From Project Manager Assistant to Executive Director in 4 Years: Lina’s Internship Story
Internships can help gain practical skills, network with professionals in the same field and find exciting career paths. Discover how WAcademy’s Executive Director started her journey as an intern.
You know that person on the team who everyone relies on? The person who is always willing to help and make time despite their wildly busy schedule? At WAcademy, that’s Lina, who joined the company in 2018. Lina started as a Project Manager assistant but quickly proved herself worthy of the Executive Director role because of her brilliant problem-solving skills, performance-driven mindset and excellent communication.
This is her success story and tips on making the best out of every opportunity.
Juggling studies, internship and work – mission possible!
In early 2018, I was finishing my Business Information Management studies at Vilnius University, and I was ready to make real career moves. As I browsed through job ads, I found one by WAcademy looking for an assistant to a Project Manager.
I must admit, at the time, I knew nothing about the company, but I was very intrigued by the internship conditions. Moreover, the ad promised career growth opportunities, and I’m happy to report – it did not lie. Ultimately, because I studied communication, project and information management, among many other disciplines, interning for a Project Manager felt like the right fit for me.
The internship lasted three months, and I was still completing my Bachelor’s thesis and preparing for my finals. When I was offered a full-time position right after the internship, I was thrilled. That said, studying and working full-time proved to be one of the most challenging times of my life. One of the most rewarding too.
Exciting challenges and a dynamic work environment helped me realize I had made the right decision
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about interning at WAcademy was the variety of tasks I got to work on. In hindsight, this is what helped both me and my direct managers understand what I was capable of and which career direction I was moving towards.
In 2018, WAcademy was still a young company, and we still needed to do plenty of work to set up the company’s structure, specifically related to the web design internship program. So, as soon as I joined the company, I was part of the team that scouted interns and built processes that support the program to this day.
Unsurprisingly, at the very beginning, I was just as lost as the new web design interns were! At first, we had only up to 10 interns designing websites, which probably sounds like it would be easy to manage. But tracking information and coordinating intern tasks was a chaotic process. Eventually, realizing all the issues, I spent a lot of time with my colleagues building the internship program structure.
Simultaneously, I had the opportunity to start working with clients, solving problems and taking some of the workload off the Project Manager’s shoulders. My initial communication with clients definitely helped me understand our services and both our mission and vision much better.
For me personally, working on so many diverse and unique projects at once was exhilarating. This is when I knew that I saw myself working at WAcademy long-term.
3 most important lessons I learned from interning
In just three months, I had learned so much, and I knew I wanted to continue on this path. Six years later, I carry on learning and becoming better every day, but these are the three most important lessons I took with me from those first three months.
- Internships are meant to challenge you, and a variety of different tasks help you assess your strengths and weaknesses.
- Clear communication is the number-one thing that prevents unnecessary problems with both colleagues and clients.
- If you feel good at your company and can find common ground with your colleagues, you will be excited to do the work. And I say this from prior experience working at a company that was not the right fit for me.
Of course, it’s not all work and no play. In fact, it’s the fellowship, chats between meetings and team-building activities that make or break a team. At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget that unexpected 5 PM meeting. On the other hand, I will never forget when a coworker sneakily loaded the “Gandalf Sax Guy 10 Hours HD” video on all computers in the office to teach everyone a lesson about leaving them unlocked!
Stepping into the shoes of an Executive Director
Before joining WAcademy and starting my career, I feared I’d be stuck working with clients only. However, as I started my internship, I realized I could successfully apply my skills and knowledge to enhance internal company processes and improve business outcomes for both internal teams and clients. In this regard, I’d say joining WAcademy has helped me realize my full potential.
Since my internship ended, I’ve had the opportunity to wear several different hats in the company. Every single challenge, lesson and achievement paved the way to my current position.
In 2021, I began my journey as an Executive Director at WAcademy, and while my responsibilities have changed, I continue working on many different tasks. Which is where I thrive and excel. From solving strategic and administrative problems to guiding sales (LT and EN markets) and project management (ES market) teams. I feel like I’m really helping clients set up their businesses or grow them through amazing websites.
My day-to-day consists of communicating with sales and project management team leads, addressing recurring or new problems and also dealing with technical and administrative tasks that might not be the most exciting but still impact the success of our daily processes.
My perfect workday
On a perfect day, I have time to meet the team to discuss process management, brainstorm ideas and plan how we can grow WAcademy in the future. Then after work, I get to spend some quality time with my colleagues over drinks and meaningful chats.
Before the company expanded, we could easily coordinate fun events and activities together. Now that WAcademy has expanded to multiple geographical locations, we will definitely need to find a way to plan more online team-building events. But that’s exciting too!
One of the best perks of working in a team of people from so many different backgrounds and countries is that you can plan amazing workations. I appreciate that we can choose whether we want to work remotely, in the office or take the hybrid approach. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m in Barcelona, enjoying the sun and a change of scenery.
The freedom to work remotely is not the only thing I love about WAcademy. From the first day I joined the company, Gediminas [Gediminas Jankauskas, WAcademy founder] fostered open communication, which encouraged everyone to share ideas freely. We are also frequently reminded that we do not work for someone but rather with each other, which instantly makes you feel part of a team.
Interning opened the door to an exciting career path
I strongly believe any opportunity to intern is an opportunity to learn, grow and open new horizons. Just beyond practical, hands-on experience, an internship can enrich one’s life with new challenges, new perspectives and new possibilities.
Many of my colleagues have interned both within and outside WAcademy, and so all the struggles and excitement that come with an internship are still fresh on our minds. I truly believe this is how we were able to build an exciting internship program for web designers that actually leads to success.
WAcademy interns have designed more than 30,000 websites, and with each project, we are learning together with our trainees. We encourage both internal and web design interns to try, fail and learn without judgment. At the end of the day, we are 100% committed to helping our interns become the best they can be, and that is our secret sauce.
I’m so happy the internship landscape is changing, and with the possibility to learn and work remotely, I’m sure we will have more and more interns joining WAcademy and the program from all over the world. The future is exciting!
Story by Lina Kunšteinaitė, Executive Director at WAcademy. August 2023.
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