By Joe Sigler

I first met Dean Whittaker two summers ago at a local café where I work and he frequents. During the slow portions of my shift, we would get to talking about our interests, and surprisingly, we had a lot in common. He would update me on what was going on in the world of technology, and I would send him baseball websites to show his grandson. From these interactions came an off, intern at Whittaker Associates.

This being my first real job, my expectations of the business world came mostly from TV shows and movies. I hoped that I would learn more from this internship than the employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company did from their helpless boss, Michael. I imagined an environment where employees were expected to perform with the knowledge and skills that they had, and bosses only came by to check on you when projects were near due. I was honestly a bit scared and nervous to go into work the first day.

In reality, when I walked into the office on day one, I was welcomed with open arms and ears. I felt as if I was instantly part of the team, not just the intern who would only be of use for Starbucks runs. As opposed to only conducting my work with the abilities already in my tool belt, I was encouraged to keep up with industry trends and learn new skills to help in my daily activities. I believe that integrating learning into our workday has helped me make improvements more quickly than if I were to just work at work, and learn at home.

Speaking of learning, I have digested a lot of information and tips in my first month at Whittaker Associates. Most importantly, I have learned to listen. And not just listening to respond, but truly listening. There are a lot of smart people around who have been in this game a lot longer than I have. The more I can hear them work through complicated problems the way they know how, the better off I will be in the future. Another hugely valuable skill that I have improved on this month is also one that is too often undervalued: Teamwork. I played sports growing up but there was always a coach or a parent telling you what to do, and professionals on TV every night really showing you how it is done. But in business, there are more unique problems that sometimes one person cannot solve by themselves, making it truly necessary to be able to work well in teams.

I have learned a great deal over the course of my first month here at Whittaker Associates, and am really looking forward to learning a great deal more.