July 05, 2017

Julian: Growing a new skillset at the Arnold Arboretum

It’s a sunny late summer day at the Arnold Arboretum. Surrounded by sprawling greenery and nature trails, this isn’t exactly the place one would think to find a team developing a new website. Yet, for Julian, a rising junior at Boston Latin School, that’s exactly what his PIC-brokered summer job at the Arboretum entailed.

The Arboretum is in the beginning stages of revamping its website to be more user friendly and modern. Julian’s main goal during his summer job was to set the Arboretum’s website committee up for success by completing a content audit and developing a user test that they can use as they lay out their new content strategy. However, before getting to work, Julian had to build up his knowledge about websites. Despite not having much experience in this area, his eagerness to learn and efficiency impressed his supervisors, especially since he was the department’s first high school intern.

“I don’t know if we were just really lucky with Julian, but his analytical abilities to look at the information we gave him and offer us feedback was excellent. We really benefitted hugely from having him here,” says Donna Tremonte, the Arboretum’s Applications Manager/Web Developer and one of Julian’s supervisors.

After reading up on the latest in user experience and web strategy, Julian visited Harvard’s user experience center and met with a user experience expert who provided some additional in-depth resources. When it was time to get to work, Julian performed a content audit of the current site, noting pages that fulfilled their intended purpose and those that did not. He also designed some user tests for a few webpages and guided a group of Arboretum visitors through them to gain insights into user behavior on the website.

“The work that Julian did for us is actually going to be a really big part of web strategy moving forward with our website redesign. We’re planning to use the user test he designed as a template for the rest of the website, so we’re using his project as a sort of launch point,” says Meghana Srinivasan, Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Arboretum and Julian’s other supervisor.

Julian has his sights set on a career in marine biology, so this project was a bit outside of his wheelhouse. However, he’s glad he took the leap into new territory. “Coming into this, I didn’t know much about websites or content strategy. But I think as technology becomes more and more important, it’s great for me to have some knowledge about this area,” says Julian. He also notes that he was able to build some skills—like research and analyzing information—that are highly transferable in college and beyond.

It turns out that while Julian was experiencing new things and building up his skill set, so were his supervisors. This was the first time that an intern had worked with the website team at the Arboretum. “I personally got a lot out of it as an experience in mentoring and supervising someone. I think on that level it was a great chance to learn,” says Donna.

Aside from learning the ins and outs of website content strategy, Julian thinks there’s a larger lesson to the summer. He notes that when approaching a new or unexpected situation, it’s important to keep an open mind. “I think it’s important to be willing to learn. At first, I was apprehensive and I really didn’t know what to expect from this summer, but I ended up learning a lot about an area that was completely new to me,” says Julian.

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