Internship for Learning: TeamOps (Chief of Staff Team to CEO)

I recently did an internship for learning with the Chief of Staff Team (CoST) to CEO, specifically with Laurel Farrer on TeamOps. Since the internship is quite different from my regular work, I thought it best to do a blog post on it and reflect on the experience.

What is an internship for learning?

An internship for learning allows you work part-time on another team. Typically it’s 10% or 20% of your time for a set number of weeks, up to 3 months. It really depends on capacity and the project you agree to work on.

Why an internship for learning

If you want to learn more about a role within the organization, there are numerous ways to do so, including:

  • Coffee chat(s) with person(s) in the role
  • Reading job descriptions, and relevant parts of the handbook
  • Job shadow

So why an internship?

Personally, I’ve done shadows before. While job shadows are a great way to learn more about a role and what someone does, I wanted to dig deeper into what gaps I might have in skills or knowledge that might be required to move into a Chief of Staff Team type role.

I recently completed a rotation as Acting Chief of Staff to CTO, but since I wasn’t working with anyone on the CoST and we had an Acting CTO at the time, it was difficult to gauge if I was doing the “right” thing and if I should have been doing more.

The best aspect about doing an internship is that you have a mentor to help guide you and review the work that you’re doing. They can also help you identify those skills and knowledge gaps, and even recommend some resources.


If you’re not familiar with TeamOps, you can read up on it. You can even take the free course to learn about the organizational operating model and how to apply it. The important thing to know in the context of this blog post is that Laurel is currently the one leading the initiative.

The planned work

Originally, we primarily planned for me to support the TeamOps Sales and marketing working group. The idea was to take notes, follow up with action items, and update the handbook based on the work that came out of that.

The actual work

While I did do some of the planned work, once the working group started, things changed. Laurel had to pivot the direction that she was going with the working group. As a result, we only actually met once as a group.

For the rest of the actual work, I ended up helping Laurel with doing handbook updates, primarily with changes that she wanted (example), and to ensure the content from the current handbook was migrated properly to the new handbook.

Part of what we planned was for me to cover for Laurel while she was out for at least one week. She did such a great job prepping for it though that there was very little for me to follow up on, or deal with. I spent most of the time while she was out doing the necessary handbook updates.

For those at GitLab, they can see the internship for learning issue.

What I got out of it

Most people who are familiar with my work will wonder what I got out of the internship, since I am already skilled at doing content updates.

Where I learned the most was in following and understanding the thought process behind the work that Laurel was doing. I really appreciated having her think out loud either through video calls or short recorded videos.

In the CoST meetings I attended, I also got to hear what some of the other team members were working on and struggling with, which was also valuable in understanding how they work and what the work involves. For example, two of the CoST were discussing how to manage projects when workstreams exceed 5-8 in number. I found it a very interesting discussion.

I learn a great deal currently from those I interact with regularly, but except for who I report to, I rarely interact with individuals who are at a higher level, working on big projects. The main thing for me was learning from the CoST team members and seeing what it takes.

It’s a bit difficult to put into words how much I got out of it in so little time spent with CoST.

Laurel also helpfully provided me with some resources that would help me with some of the knowledge and skill gap, such as:

  • Books: Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Project Management certification, such as “Project Management Certificate & Training – Grow with Google”


Thanks to the whole CoST for being welcoming and willing to share their thoughts and experiences. Special thanks to Stella Treas, Chief of Staff to the CEO, for identifying the opportunity for me to help with TeamOps.

A huge thanks most of all to Laurel for being so thoughtful in providing a great experience and being an amazing person.

Take away

If you’re really interested in seeing what a role is like and you have the opportunity to do an internship for learning (or something similar), I highly recommend taking advantage of it.

I look forward to a “part 2” with the team =D

group of deer
Touhid biplob, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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