The Art Form of “Family” Business
“Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family. ” This legendary quote spoken by the illustrious character, Don Corleone, better known as the Godfather, speaks volumes about the significance placed on personal relationships in traditional Italian Sicilian society. In doing so, the legendary Godfather sheds light on a greater cultural issue deeply relevant to our Internship studies.
This week, our lecture group discussed organizational cultures. Incubator, Guided Missile, Family, and Eiffel Tower are all exemplar types of organizational cultures. Each unique organizational category denotes certain values and behaviors that contribute to the distinctive social and psychological environment of an organization. Furthermore, one’s corporate cultural identity greatly affects the methods and principles utilized by an association to conduct their business as well as their interactions with employees, customers, and the wider community.
Fiumano Fine Art experienced an organizational cultural schism this last week. A Sicilian gallery owner rented the space for two weeks to showcase the works of the celebrated Italian artist, Piero Guccione, an artist his family has long represented. My boss was disgruntled, as the Sicilian, Numo, had not yet paid her- making the sum five weeks late! When confronted, Numo told Francesca that he did not know where the money was and that he would have to call his father to ask why the payment was late. Furthermore, Numo seemed affronted that Francesca had doubted his credibility, as their friendship should be reassurance enough. After learning about the organizational cultures, I realized that Numo was functioning in a “Family” person-oriented mindset. In this patriarchal system, Numo had to check with his Father (the power head) before giving Francesca a concrete response. Furthermore, the binding nature of the partnership in Numo’s mindset was not placed on the contract or fee, but rather on the long-term devoted friendship he shared with Francesca. As Corleone explained, in this “la familia” dynamic, personal connections with friends and family are everything and thus tromp regulations, contracts, and even sometimes project goals. Being aware of the dissimilar organizational cultures occurring in a business partnership and possessing the knowledge of the values and practices upheld within that cultural mindset can greatly aid in the successfully collaboration of an international business venture.
You’ve got a Question; I’ve got an Answer
“How has interning internationally benefitted you? I think a smarter bet would be working in your own country to gain contacts there.” During an art finniasage this week, an inquisitive gallery owner posed this challenging question of me and my fellow international interns. While they were both stumbling for a response, I was grateful that my International Internship Course had prepared me to suitably and more importantly successfully respond to such an inquiry. Having learned how to fruitfully frame, not only my gained knowledge in my field, but more significantly so explain the beneficial impact of interning internationally, I was able to convince the gallery owner of the importance of global experience for the contemporary work force.
For instance, according to NASFA 2012, only 1% of American students undertake international internships (Villiers-Stuart, 2013). This small percentage is undeniably becoming increasingly attractive to potential employers. As the concept of a “shrinking world” becomes universal, and businesses progressively become more aware of the advantages of overseas involvement, possessing international work experience is more vital than ever! As an American student possessing international experience in a global workforce, I am already gaining my autonomy from the crowd! This allows me to stand out from other potential job candidates.
Furthermore, global students who participate in international internships gain the skills needed to successfully contribute to productive cross-cultural communication and cultural competence. These skills made all the difference in successfully sustaining a global enterprise. In fact, the skills gained in an international experience even aid in domestic careers as well. A recent survey completed by “The Chronicle of Higher Education” showed that many employers feel that recent graduates are lacking a certain few basic areas: adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to solve complex problems. Funny enough, these are exactly the skills one builds while abroad. Gaining the experience from an international internship advanced not only my resume, but also my potential as a potential employee.
Cultural Combination for Success
Being an Arizonian native, I am often complimented on my independent & self-sufficient spirit. A remnant perhaps from the days of the Wild Wild West, Manifest Destiny, and the reign of the Frontier Man, this sense of individualism and autonomy is valued as a characteristic for success and achievement in the United States. America therefore thrives as a chiefly individualistic society. In this type of culture, citizens regard themselves predominantly as individuals placing importance on independent autonomy leading to further community involvement only if one so chooses. Therefore, in America private projects, quick decisions made by a single person, as well as the use of “I’ or claims of ownership are common in the workplace.
