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Technology, Learning, and Professionalism in the age of COVID-19

Emmanuel Woolard, Fall 2020 Communications Intern

COVID presented numerous challenges this year both personally and professionally. At the top of the year my internships were disrupted. For much of the spring and summer months, I searched for internship opportunities I could start in the fall before I embarked on a new journey as a graduate student at New York University.

I had no idea what to expect. I had never taken classes online before; I had never done an internship remotely; I was nervous. Thankfully, I had a few opportunities to acclimate to the new remote digital landscape of the world I was heading in. As a fellow with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) and an opportunity with the T. Howard Foundation Summer Series program, I was exposed to using applications, such as Slack and Zoom.

Before the start of my semester at New York University, I learned of an internship opportunity with The Studio Museum in Harlem. I applied, interviewed, and was accepted as a Communications intern for the fall 2020 cohort. This was when I began to worry about what this opportunity would be like,—I wanted to make a great first impression but I realized I would have to do so through a screen.

Three months later, after successfully participating in the Studio Museum professional seminar and completing the fall internship, I am happy with how I am can navigate this remote landscape. Between my internship and school, I am learning, like everyone else, the importance of what it means to over-communicate and to show up with an eagerness to learn about the Studio Museum in Harlem. I am extremely fortunate for the Museum’s ability to respond in the moment and to help me in this new way of being because everything is mediated and facilitated through a screen now. Professionalism is still the standard and productivity remains important, but the weight of intensity no longer exists as it did before COVID. I am extremely thankful for the ways I am supervised and given projects and opportunities at the Studio Museum. The Communications department has made it easy for me to ask questions, engage, and show up with an eagerness to get things done. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and constant check-ins helped me stay on task and focus on what is required of me each week.

As a person of color, I value the importance of being in a physical space to learn, as this opens us up to opportunities to network with leaderships, peers, and professional across the organization and exposes our minds to new possibilities we might not have imagined for ourselves. As someone who learns on the job, in a hands-on environment, being remote and learning how to engage productively comes with a bit of a learning curve. However,it has been an experience that can be managed well through constant communication and time management.

COVID’s landscape has opened me up to the idea of one day having the option to work from home because this experience has afforded me the luxury of flexibility to get things done effectively. This does not mean that I hope for a completely remote experience in the coming years, but I would be fine with a part-time work-from-home schedule.

Many thanks to the Communications department and entire The Studio Museum in Harlem for helping me reimagine what it means for companies, organizations, and people to engage in a new digital era post-Covid.