6 Things I Learned as a Minerva Intern

line circle

Malia Mackey – Cornell student, gymnast, and overall amazing lady – served as Minerva’s goddess-in-training and intern this summer. We were thrilled to have her. She left us with parting words of wisdom. We hope you enjoy them.

1. Words matter.

Minerva’s business is built on the principle that words matter. They should be consistent, concise, and engaging. On my first day – after being egregiously early and contemplating hiding in the bathroom – I  referred to myself as “just the summer intern.” I was quickly corrected. There would be no “just” about this position.


That was my first hint that I would need to heed my words. Creating a messaging framework, writing a killer social media post, and sounding like a decent human being all require a close attention to what you say and how you say it. It’s a practice that includes people willing to tell you when you’re off the mark, and the occasional over-thinking.


2. People love lists.

I figured that on my last day I might as well give it a go. From learning about the top 10 infant mortality causes from IHME to Dignity Period’s 5 Period Pointers from Girls, for Girls, I agree with the data that says lists are intriguing…and it looks like it worked on you.


3. Lab skills don’t often translate to communications work… but sometimes they do.

I came from a world of micropipettes, viruses, and cell culture, working in infectious disease research labs studying HIV and Ebola at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Cornell University, respectively. To say this was a change of gears would be an understatement.


Getting started looked radically different from my previous experiences. In labs, I had to undergo a series of several vaccinations, blood draws, and signatures relinquishing the research facility from all responsibility if I infected myself with an infectious disease. At Minerva, a simple W-9 form sufficed.


In the world of biological science and research, the data tell you when you’re done. At Minerva, it’s the shifting combination of a review process, a deadline, and a quiet voice in your head that tells you when something is ready to send to a client.


But there are similarities between the two types of work. I found the skills I developed in the lab, like synthesizing information with close attention to detail and prioritizing the most important points, were also useful for Minerva’s work.


For example, I took a slew of opinion pieces on prison reform and constructed a blog with a clear, coherent argument. I still needed to supplement my skills with sometimes desperate consultations of Google, but it was great to realize that my hard-earned lab experience is transferable to other arenas.


4. Education doesn’t have to stop when you start your career.

I don’t mean the “we’re all lifelong learners” stuff. Finding ways to challenge yourself is core to the Minerva mission. My Minerva colleague Sara is taking a creative nonfiction writing class and participating in a podcast fellowship, and my colleague Johnny is enrolled in a political essay night class.


This office values real-world experience but also remembers how much we can learn when we sit in a classroom. The idea of a continuing education and maintaining various, sometimes only tangentially work-related interests is something I’d like to take with me in my future career.


5. Mentorship is everything.

The trust that was placed in me was alarming at first. I was convinced that I would single-handedly destroy Minerva’s reputation through my lack of experience. Soon enough, I realized that I would be surrounded by three mentors every day. Everything I created was put through rigorous edits, and with weekly check-ins and constant availability for questions, I soon felt integrated into the work flow of the office. Most of all, I felt valued and supported as a team member, able to take risks and ask for feedback.


6. Everyone should intern at Minerva.

Their passion and seeing the positive impact of Minerva’s work makes being part of this three-person power team hard to beat.


I used to think that I wanted a job that started and ended when I stepped in and out of the office.  I could pour my heart into it, but at the end of the day I would be cut free from its grasp. While some days at Minerva I longed for 5 pm and happy hour with friends, I often did not mind staying later. Sometimes I would even surf the internet in the evenings for more insight on a social media post I was writing or contemplate the best form for my blog, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.


Of course, not everyone can work for Minerva, but you can find your Minerva. Somewhere you feel valued and you work beside passionate people who assure you that you aren’t just the summer intern.

About The Author

Minerva Strategies

Minerva Strategies

The Minerva team has decades of experience working with nonprofits, foundations, and values-driven companies. Minerva also partners with experts—trusted designers, web developers, global communications professionals, and others—who share our excitement for creating positive social change. Through these partnerships, we can build a team that is tailored to your needs. Learn more about who we are or what we do.