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Inside an Internship with Das Fort — Complete with Communication Theories

Business, Featured, Social GoodSarah Bayard
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When I first applied to Das Fort, I had never even heard of it, and I have lived in Fort Wayne since I was three. Das Fort is an online blog all about the city of Fort Wayne. They have individual contributors that write articles with topics ranging from restaurants, to events, to nonprofit organizations throughout the city, and more. I was a little skeptical at first because this wasn’t really anything that I had a lot of experience in and I am sure that they were too. However, after an hour long conversation, I knew that this was the place for me. They were so easy to talk to and I knew that they would push me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do (such as start my own blog, which I have recently done).

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Tony is the founder of Das Fort and Laura is his girlfriend, who is also the Editor in Chief. Tony also photographs weddings and does websites for some local businesses, but I didn’t work with him much. I worked with Laura; Laura is the one who checks all of the articles and anything that goes out on social media, as well as does a lot of their other media work. Laura spent 7 years living and working in Asia before she became the Editor in Chief of Das Fort. They don’t have an official "office," per se; they have let the business take over their home with other interns, employees, computers, and desks. There are three others that are there on a regular basis, two employees who also manage projects for various other clients and also work on marketing several other brands. The third, another intern, worked directly with Tony; she was designing a website. Throughout my internship, there were numerous theories that were applicable including Likert's Principle of Supportive Relationships, the Human Resources approach to management, technology in the workplace, personal branding, and Genderlects. 

Throughout the course of the internship, I had many different responsibilities. I edited all kinds of different articles which included grammar, fact checking, spell checking, sometimes finding pictures, and checking links. I called employees for one of their clients and interviewed them. I posted the article links to all kinds of different social media platforms. One of my favorite things to do was write articles. I wrote about 7 throughout the course of the internship, and realized how much I loved it.

Within the first week I was there I really noticed how the Human Resources type of management is epitomized here because that emphasizes the idea that a happy worker will work harder. According to Eisenberg and Goodall, the Human Resources approach is, “concerned with the total organization climate as well as with how an organization can encourage employee participation and dialogue” (75). The Human Resources approach also values employee perceptions and voice. Tony and Laura really want us to be independent and do what we think is best — they don’t hover over our shoulders and watch us complete every project that we do but they are always there for advice and input. There were numerous times when Laura would tell me to do something and then just do her own thing until I was finished or until I asked for help or advice on something. I think this showed that she really trusts me. Something else they do that is really nice is every day they order lunch for everyone and pay for it. I think that this is just a little motivator and way of saying thank you for all of the hard work everyone does.

I also saw examples of Likert’s Principle of Supportive Relationships during my internship. According to Eisenberg and Goodall, Likert’s Principle of Supportive Relationships says that, “all interactions within an organization should support individual self-worth and importance, with emphasis on the supportive relationships within work groups and open communication among them” (78). Going along with the Human Resources approach, this also helps set the climate for the company— very open. There is always dialogue going on to get our creative juices flowing. We all converse about which picture is better for this article or if something is oddly phrased we all pitch in to help make it sound perfect. This theory also, “favors general oversight rather than close supervision” (Eisenberg and Goodall 78). Laura would give me projects to work on that were to be completed on my own (like the articles). She would have me build them in a post on the back end of the website, and take pictures for them and never nagged at me or smothered me— she really let me do what I wanted and what I thought was best. Additionally, the longer that I was there, the more that I wanted to participate because throughout the 10 weeks, they supported what I did and that made me want to work harder, with better results.

