Aileron is a very unique place. Whether it’s the people, the campus or just the mission we live by, there’s something here that gives people a certain feeling when they leave campus – myself included. Having spent over a year here as an intern, I’m not only leaving my Aileron experience with that can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it, magical feeling, but with a shifted perspective: my time here has taught me to slow down, get out of the fast lane, and enjoy the process.

Not every college student has the opportunity to work for a company that’s designed to help people – both clients and employees – become better versions of themselves. There’s a cultural drive here to push yourself, your coworkers, and your work to the next level. That concept was hard for me to wrap my mind around first, because I found myself in a constant state of “solve mode.” Once I was given a task, I immediately started executing. But as a college student, we’re designed to be task-oriented! How much homework can I get done in the span of two hours? How quickly can I get from point A to point B? I had the assumption that employers shared the get-things-done value I’d learned for my educational career.

But after sitting in on a few projects, I noticed just how wrong I was. I started seeing my coworkers introduce questions, like: What do we already know? What value is this going to bring to our company? What are our desired outcomes? These questions seemed to conflict with getting things done quickly – couldn’t we spend that time doing instead of thinking? But I realized this was their way of finding the right solution; by exploring and collaborating on ideas first, and by slowing down to look at the bigger picture. I found myself asking questions like: Why am I doing this project? What can I bring that will help it as a whole? I shifted my perspective from experiencing success as a destination to experiencing it as the process.

Then I started applying this idea – slowing down to experience and love the process – in my personal life. I started to notice that when things didn’t go how I had planned, I still recognized what did go well and what I learned from it. Things don’t have to be perfect for learning to happen, and for something to be a success. This created a sense of ease that I’ll carry with me into the future.

As anyone knows, the best part of any Aileron experience is the people; that was certainly the case for mine. I was lucky enough to have two amazing managers, Stacy Sheldon and Jennifer Rohren, who held me accountable, invested in me, and challenged me. I thank Aileron for pushing me to think outside of the box in ways that don’t happen naturally at the age of 21. I feel confident moving forward, wherever that might be, that while life might not be perfect, there’s always something to learn along the way.

Martha Fitzharris