This summer, APCO’s New York office hosted eight interns, including one high school student from Futures and Options, an NGO that helps underserved youth explore careers through career development and paid, mentored internships. Martina Perez is a 16-year-old rising junior in high school and shares her experience as an intern in APCO's New York office.

Martina’s three main takeaways are:

  • An internship can be a lifechanging experience, no matter how old you are   
  • We’ve heard this before but workplace culture does matter
  • No matter how busy you are, stop and talk to the interns 

By Martina Perez, Futures and Options Intern

In many ways, my internship at APCO Worldwide has been my greatest life lesson. It has been a professional lesson, an academic lesson, and a life lesson, all in one. APCO has taught me things that neither a textbook nor a teacher could.

Umm, Global Communications?

APCO labels itself as a “global communications firm” which was a little vague to me when I first browsed the company’s website. As I was assigned projects, I quickly began to learn that at the core of all things is communication. I also learned that communications comes in a variety of forms. 

Communications isn't just people conversing with one another. Communications is television broadcasting, Twitter, the New York Times, media lists, client pitches, and so much more! Exciting, right? I absorbed all this new knowledge and information like a sponge. I was learning something new every day. 

APCO was my first actual job (tutoring my cousin doesn’t count). So, this was my first experience of the workplace and the professional world. I was surrounded by dozens of working professionals that I could observe and learn from.

‘A Constant Buzz’

Before APCO, I had a certain idea of what the professional workplace looked like. Men with suits and ties, women with pencil skirts and blazers. The building is quiet as everyone is diligently at work. Everyone is addressed as “sir” and “ma’am”. I soon saw that this perception was not true for every company. APCO was nothing like this and I absolutely loved that.

Firstly, APCO was not quiet at all. You’d always hear someone talking, laughing, or even shouting (we all know who I’m talking about). This feature of the office was surprising yet perfect for me because my life has always been filled with noise. I’m a New Yorker (born and raised) so noise is my peace, oddly enough. The constant buzz at APCO made me feel right at home. 

‘A Warm Welcome’

What also surprised me about APCO was the kindness and warm welcome I received from my fellow interns and all other employees. I was the youngest of the pack (16 and counting!) yet they treated me like an equal and made sure to include me in everything. This came as a surprise to me because I had a certain perception of how an intern was treated by colleagues and supervisors, much like I had a certain perception of the ‘professional workplace’. My perception was developed after watching numerous shows and movies that depicted an intern as an inferior to everyone else. That intern was bossed around and could not speak their mind. Thankfully, APCO defied this common reality.

I also learned that the contributions of every person in a team. All tasks or projects, no matter how small, is important. Small contributions do have large impacts. 

‘APCO Sets the Bar’  

Through my internship at APCO, I realized that work culture is one of the most important aspects of a company. For first-time employee like myself, work culture wasn't even in my vocabulary a few months ago. Now, I see that the work environment truly defines the quality of a company. APCO changed my perspective of the workplace and professionals. 

As a company, APCO has set the bar high for any other companies I will work for in the future. From now on, I will hold all future supervisors, colleagues, and companies to high standards because APCO has shown me what I should expect and deserve from a job.

Tips for Future Interns

Upon (sadly) finishing my summer internship at APCO Worldwide, I have collected some tips for future interns.  

TIP #1: TALK (& CONNECT) TO PEOPLE

Easier said than done, right? I know it can seem intimidating at first, but it’ll be worth it. Professionals aren’t as terrifying as you may think. Sure, some might ignore you or just not have time to engage in conversation, but most are very eager to speak with you and want to get to know you. Also, once you feel comfortable enough, start asking around for people’s LinkedIn accounts. You’d be surprised what one connection can do.

TIP #2: ALWAYS CHECK YOUR APCO EMAIL

Your inbox can fill up very quickly and important emails can get lost. So, make sure you are diligently checking your email. Don’t leave people waiting! 

TIP #3: ASK QUESTIONS!!!

Trust me, there will be so many things that you don’t understand or just don’t know. Luckily for you, there will always be someone you can ask for help. “How does this coffee machine work?” Ask. “How should I email professionals?” Ask. “What should I use to research topics?” ASK!!! Never be embarrassed to express confusion; no one expects you to know everything perfectly because you shouldn't. (P.S. I usually would ask Wanda first. She knows everything that goes on in here and I love her).

TIP #4: EXPLORE THE OFFICE

There are so many rooms with so many snacks and drinks that I didn’t even discover until the third week of my internship. You name it, APCO probably has it. Have fun exploring! Also, one of the many luxuries at APCO is the free lunch. You have to be quick on your feet, though, if you want a taste of the much-loved mac and cheese. 

The last piece of advice I will offer is to have fun indulging in the awesome work environment and making connections. The internship will fly by. Don't worry future APCO interns: you’ll have a blast and learn a thing or two. I would know: after all, my APCO internship has truly been my greatest lesson yet.

Tina Kaiser
Tina Kaiser

Tina Kaiser is a director in APCO Worldwide’s New York office with over a decade's experience in strategic communications. Read More