The listing for Vacasa’s internship program offered everything I wanted—money, autonomy, and the promise to help me grow in my career. It was exactly how I hoped to spend the summer before graduation. It was also intimidating.
After being accepted, the reality that I’d soon be sharing responsibilities with the full-time staff at a high-growth tech company began to set in. I had no idea what to expect! Looking back, I had more reason to be excited than anxious.
Here are some of the things I learned (and loved most) about my internship:
Face-Time With Senior Leaders
Every Thursday at lunch, we interns would gather for a chat with a different company leader. Cliff Johnson, one of Vacasa’s co-founders, shared lessons from a lifetime of entrepreneurship. Another time, Kimberly White, a Senior Regional Director and 3rd-ever Vacasa employee, offered advice on leadership and management. They weren’t lecturing; they were sharing stories and seemed genuinely delighted to be there. Building relationships with leaders helped me feel like an important part of the company.
Personal Mentor Program
At Vacasa, employees volunteer to mentor interns from different departments. The mentor’s mission is to help an intern grow and network. When my mentor found out I was interested in managing technical projects, he set up coffees for me with Directors on the Product and Management teams—despite the fact that I was a Marketing intern and he’s a Copywriter on the PR team. He helped me set goals for what I wanted to accomplish before I go back to school and even helped me take my resume to the next level. I think I scored the best mentor, but every other intern does, too.
This internship was my first taste of a ‘real’ job. Fortunately, the only professional reality-check I experienced is that work can be fun—really fun. I never expected a CEO who takes employees (and interns) boating, or that there would be ping pong tables, kombucha on tap, department scavenger hunts or even treadmill desks to use after drinking too much of the free espresso. Better still were all the friendly faces and smiles, the odd puns and jokes thrown around on Slack, my knowledgeable colleagues, and their genuine interest to help others (even the intern).
One day I found myself saying, “you’re letting me do what?” In that moment, I’d been handed responsibility for not one, but two hefty event sponsorships. These events represented the company to thousands of people and it was my job to help coordinate staffing, budget, swag, and promotion. I coordinated digital marketing and collateral with internal teams that did Copywriting, PR, SEO, Social Media, Digital Marketing and Graphic Design. I got to assign due dates and explain my vision for the project. Not once did I feel like just an intern.
In pursuing an internship, I hoped to get a taste of real-world marketing. Being entrusted with legitimate responsibilities in Vacasa’s fast-paced environment not only opened my eyes, but provided substance for my resume. I’ve become proficient with several Project Management and Communications software systems that I’d never even heard of before. Best of all, I finally know what I’m looking for when I graduate and want to start my career, and that’s something that no textbook could spell out for me.
Want to know just how much autonomy I was given? Here’s a secret: this blog post was an idea I pitched—and it doesn’t stop there: I also work with my manager to choose projects that interest me. I work on these projects anywhere in the office—from a bean bag chair to my dual-monitored desk. I’ve even attended professional development webinars with the copywriters because my mentor and I made it a goal to improve my writing.
Vacasa has set the bar pretty high as far as internships go. During my time here, I felt trusted, empowered, and fortunate to work alongside some seriously talented and humble individuals. While some of my fellow interns will stay with Vacasa and have turned this internship into a full-time job, I’ll return to school excited, with a new sense of direction for my career.
Thank you, Vacasa, for a great summer.
By Kelsey McCall, a member of our first-ever summer internship program