I grew up visiting Barry-Wehmiller’s corporate office in St. Louis, MO (USA) because its CEO Bob Chapman happens to be my grandfather. Lucky me, right? So, during my sophomore year of college, when Bobby (what his grandkids call him) asked me if I would like to be a summer intern for Barry-Wehmiller, I jumped at the offer.
To this day, I am still uncertain as to who was more excited for my internship, me or Bobby.
Having just wrapped up my two-and-a half month experience working for the BW Leadership Institute (now Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute) and Corporate Communications teams, I reflected on some of the valuable lessons I learned:
1. Learn to listen with empathy.
We all go through life thinking that we really know how to listen. It’s easy, right? I even remember writing on a job application that one of my strengths was listening because I thought “yeah… that’s probably an easy one to sell.” But after going through the organization’s Listen Like a Leader course, I realized that I could not have been more wrong, and that I was not alone in that realization. I learned the importance of being fully present with whomever is speaking to me and to listen with an empathetic ear. I am confident that learning these skills at a young age will benefit me significantly in future careers and relationships and am grateful to have had this unique opportunity to develop an important skill set.
2. Coffee rocks!
This one is pretty simple! How else was I supposed to get through a 45-hour work week without falling asleep at my desk every once in a while? I learned to love morning coffee for the first time, and became a very loyal Starbucks customer as a result.
3. Your co-workers can become your friends.
This summer I was able to work amongst some of the most thoughtful, passionate and creative people I have ever met. Their kindness and acceptance toward me was unwavering since day one. They helped me learn and grow as a person and taught me things I could never learn in school. These people may have been my coworkers this summer, but they were also my friends and I will be forever thankful for the impact each of them have had on my life. I am already looking forward to visiting the office and seeing everyone next time I visit the Lou!
4. Develop courageous vulnerability and genuine curiosity.
In June I attended a talk featuring Torian Richardson and was very moved by his message. Two topics he discussed that really stuck with me were his thoughts on genuine curiosity and courageous vulnerability. He encouraged us to go through life with genuine curiosity for all people, places and things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, he said, and seek answers to them. Being curious allows to you obtain new knowledge and can open doors to new experiences. Have the courage to be vulnerable and actively step outside of your comfort zone. You can learn a lot about yourself and the world around you. When I think about my life, I know that my genuine curiosity and my ability to be vulnerable are what got me to where I am today and will continue my growth moving forward.
5. It’s okay to show emotion in business.
As an intern, I wanted to make a good impression on everyone so that they would view me as competent and professional. In the beginning, I was careful to craft all of my emails is a serious, straightforward tone using proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. However, one day Matt Whiat, a BWLI partner, responded with “I’m going to need more exclamation points in your emails.” He wasn’t criticizing my work; he just thought my emails should reflect my personality and the passion I had for my role. From there on out, never again did I send an email without a few exclamation points thrown in! Competence and warmth are a great combination!
6. Recognition and celebration are powerful concepts.
I saw the true impact that recognition and celebration can have on people, specifically in the workplace. It shows that you are cared for by the people around you. Not only did it feel good to be recognized by my coworkers, but it felt even better recognizing them in return for being the amazing and hardworking people that they are. Knowing that my actions impacted someone else in a positive way motivated me to do even better. Celebrations make the work day fun, too! Whether it’s a birthday, a baby being born, or the completion of a project who doesn’t love a good celebration? It is important to celebrate the good things in life!
7. Seize every opportunity that comes your way.
“Write down a word that inspires you” was the first thing we were asked to do in Imagine, a class offered by the Leadership Institute. I wrote the word “opportunity” on my notecard and went on to explain to a multitude of reasons why that word inspires me. I look at opportunity as a way to grow myself and to learn new things that I would not have learned had I not taken that opportunity. Opportunity can be found in the simplest of things, like saying yes to lunch with a friend, but the greatest opportunities are found when you step outside of your comfort zone and do something risky. I made a conscious effort to say yes to every opportunity that I was presented with this summer and came out on the other side of each one with new knowledge and new relationships.
8. Podcasts, where have you been all my life?
Sometimes, while working on a project that didn’t require intense thought, I found myself trying to find productive ways to pass the time and shortly discovered that podcasts were the answer! Just choose one that sounds interesting, put in some earbuds, and listen…and learn something new while doing your work! Plus, they’re free! A few of my personal favorites? S-Town, Stuff You Should Know, Ted Radio Hour and, of course, Barry-Wehmiller’s own Everybody Matters podcast.
9. “The decisions you make today create your tomorrow.”
During a “Lunch and Learn” about financial wellbeing with BWLI partner Susan Conrad, a slide with the phrase “The decisions you make today create your tomorrow” flashed across the screen. The quote was used in reference to building retirement plans and money saving best practices, but I think the phrase can be applied to anything in life. I know that the decisions I am making in my life right now are setting me up for the future I want to build for myself. My decision to intern with Barry-Wehmiller allowed for an experience that had a profound impact on my life and will help guide me in my future.
10. St. Louis is a wonderful city.
Before this internship I had only visited St. Louis for short periods to see family. I didn’t know what to expect living here for multiple months in the summer, except for the many warnings about the heat and humidity. I followed the recommendations of locals and explored Forest Park on bike, went walking along the river under the Gateway Arch, went to a few Cardinals baseball games, and ate a ton of Ted Drewes frozen custard and toasted ravioli! I found that St. Louis is full of kind and hardworking people who very much enjoy living in “the Gateway to the West,” and they sure do love their Cardinals! My summer spent exploring St. Louis was wonderful, and I can confidently say there is much more to this place than the warm weather!
Barry-Wehmiller’s guiding principle is this: “We measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.” This became very apparent to me this summer as I spent time with the warm, wonderful and caring people throughout the organization. I created memories and learned lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I will be forever grateful to everyone who touched my life during my internship and for Bobby’s faith in me to contribute my gifts and talents to this amazing organization. I would have loved to have stayed longer, but the mountains (and the University of Colorado) are calling my name.
Keep up the good work and thanks for everything, Barry-Wehmiller!! (Exclamation points intended!)