The other grouping compared with individualism in the five various orientations of cultural relationships with others is communitarianism. Under this mentality, citizens value their involvement in a group foremost and thus make decisions and act for and as a community. Working in an Italian British Art Gallery in which communal ideals are valued, this inherent cultural difference has been pushed into the center stage of my workdays.
Before learning of these cultural divergences, I viewed my boss’ collective discussions concerning where to hang paintings and which type of wall labels to use (among others) as tedious and wearisome. I mistook them as signs of indecisiveness rather than of inclusion. Furthermore, I saw her choice to socialize during work hours instead of simply powering through our workload, as unproductive and a waste of time. Now, I see that when reexamined through a communitarian viewpoint, this is actually an attempt to build a lasting and productive work relationship. The benefit of this communal dynamic is that I feel entirely included and involved in the gallery. I feel valued and thus have a desire to work harder to not only profit the company, but also my coworkers who I respect. While I see the benefits of a communitarian culture, I also see the flaws. While I enjoy going to work, the lack of time management due to lengthy discussions and social time can force tasks that need to get completed late or behind schedule. Finding a balance between the two cultural methods would be an unstoppable combination for professional success.
It’s surreal to think that after having to adapt to a new culture so quickly I’ll going back home to the States and essentially need to re-adapt. Despite only being here for a rather small amount of time, London has definitely left an impression. I feel like working with my credit union has not only given me crucial insight into the various cultures and work ethics of the global business environment, but also given me a different perspective on financial banking. Working with London Mutual Credit Union has taught me not only to be more aware of different peoples’ lifestyles and privileges, but also in a way how to be more patient. This London experience as a whole has taught me to the value of having patience, awareness, and understanding in a work environment. I feel as though these three qualities not only make adapting to new situations easier but also aid in achieving success. For example, in more exciting news, I was heavily complemented by my boss this week. She said she was very impressed by my work ethic and my ability to get work done correctly in a timely and efficient manner. She was also pleased by how well I handled some situations and how quickly I was able to blend in their quite tight knit work environment. While I’ve been complemented before by my employers, getting these reviews while being aboard and working in a real office environment felt amazing. Thanks for a great summer abroad, Mike.
By Jeff Hurley
Time flew by this summer as I was having the best experience of my life in Barcelona. Ever since the first day I arrived my entire trip was one huge adventure. I never thought I would learn so much, meet so many people, and see so many differences Europe has to offer. First off my internship was amazing and I loved everyone I worked with. My work was related directly to my major and what I want to do in the future. I learned so many new programs and working internationally allowed me to see how a company operates differently compared to one in the United States. Also I made international business connections that will last a lifetime. If I had the option to do this all over again I would in a heartbeat.
Since Barcelona is such a central location in Europe I had many opportunities to travel this summer. I visited Ibiza, Pamplona, San Sebastian, Costa Brava, and Madrid in Spain as well as Nice & Carcassonne, France, Monaco, Amsterdam, and London. These were all unforgettable trips and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to do all of this.
When taking the learning style test in class, my results showed as a diamond shape, focusing more on the reflector side than the pragmatist side. As a reflector, I like to understand all aspects of a situation before coming to a conclusion, and am very indecisive when it comes to making decisions. I have noticed that I have displayed this learning style as a PR Intern at Reiss. I am always considering different options and possibilities at work. When we send out items or get returns back, we use an excel sheet to track each item. The excel sheet is shared by everyone working in the press office and only one person can be on the excel sheet at a time. This leads to many people accessing the sheet as ‘read only’ which does not save changes. Many times, people send out items and document them on the excel sheet, but the records do not save which causes many problems when we try to get the items back or see which stylist has them. One of my ideas is to have a system where we would scan a tag of each item we send out and get returned to us, which would allow each item to have a specific code so we would know who has what item. This would prevent misspelling or human error, and would allow us to keep track of each item because sometimes we have two of the same items. Another way I use my learning style is to thoroughly understand a task I am given before I attempt to complete it. When asking for clarification, I am able to complete the tasks successfully without needing to redo them. As far as writing my last journal as a PR intern for Reiss, I am sad to have to say goodbye to my co-workers and new friends when I finish next week. I have learned a tremendous amount about the culture and I am sad to have to say goodbye.
