Doqaru Internship: Interview with Sam Downes
Sam is currently working with us as our Business Development Intern. He works under BD Director, Sarah Downs, to help grow one of our clients’ LinkedIn connections and business prospects. He works with us part-time whilst he studies at the University of Aberdeen. Here he discusses what skills and experience the internship has given him so far.
What are you studying at University and what made you choose this course?
I’m studying business economics at the University of Aberdeen and currently in my third year. Whilst I did consider doing English literature as it was something I enjoyed and got good grades in at school, in terms of prospects and my future career, business economics made more sense. I do have some regrets though, notably due to the fact that I studied two years of economics already at school which made my first two years of University feel uninspiring.
What made you interested in taking an internship with Doqaru?
I had applied to the marketing internship over Christmas time, as I had some experience in marketing through the musical ensembles I had co-founded and managed as well as through the Formula Student Business Team. Yekemi interviewed me but I didn’t get accepted, which was disappointing [haha]. I was looking for something from my front desk job at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) that would give me a more relevant experience in the business world. So, when the original opportunity popped up and I thought why not? However, when that didn’t come through, I stayed with JLR until I got a message from Yekemi saying there was another job opportunity available. I came in to have a chat with Directors, Yekemi and Sarah about what the job with one of their clients would entail. Thankfully, this time I got the job! Not only did this give me the opportunity to gain that relevant experience, but I was also very curious about Doqaru and working in a start-up environment.
What are you learning now at Doqaru?
The main task in my internship is sales prospecting for one of Doqaru’s clients. I’m helping to build the client’s online presence and interaction. The number of connections for the client has grown by 30% in the last 3 months. Overall, my job is to get traction for their business and increase the potential client pool. Before starting, I understood the basics of LinkedIn, but I hadn’t used it for prospecting and networking on this scale. I’ve definitely learned a lot. For example, I would normally shy away from writing a note on a connection request and skip that part. But now I appreciate the importance of it, especially when creating lasting relationships or connecting with someone you haven’t met. I’ve started to trial it and send some connections with a note and some without. The difference in response rates was fascinating. Particularly in the digital world, adding a personal touch brings a human connection to our online connections.
What is a typical day/week like for you?
There isn’t a typical day. No two days or weeks are the same – even more so nowadays! At University, Tuesdays were my longest day with 4-hour lectures and the rest of the week was an hour a day. So, I’d try to have two 2-and-a-half-hour slots dedicated to my internship with Doqaru (5 hours per week). We initially blanked out Tuesday and Friday to give people a chance to respond, but the role and format have changed slightly so it’s more flexible now. I had to make sure it was compatible with Uni in general, which was good practice for me in learning how to balance my work schedule.
You attended DoqaruCon, was this your first large conference and what impact did it have?
DoqaruCon was my first business event and I’m very grateful to Sarah for inviting me. It was fascinating. I had dabbled in networking before but not to that extent. My first big non-business event was when I was part of the University’s Chapel Choir last year. We went to New York to sing at the UNICEF Snowflake Ball which was an amazing experience! Caviar and champagne at the after-party – not bad! This was probably the first opportunity I had to network with people I didn’t know at all. Coming away I made some great contacts with people that I still chat to regularly. But with DoqaruCon, a big business style event conference, that was my first. I met some incredible people.
To further illustrate the human element of LinkedIn, I sent one of the DoqaruCon speakers, Joseph Di Bennardo, a message saying how inspiring it was for someone my age to see someone like him and what he’s achieved, having gone from humble beginnings to where he is now. He took the time to send me back a voice note saying that it was great to know that he could inspire people like that. He also said if I ever needed anything or if he could contribute to my success to give him a shout. This was the same with another speaker, Gavin Oattes.
Being personable and genuine goes a long way. That would be my biggest takeaway from the event. It’s easy to see businesspeople as cold, fuelled by greed and money. But that’s not the reality. Seeing business owners so relaxed, friendly and “human” was a really great experience. I also loved meeting people from industry – it was fantastic!
What do you enjoy about working with a small start-up?
The atmosphere and culture. You are trusted to have your own freedom, take initiative in your work and make your own decisions. When I compare the environment in my previous role at JLR, there’s more flexibility to how you work at Doqaru. You always hear people speak about the start-up atmosphere, mentality, the community and family feel. At Doqaru, I think it’s completely true. It’s small, but at the same time, you feel you are contributing to something meaningful. Your actions have a purpose and are recognised and appreciated. Even though I work from home, I feel included in the company culture, which is quite incredible. If there ever was an opportunity to grow into a new role or progress my career with Doqaru, I would 100% consider it. The company culture is just so nice, welcoming and you feel at home.
What skills and experience do you feel you’ve gained in the last 3 months with us?
From the internship, I’ve got a lot about prospecting and networking online, which is not just applicable to this specific role. Creating more ‘human’ connections with people is a big skill to learn, especially in these times. Being about to start and build those connections could lead to successes in sales, collaboration and partnerships, for instance. Incidentally, these skills are also useful on a personal level.
What is your biggest learning lesson so far?
I’ve been able to use the customer service skills, which I acquired through working at JLR, to create and strengthen human relationships for our client. I’m applying facets of these skills to a more business-oriented case.
Do you feel having an internship has given you better lessons in ‘life’ and the ‘real world’ than University prepares you for?
Definitely. I think it was a shame that the University of Aberdeen doesn’t integrate internships as part of the curriculum, especially in a business degree. I hope it’s something that the university looks into – it would add so much value to the course experience. Local businesses like Doqaru could benefit from it whilst students get real-world experience. It’s a win-win. I’m delighted to have gotten that exposure.