Any workplace seems slightly bizarre for a high-school intern and Qonto is certainly no different. Walls full of post-it notes and flow charts and people from every continent wandering around speaking to each other in their own hybrid version of Frenglish. There are even those who seem ancient enough to remember a time before internet.
During the autumn school holidays, we were lucky enough to host two high-school girls carrying out a discovery internship as part of Qonto's partnership with BecomTech, an initiative to encourage more young women into careers in the world of technology. Joelly, 17, and 15-year-old Absa were frank and open about their impressions and here, in their own words, is what they thought.
10:00am - Taking the plunge
Absa and Joelly: We were in such a panic at the start of the first day that we waited outside for 10 minutes trying to pluck up the courage to go in. It sounds silly, doesn't it? But once we finally went inside, we soon felt welcome. After an hour, we didn't even feel like interns any more.
11:00am - Weekly meeting with the People team
Absa: I imagined HR people would spend their whole time on the phone interviewing candidates, and that they'd be at their desks all day just doing that. But actually, we went to their meeting and found out that they also talk together about team objectives.
Joelly: The meeting was somewhere between friendly and professional, and the manager wasn't there just to criticize. She said stuff like "OK, the numbers are good but we can still do even better." It was very positive and encouraging. At school nobody ever says "You can do better, just go for it!". In fact, at school, they do the opposite, which doesn't really work for me.
12:30pm - Lunch break and the jobs of the future
Joelly: I'd quite like to work in data in the future because you can do anything with it. You can use it in fintech or in medicine, and I think it will be huge in e-health. I'm taking IT and maths at school but I'm also passionate about life sciences.
Absa: I'm interested in journalism but when I started taking part in Jump in Tech, I discovered about digital and technology. I can also see myself doing what Julien does as the Event Manager at Qonto.
2:00pm - Meeting with the data team
Joelly: At school we learn a lot of things without really knowing what we can do with them afterwards, once we're working in a company. It's a bit of an old and outdated system. Here, we can see exactly what the point is. For example, in IT class I do SQL codes and now, with the data team, I can finally see why it's useful. It feels great realizing that what seems theoretical in school actually also exists in practice.
4:00pm - Coffee break debate about diversity in tech
Joelly: What I'm about to say is really quite frightening: last year in IT class at high school there were only three girls in a class of 36. And one of us gave up! It's actually quite sad.
Absa: I think things are starting to change because girls are better informed now. Personally, if BecomTech hadn't come looking for me I wouldn't even know what tech is.
Joelly: People don't know about the power of programming. One day I realized: you start from a blank screen and you can create anything. It's like a book. You give everyone a sheet of white paper and some will write Harry Potter and others will write, say, a philosophy essay. It's all a question of what you want to do.
So it's important to tell everyone: 'look, this is something you can do too'. Becomtech has been really useful in that way. It gives us a jump start and then afterwards we can get on with it how we like.
Absa: That's true. I've learned so much by doing. Before, I knew nothing about programming. Now, it's another skill to add to my list and it's something I can share with other people.
5:00pm - Final thoughts
Absa and Joelly: We brought in a little surprise and left it in the fridge as a leaving gift. Unlucky for those who work from home, but we did at least spare a thought for them!
Absa and Joelly showed ambition, asked plenty of questions and were not afraid to tell us what they thought. It was a real pleasure having the girls among us in the office for a week and we look forward to our next opportunity to impart what we know while learning from other unique perspectives. Discovery internships are not only good for young people to learn about the world of work, they're also a chance for companies to examine their own ways of working. And the pastries we found in the fridge were most appreciated too!
If you want to find out more about the BecomTech program for getting young women into digital careers, there's plenty of information right here.