This week at Reiss has been going pretty slow and I have noticed that things have not been very busy. Most people at work just search the Internet and read different articles. Some people keep up with celebrities or watch videos online, but they do not seem to be stressed or have a sense of urgency, which is very interesting. After talking to the other intern, I have realized that a lot of the stuff that we do does not require much energy or brainpower and sometimes we sit at work for an hour without having anything to do. I feel like Reiss is wasting a lot of money on many of their employees, because if they cut their work force in half, everyone would be productive and would have something to do at all times. I think that Reiss could lay off some employees and not lose any production. People do not seem very worried about their job because nobody is really watched or monitored. This is an interesting concept to me because in the United States, there seems to be a lot of competition for jobs, and people are always trying to look like they are doing something just in case they are being watched. Whether or not people are actually doing something, they always want to look like they are so that they look productive. I have also realized this week that as a PR/press team, I think it is interesting that we do not monitor which items a publication actually displays in their photo shoots. As far as a marketing aspect goes, I think we should be keeping track of our sales based on items shown in a publication, do the items increase sales? Unfortunately we just send out items and receive returns, but we never keep track of which ones are actually used and which ones are not.
During my forth week of my internship at Reiss, I worked with a new intern that started this week as well, Sophie. Tuesday was a pretty slow day at work, so Sophie and I were able to discuss various topics, including life in America and college. Sophie is a twenty year old, studying philosophy at a nearby university. One of the many cultural differences that Sophie and I discussed was University life. Students in the UK only have to attend college for three years in order to obtain a bachelors degree, where in the U.S., a student is normally placed on a four year plan. If a student takes longer than four years to complete their degree they usually have failed classes, and if it takes them three years, they have taken more than the normal amount of credits. Another interesting difference between the US and the UK is that in the UK, there are not any sororities or fraternities. To me this is extremely interesting because at the University of Arizona, greek life is extremely popular. Sophie told me that there are athletes that act similarly to a fraternity, because they both “haze” (which is when they are basically bullied to fit in). She also told me that at her university, when you are a first year, you live in the residence halls but you have an individual room; this differs from the United States because we live in dormitories with roommates. Another interesting observation I made at work this week is that a lot of people have panic attacks or feel sick, and then take an hour off for fresh air. I am not sure if this is a common thing or something I have personally experienced at work, but many people will just start hyperventilating and need to take time to relax. I am not sure if this is a serious problem, or a way to avoid doing their work. I will keep my eye out to see if this continues to happen.
As a PR Intern at Riess, I have started to learn more about the press and the importance of publicizing the brand. Many large magazine companies, such as Vogue, InStyle, Mother & Baby, Red and Marie Claire contact the Press Office for Reiss clothing and accessories. They inform us of their photo shoot, which could be for November or December issues, and my job is to help pick out items to be sent. For larger and more popular companies, we like to send more items to ensure the company has variety. Other companies that are small, we simply ignore because we do not want to send out popular pieces that could go to a bigger company. By watching Andrew, a co-worker, I am starting to realize which companies are more important. I have also realized that although this seems unfair, Reiss wants the most attention possible from the items, which I have realized is a smart business tactic. I have not had very much variety in the work that I do, which is okay because I am still learning how to interact with the press. I have realized that e-mails are worded much different than they are in the United States. In many of the emails I read and receive, people write short, fragment sentences and do not show much enthusiasm in the email. It is really hard for me to tell whether or not someone is angry or happy because of the lack of punctuation. I try to respond in a similar way, yet I feel like my responses are a lot more positive. I am still learning but I am excited to see if my supervisor or co-workers will give me anything new to try.
