and I had an array of LED lights that were showing and giving feedback to the user. Success! Looking at the finished product, I could not understand why I had been worrying so much. I learned a great lesson -don’t be afraid to dive in head first into the unknown. There is much to learn and the best way to learn is hands-on experience.

One of the things that Mark Logan, the SVP of Digital Innovation at Barkley, tends to say is that “Change has never been this fast and it will never be this slow again.” I am truly happy that I have been able to experience that first hand and look forward to the next 11 weeks to come.