Image Above: Marketing Team including Taylor McDonough and Brittney Stepanek, at GreatAmerica Awards Banquet (2018).
A year ago when my leader asked me if I would want to manage a direct report, without hesitation I quickly and adamently answered, “NO.” At the time, I was buried in my growing workload and assumed a headcount would actually add more work, take me away from tasks I enjoyed and priorities that needed to be done. I worried that it could become drama that would weigh on top of everything else. I’ve managed people in the past, and thoroughly enjoyed it, it just felt like the timing wasn’t right for me.
Then I met Taylor. We first met after she accepted a corporate marketing internship at GreatAmerica. Her leader at the time introduced us as having the same “Personality Index.” (Interns go through the same hiring process as a full-time GreatAmerica Employee). With similar personalities, we instantly connected. We later bonded even more over our obsession of snacking on peanut M&Ms.
My workload wasn’t getting any easier, and with Taylor as a corporate resource to marketing, I took the time to sit down to learn more about her skills and interests. Per her bandwidth, I offered and asked for her help on some marketing projects in Collabrance that I thought would help be good learning opportunities for her.
While I was focused on helping Taylor as an intern grow professionally, I didn’t expect that she was going to help me grow professionally as a leader too.
Eager to learn, she accepted any opportunity for projects to learn and apply her skills.
I was so impressed by Taylor’s attitude and ability to add value that as summer ended, I didn’t think her internship should. I quickly hustled to do what was needed and extended her an opportunity to continue to work remotely as a part-time marketing intern in Collabrance as my direct report. This was the first time in my 6 year career at GreatAmerica where I wanted a headcount.
Throughout the next year, Taylor worked remotely as my intern while she was also attending school full-time and working another part-time job she had committed to prior. We quickly found a rhythm that worked for us and she was a valuable asset to our marketing and sales team.
It wasn’t long before Taylor was running with marketing projects and ideas on her own as an intern. Her help allowed myself to also grow in several areas including the ability and bandwidth to:
More importantly as a leader, I gained just as much from my intern as I hope she did from me. As an intern, I saw and treated Taylor as a peer, and the team treated her as a member of the family. She was constantly setting the bar, so I was constantly building her expectations… little did I know, at the same time she was also helping me grow as a professionally as a leader.
In my situation, it happened to be an intern, but it can also be true of other professional relationships. I'm constantly learning from others. Everyone has something they can gain.
As our internship comes to an end after a year and Taylor prepares to graduate from college, I’m proud to share that Taylor has accepted a full-time position within GreatAmerica to continue her journey with us where she can grow and apply her skills.
It’s been an amazing year, and an intern wasn’t something I initially expected, but was a special surprise that I’m grateful for. It has been a mutually beneficial experience.
Thank you Taylor for your contributions as an intern that have also allowed leaders to learn right along with you. We’re proud to have you as part of the GreatAmerica family!
Brittney Stepanek, Strategic Marketing Director for Collabrance, is responsible for helping build relationships and brand awareness through strategic marketing initiatives. Before working at Collabrance, Brittney joined GreatAmerica in 2012 doing marketing for the Office Equipment Group. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Iowa.