One thing that we really utilize is technology in the work place. I think that has a lot to do with the organization itself because it is a technology based company. Without technology, this business wouldn’t exist and our day to day activities would be much more difficult because of how much we utilize technology. Every day we have a Google+ chat pulled up and throughout the day Laura will send me articles to read or things she thinks I might find useful, or even pictures that I need when posting an article to Das Fort. She will just send them through the chat because it is much more efficient and convenient than trying to email them or put them on a flash drive. According to Eisenberg and Goodall, there are four different views of communication and technology — utopian view, dystopian views, neutral view, and contingent view. The utopian view is when technology serves to improve the productivity and the work life of the organization (Eisenberg and Goodall 302). I think that in this organization, we have an utopian view because we love everything about technology, and we use it all day every day— the business (blog included) itself wouldn’t even exist without technology. A study done in 2014 by Thomas Kiddie, questioned whether text messages would one day take over e-mail just as e-mail took over snail mail. The results of the survey were that e-mail was the preferred choice of communication in the workplace for these reasons:

Workplace communication, however, is not so simple. Besides the limitations of 160 character messages, workplace communicators require coordination, confirmation, and exchanges of large volumes of data. Workplace communicators need access to corporate networks to exchange documents, to access corporate calendars and employee directories, and to talk with colleagues (Kiddie 82).

I really noticed the usage of texting throughout my internship, especially on the couple of occasions where I was working independently on something. It was just faster than e-mail for what we were talking about. Especially with what you can do with Apple products, there was no use for e-mail. We would just iMessage information and pictures back and forth to one another, or for larger sized files we would AirDrop them.

Throughout the course of my internship, I would post links to all of Laura’s social media/blog sites. This is her way of not only personally branding herself, but giving more publicity to Das Fort and to Spaces Quarterly. Personal branding is, “to treat the self as an enterprise, an ongoing project, and even a brand that can be managed” (Eisenberg and Goodall 193). Laura has encouraged me to start branding myself and get a blog or Twitter and that way I can get my name out there and maybe some followers or readers. In an essay done by Daniel J. Lair, he discusses the vastness of personal branding, people can go from, “concrete branding products such as the personal advertisement brochures,” all the way to, “coherent identities based on the questions, 'What is unique about you and distinguishable?'; 'What is remarkable and notable about you?' and 'What is genuinely real and authentic about you?'" (Lair 309).

Additionally, I also saw some examples of the Genderlects theory during my internship. Genderlects is a theory by Deborah Tannen that states, “masculine and feminine styles of discourse are best viewed as two distinct cultural dialects” (Griffin 433). Generally, women tend to seek human connection while men are concerned with status (Griffin 433). Men, “assert their ideas, opinions and identity,” while women tend to “create and maintain relationships,” “involve others in conversations,” and “show sensitivity to others” (Griffin 434). Furthermore, men focus on report (hard facts or conveying information) and women focus on rapport (establishing a connection) (Griffin 434). Laura tends to speak to us one-on-one, and when she does, she never really tells us what to do, she always suggests something to us. She might have an idea and ask us what we think instead of just saying that she likes it a certain way. She shows sensitivity to us, just as the Genderlects theory says. Laura also tries to connect with us on a more personal level, just the other day she was telling us her favorite books and even letting us borrow them, whereas Tony is more about facts and the job itself.

I really learned a lot during my internship with Das Fort. I edited a lot of different articles and learned more about copywriting, and what it actually entails. I learned how to use different websites and social media platforms, and also a lot about what I need to do if this is the career path that I choose to take. This was a really great experience for me. I gained so much knowledge, and just a better idea of what I want to do in the future — and also made some very good connections along the way. Tony and Laura pushed me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do like start up a blog and a Tumblr — just to start branding myself. We even did a team building activity and made vision boards— something I never would have done on my own. If I had the chance to do something differently, I think I would have taken a few marketing classes before the internship just to gain more knowledge about this field. 

Vision boarding

Vision boarding

In conclusion, I did editing, fact checking, calling clients, and posted to different social media platforms. Without this internship I would not have known how to do any of those things on a professional level. I was able to take what I learned from my studies at Ball State and see how it is applicable in the real world, as well as analyze communication theories and ideas such as Likert's Principle of Supportive Relationships, the Human Resources approach to management, technology in the workplace, personal branding, and Genderlects. 

Although my internship is at an end, I'm looking forward to my new position as a freelance writer for Das Fort.

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