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International Internship: atrain GmbH
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Carolina Spiess

Paterno Fellow
Major: Psychology
Minor: Business, Sociology
Hometown: Essen

How did you learn about this opportunity?

After having talked to a grad student in my lab (Dr Hunter's Innovation and Leadership Lab), he asked me about my summer plans. Hearing about my interests in HR consulting in Germany, he connected me with a former PhD student and lecturer from Penn State who works with atrain GmbH in Germany. She connected me with the respective internship recruiter and I underwent the usual application process.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Atrain GmbH is an HR consulting firm that specializes in Executive Assessment and Training. Our main products are assessment and development centers. I was part of the talent management team, which means that my tasks evolved around designing and delivering development centers; such as writing role-plays, designing workshops, creating schedules, and making sure the needed supplies and documents were packed and printed correctly for the delivery. The deliveries were usually held in a nice hotel where we would meet our clients and the chosen participants. I could go on two deliveries, which were my favourite part of the work. Although it was long hours from 8 to 10 at night, I really enjoyed interacting with the client and the employees of different companies. My job was to co-organize the center and to make sure the logistics and rundown of the development center went smoothly. A mentor was assigned to me who was responsible for introducing me to the team and providing and explaining the tasks to me as well as guiding me through this experience while giving me feedback whereas I could express mine as well. Due to her strong symptoms of her pregnancy, she fell sick for half of the time of my internship, which gave me the opportunity to take over many of her responsibilities. Even though I missed my mentor by my side, I am very glad to have been given the trust and respect to fulfill her role as best as I could. Hence, I moved up quickly from the regular intern to one of the main contact persons for a major project that I could assist in designing and delivering.

How did this experience impact you academically?

First of all, I knew little about assessment centers and nothing about development centers before stepping foot into atrain. Thankfully, atrain is built around a supportive and learning culture where lack of knowledge and failures are accepted and encouraged. These steps are perceived as crucial methods to learn and grow. Academically speaking, I learned a lot about the concepts of assessment and development centers and as I am currently taking a class on selection and assessment, I truly believe I will have an advantage as I know about the procedures and deliveries. More so, I could comprehend how the theory learned in classes is applied in the practical world. In a workshop that we presented, we explained a lot of the theories that I have recently learned about in a class last spring semester. On a very general level, I noticed how important Microsoft Office proficiencies are and how much I have to improve my skills in this field. So I am very eager to learn more about the tools that Excel especially offers. All in all, I gained a greater understanding of the I/O Psychology field and noticed how theories can be applied and communicated to a non-academic audience.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

Upon completion of my Bachelors degree in Psychology, I would like to pursue a career in HR consulting. Whereas I thought of this career before completing this internship, this experience has deepened this desire. Although this opportunity only showed me a small portion of HR consulting, I am still certain and excited to follow this path. More so, I wish to complete more internships that would show me a different perspective and topics in the field to understand the overall context. Also, due to this opportunity, I have learned that I need a position with multiple and diverse tasks, as the design and delivery of development centers are very similar for every client. It is often the same content for a client multiple times a year. The only thing that changes are the participants. Another characteristic I noticed is the direct and immediate contact with the client, which I prefer more than the regular design stage and working on a desk from 9 to 5. That means that I will try and do my best to work my way up the ladder to have the responsibility to interact with clients and stakeholders.

I widened my network and realized how to use my abilities and theoretical knowledge I learned in college in the practical world.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Yes, definitely! Having a Psychology or Business background would facilitate the experience though. However, I really enjoyed my time at atrain because I gained a diverse insight into the world of Personnel selection and development. Generally, getting experience in the business world offered me to understand the norms and habits that exist in such settings. Besides expanding my skills on Microsoft programs and learning about the procedures of assessment and development centers, I widened my network and realized how to use my abilities and theoretical knowledge I learned in college in the practical world.

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