My interview at Reiss was very casual and short. When I walked into Reiss, I was surprised to see how modern and open the office spaces are. I walked through the store and was lead to the back where the office spaces are. When I met with my supervisor, Helena, I was surprised at how enthusiastic and excited she was. In class we were told that the work environment is different in London than in the United States, and that people show less enthusiasm or excitement; however, I did not feel that way when meeting with Helena. Helena showed me around the building and showed me the press room where I am working as a PR Intern. The office building is extremely open and does not have any private offices. There are many desks with computers in a modern office space with glass windows and natural lighting. Everyone is able to collaborate and share ideas because people are able to consult each other without invading their space. My interview only lasted about ten minutes because she was very busy with the Press that week. When I started my first day this past Monday, I learned exactly what my position entails, which includes sending out press samples, collecting returns, documenting different items and handling press emails and requests. I have never worked in the business side of a fashion company and was unaware that many different employees are needed in order to run a successful business. I am excited to be challenged and have more opportunities to grow and experience the work culture in London.
Rome. Was. Amazing.
Friday morning we arrived around 9am to our hostel. It was my first experience in a hostel and I loved it. When I travel/backpack around Europe someday I will be most definitely be staying in hostels. We met a really cute Chinese girl named Dana who is studying abroad in Florence. She normally goes to school in Ohio and had been living in the US since she was in high school, and decided to continue her college education in America. Surprisingly, she said the college education in the US is better than China. We also met an Aussie who is traveling Europe for five months by herself. This was so inspiring to me. I would love to do something like that.
Our first day we saw Palentino Hill, Roman Forum, and the Colosseum. Wow. This was so incredible. The fact that it is so old and dates back to the ancient Romans is amazing. How they built all that is crazy to me. We had an audio guide of the Colosseum which was very insightful. It basically told us some history and facts. Incredible stuff. After that we headed to lunch and to the Trevi fountain.
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to make our 3 hour tour in the Vatican. Our tour guide was Dario, a tall, handsome, Italian man with the lightest green eyes I have ever seen. He was also hilarious. The tour was so informational, inspiring, and even had some humor via Dario. I was absolutely blown away. The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous. The fact that I have been seeing it in pictures and history books my whole life and then I was literally gazing up at it was astounding. It was very spiritually to see such beautiful artwork and the passion behind it.
My favorite- St. Peter’s Basilica. Wow. So gorgeous. The intricate architecture, statues, and artwork literally took my breath away. It was probably the most beautiful thing I have seen in Europe. I fell in love. Tomes history was so deep and it have me a sense of how old this world really is. It’s something that I can’t explain, it gave me such peace to sit there and take it all in.
As the end of my internship approaches, I am feeling a mixture of glad and sad. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work for a prestigious magazine, which gave me insight to how the publishing industry works. Mostly, I am very proud and appreciative of having my name on publications on their website (over 100 press releases, blog entries and golf course galleries combined). I find myself comfortable and at home with my coworkers, who I will miss. This opportunity has been good for my professional development and even better for my personal development. It has better refined the focus on the career path I want to take. I would not be opposed to working for a publication upon graduation, but I can say it would not be my first choice. My preference is now narrowed down to media relations, creative marketing or public relations. This experience taught me how to analyze my contribution to a company, how to analyze the company itself both professionally and culturally and the importance of international internships. The work assigned to interns may not always be the most exciting, but there is always a lesson that can be learned and a way to enhance the skill set a future employer will be interested in. Working for a company is the best way to learn the workings of it, but it is useless unless you can communicate these observations in a professional manner. The importance of internships can not be overstated, I am now in the process of applying for jobs and all ask for professional experience in the related field. Not only did this internship grant me that experience that will make my CV grander, the fact that it is international gives me a sharper edge for future employment. Overall, I am glad I had this opportunity, and sad it is coming to an end.