Employer Spotlight: Andreas Merkl, President and CEO, Ocean Conservancy
In addition to the professional contributions, what other benefits did you and your company experience as a result of hiring your international intern?
During her time with us, Alba G. has greatly enriched the dynamic of our Ocean Conservancy office environment. Beyond sharing her culture and language with us, she has impressed us with her strong ambition to learn American culture and to improve her English language skills. She is consistently friendly, diligent, patient and curious, making her a delight to work with on a daily basis. We continuously admire her poise and enthusiasm, especially knowing that she arrived in the U.S. knowing no one and was willing to jump into our workplace with a can-do attitude and willingness to learn. Alba quickly immersed herself in the work we do but took it upon herself to organize weekly "Lunch & Learns" to teach Spanish and her native customs to her new U.S. teammates. Outside the office, Alba has escorted her coworkers to Spanish restaurants to educate them on Spanish food, and she has orchestrated informal classes to teach others how to prepare traditional Spanish dishes. Alba has also provided travel recommendations to her colleagues who are planning trips to Spain and the feedback on her recommendations has been outstanding.
What are some of the skills that you've learned from the intern during this program? Describe how you might apply these skills and learning in your work environment and business practices:
Alba's cultural perspectives on different aspects of ocean conservation have added great value to our programmatic work as it allows us to evaluate issues from a non-U.S. viewpoint. Alba recently conducted a solo research project I assigned her in which she examined fisheries within a climate change framework. She completed a lengthy, polished final report and presented the results to the entire Ocean Conservancy staff. Alba's delivery demonstrated her newfound command of the English language; she was extremely well-spoken and proved to be a dynamic presenter. The presentation was well-received and our staff was thoroughly educated on the change of fish migration to colder waters due to the effects of climate change. I was so impressed that I asked her to follow up with a secondary research assignment focused on the themes of overfishing. She will present those results this summer. One of Alba's impressive qualities that has been inspirational to others is her openness and desire to better herself and her performance in the workplace. Her commitment to knowledge-sharing has allowed her and those that work with her to grow and learn immensely.
Share examples of how you've learned more about another culture and how you've shared U.S. culture with your intern:
Alba has provided ample opportunities through her informal classes and conversations to share her cultural norms with our local staff. Through her Spanish lessons, her DC teammates have learned extensively about Spanish food, dance, customs and history.
Being based in our DC office, Alba has benefited from significant exposure to U.S. history through her extensive exploration of the nation's capital, including numerous museums, cultural landmarks and historical sites. She has attended local activities with work colleagues, discovered the many neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., and has taken advantage of the opportunity to travel to other cities including New York City. Her U.S. teammates have enjoyed seeing Alba experience and learn about American customs through holiday celebrations at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween. She even experienced the uniquely American tradition of shopping on Black Friday with a coworker... beginning at 6:00 a.m!
What are the most meaningful things you've experienced during this program?
Hosting an international intern is an excellent way to bring a diverse perspective into our organization. Our intern has demonstrated a different style of problem solving and has introduced new contexts for understanding marine issues. This has been particularly helpful at a time when our organization is expanding from domestic to international work. The most meaningful thing that's emerged from Alba's internship at Ocean Conservancy is the frequent informal discussions about ocean and organizational issues and problems. Without Alba's international perspective, it's likely that we would not converse about these issues in the same context. With Alba, we often talk about how things differ in Spain compared with the United States and how she or her colleagues back home might approach a situation differently due to cultural norms. These conversations have emphasized the importance of analyzing issues from 360 degrees to ensure that we're not addressing issues solely through a U.S.-centric lens. Cross-cultural sharing is extremely beneficial to an organization like ours that focuses on global issues.
What would you tell a colleague about hiring an intern through InterExchange?
We would highly recommend that other organizations consider hosting an international intern since the experience can be a win-win for both parties. The host organization gains a great deal from the diversity and knowledge-sharing inherent in the experience while the intern benefits both personally and professionally from his/her exposure to American business practices and culture. It's a beneficial learning experience on both sides.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.