Only two weeks of my internship had passed when I heard “trial by fire,” a phrase that I hadn’t realized I was missing until a prospective member jokingly described my job as such. I laughed it off but quickly realized how appropriately it described the way I was feeling early on. I’m now in my fourth week as the Community Ambassador for HQ Charlotte at Packard Place, a co-working facility and entrepreneurship hub at the heart of the quickly growing Charlotte start-up scene. Known as simply Packard Place when it was founded five years ago, Packard recently merged with HQ Community and joined several other HQ locations with the hope of becoming the premiere co-working network throughout the Southeast. The environment is fast-paced and full of new challenges each day, a feeling that straddles the line between energizing and overwhelming, especially during the first couple of weeks.
One of the challenges that I love most about my internship is our small, four-woman team. I work directly with Chelsea Barrett, the director of HQC, as well as Liz Stevens, a recent Davidson grad who transitioned from a spring intern to the full-time leasing and operations manager. The fourth member is the digital marketing intern, meaning half of our team only started this summer! I consider this small team a challenge, though, because the four of us manage the ins and outs of HQC on a daily basis, and each day is packed full with colorful, overlapping rectangles on our Google calendars. HQC isn’t proportionate to the size of our team though; the building is 90,000 square feet—a physical space that appropriately represents the amount of information I felt like I had to learn before the end of the first pay cycle. Besides the daily upkeep of the co-working spaces, handling general member inquiries and constantly keeping an overflowing email inbox in check, I’ve gained almost full autonomy in three major areas: membership interest/touring/on-boarding, community partnerships and sponsorships, and event space rentals. These three areas require a lot of nuanced knowledge, but they also involve constant communication with other people—I’ve had several moments of disbelief that I’m being paid to socialize and network, especially when a 30-minute tour flies by and feels like no more than a friendly conversation.
Part of my job at HQ Charlotte includes standing at the reception desk to answer questions for both current members and drops-ins alike. In that second week of work, well before I felt comfortable giving a 30-minute tour so easily, a drop-in approached me with multiple questions about the community and available office space. I knew the best option was to be transparent by admitting I had just started the week prior and wasn’t fully equipped yet to answer all of his questions. After expressing that I was learning exponentially each day and would actually be able to give him a tour on my own the following week, he made the joke that my job sounded like trial by fire. Although I laughed at first, the phrase “trial by fire” embodies the mixed emotions I initially felt whenever the pressure has been on to perform as though I actually know every in and out of HQ Charlotte. The internship has thrown a lot of information, questions, challenges and curve balls at me from day one. But I also remember that my fellow intern and I were hired with that expectation in mind. We’ve received a high level of respect, responsibility and trust. Although we do actually make a fresh batch of coffee in the co-working kitchen every morning, I also give several tours a day, I’ve already brought on a new community partnership (from initial meeting to final contract), and I can answer almost any question thrown at me while standing at the reception desk. I wouldn’t quite describe the job as trial by fire anymore–I love going to work every day, and I’ve learned that I thrive in the constantly moving and changing start-up environment at HQ Charlotte.