Internship Insights in the Era of COVID-19
By Jacob Hane, 1Berkshire Summer Intern
Benjamin Lamb, Kevin Pink and Jacob Hane outside the 1Berkshire offices in Pittsfield
I interned at 1Berkshire last summer, and during that time, I had the opportunity to see firsthand our region’s impressive growth. I saw the birth of businesses, the arrival of new resources, and the continued expansion of success stories. I toured the Berkshire Innovation Center before it opened, learned about EforAll and Wayfair’s upcoming operations in the Berkshires, and attended meetings on new transportation initiatives, such as the West-East Rail. It was a different time where my work focused on elevating businesses and communities through projects; I was a cog in the great connective tissue that is 1Berkshire, but boy has COVID-19 changed my experience this summer.
In part thanks to Hamilton College, I was able to return as an intern, but the work is quite different. At 1Berkshire, we are directly involved in promoting tourism, building and strengthening regional partnerships and working in support of the Berkshires’ small businesses, which are experiencing the tremendous economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The projects that I have undertaken, such as the outreach to and aggregation of information about the region’s immigrant-owned businesses and the Takeout and Delivery Restaurant List, are all the more important this time around. Supporting our many communities in the Berkshires is not simply a choice: it is the only way to keep the ecosystem alive. Furthermore, during my time this summer, I have also supported more internally-focused tasks. I worked closely with the marketing team to aid in 1Berkshires social media engagement along with helping out with content creation for ecommunications. I also worked with the membership and HR/accounting teams to assist in database management. Aiding in such capacities has transformed me from a helping-hand to a critical component of the team. There is a new weight and urgency to the work I do.
Last summer, I reflected upon the fact that I learned so much about how the Berkshires have changed; it was a learning experience for me, not in academia, but in real-time economic development. This summer, I am not learning as much about the history of the Berkshires or the businesses present; rather, I am applying my previous knowledge to cultivate opportunities for success. Nonetheless, I have continued to improve my skills from last summer. Working at 1Berkshire again has provided me the chance to sharpen my writing skills, engage my database management abilities, and refine my graphic design prowess. I may not be learning as much about operations throughout the Berkshires, but I am, for instance, learning about some of the tools and platforms used in the operation of a non-profit organization. Likewise, the fluidity of my position has allowed me to strengthen skills previously outside of my wheel-house (e.g. I am officially on the Economic Development Team, but I have helped keep the website up-to-date). Thus, I not only help support 1Berkshire’s operations, but I have also transformed myself into a well-rounded, jack-of-all (jacob-of-all, perhaps?) trades.
These are the firsthand experiences that I cannot obtain in a classroom, making this experience all the more valuable. Instead of parsing ancient languages and writing on late-antique and medieval identities, I am now analyzing statistical trends from videos and reflecting upon contemporary themes in the Berkshire’s COVID-19 recovery process. I can apply the critical thinking skills I have obtained from studying Attic Greek and Latin in new capacities. Transferable skills work in both directions, too. For instance, this semester I will be taking Data Analysis, which will focus on using statistical information to understand policy solutions — working with 1Berkshire has certainly given me experience in stats and policy. Likewise, the marketing team has helped me hone my graphic design skills; as the Layout Editor for an undergraduate research journal in the Classics, becoming stronger in this capacity has accelerated my development. For any team I join, I am now a stronger asset, and as one mentor taught me (albeit at a different internship), becoming an asset to a team is critical for both individual and group success.
While I do not know exactly how my career path will evolve over the next few years, I know my experience here will prove to be invaluable. Learning about the business economy during a pandemic has already piqued my interest in studying ancient and medieval pandemics. At the same time, I have a better understanding of the interwoven aspects of public health, economics, and government. Strengthening my hard skills, meanwhile, will serve me well in pursuing a graduate degree in Classics or Law, or in any job I take after I graduate from college.
I owe my accelerated development in these skills to the folks at 1Berkshire. Working with my previous teammates, such as Ben Lamb, Director of Economic Development, and Kevin Pink, Economic Development Coordinator, has helped me build upon the skills I started cultivating last year, while working with new colleagues such as Christine Hoyt, Director of Member Services, and Elizabeth Nelson, Senior Marketing Specialist, has allowed me to forge new tools for my inventory. 1Berkshire opened many doors for me last year; the same is true this year. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to everyone for their countless hours of tutelage and support, especially during such an uncertain time period.
In times of trial, I am often reminded of an Old English proverb etched into history in the poem The Lament of Deor. The author, Deor, reflects upon his seemingly-endless suffering and looks to the future for hope: “Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæ” [this was overcome, this may also]. This simple sentiment has taken root in much of the culture we laud today and is in fact transcendent across cultures: the alternative phrase “this too shall pass” comes to us from medieval Persian poets. As a classicist, studying the history of ancient peoples does lend verisimilitude to these types of phrases: great crises succumb to greater resolutions. My time at 1Berkshire is coming to an end, but I leave with hope for the future of our region, our country, and our world. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to serve the Berkshires once again.