The #GrouponU Blog is back for 2015! We’ll regularly feature a Groupon intern or recent college grad telling you about their experience tackling challenging problems and working with our teams. Anna, who was a summer intern on our Social Innovation team, talks about her experience working with passionate, purpose-driven teammates.
I entered my Groupon internship with an amalgamation of feelings. I was certainly elated to have the opportunity to work in Tech, something I didn’t think was feasible with my career trajectory towards pre-medicine and plastic surgery. I wondered how “corporate” my environment would be; I’ve had jobs at restaurants, labs and studios, but I’ve never sat at a cubicle for 8 hours a day. I was also admittedly hesitant: how does a corporation attempt to generate social change? Are not the ethoses of corporations and social justice activists inherently antithetical to each other?
It was not three days before my close friends accused me of being “obsessed” with Groupon. I couldn’t really be blamed for it, though…I was surrounded by the types of people I previously thought could only be found in the non-profit sector. They seemed to value and take me seriously from the start and there was a literal pit of free candy steps away from my desk. How could I not be obsessed?
At the heart of Social Innovation are three very compassionate employees. Bill is the most vocal, possessing the ability to infuse every remark with a note of authority, but he is also genuinely approachable and hilariously unpredictable. Nick has a peculiar knack to zero in on precisely the heart of the issue of discussion with a single critical comment, usually after his co-workers have talked themselves into exhaustion trying to figure out how to say the same thing. Alicia always has encouragement and a contagious laugh for everyone – seemingly completely unfazed and dedicated even as she stays at work past 7 pm and hosts company volunteer events virtually every weekend. Together, the three feel more like family than colleagues, protective of each other while unafraid to argue generously and honestly about the next new venture. They seem to belong more in a social service sector preoccupied with the welfare with humanity than they do at the headquarters of a tech giant, yet somehow it works. They have grand dreams for what the company can do for the community and local business.
I entered Groupon at a fresh beginning for the Social Innovation team only two weeks after the new Head of Social Innovation, Matt, started. I was afraid I started off on the wrong foot with Matt after I made a blunder and spoke out of turn, but he turned out to be very approachable and levelheaded. It was from him that I learned the value of reigning in one’s hubris.
I probably learned the most, though, from Matt Pennetti, who was patient and helpful with virtually every anxious inquiry I pestered him with. I was exceedingly grateful that the team let me tag along with someone technically not from Social Innovation so that I could learn hands-on the ins and outs of commercial design, typography, and even a little bit of filming. All along the way, I met more talented and enthusiastic people.
The Social Innovation team’s work dips in and out of many other departments as they embark on each project, whether it’s educating and encouraging Girls Who Code, helping host a book drive to deliver over 10,000 books to local Chicago teachers, or running marathons of volunteering with the Employee Volunteer Program. Aside from hoping they can continue steamrolling their vision, I also hope to see them gain more recognition for their accomplishments. Every single person at Groupon (not to mention the public at large) would benefit from understanding how deeply invested the company is in not only helping the surrounding community of each of their locations, but also in pioneering different and unexpected ways of doing so. I’m honored that I was able to contribute a small chapter to the Social Innovation story.