The ABCs of Fidelity Labs: Views from our Interns

By Christine Alix and Christy O’Neil

Each summer, Fidelity Labs welcomes graduate school interns to its internal startups. We asked two of our interns, who worked together on the same team, to share their experience.

What is it like to be an intern at Fidelity Labs? We’ll stick to the basics to start… the ABCs, if you will.

First, a little about us:

Christine Alix: Hey there! I’m Christine Alix, a Design Strategy (DS) Intern at Labs this summer. In addition to being a tireless Raisinets advocate, I’m also a Design Leadership MBA/MA candidate at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and MICA.

Christy O’Neil: That’s right, we’re both named Christine, though I was helpfully nicknamed Christy as a kid. I made up the Product Management (PM) and anti-Raisinet half of the ChrisTEAM (get it?) and I’m pursuing my MBA at MIT Sloan.

We had an incredible summer at Labs. Here is what defined our experience as part of the team.

A is for AMBIGUITY

Christine [DS]: Ambiguity is baked into the heart of Labs, where our reason for being is to find a real, human need and bring solutions to life.

Christy [PM]: We both love building things from scratch and sought out this kind of ambiguity in our careers. I was impressed that, while Labs follows a process to avoid overinvesting in ideas that don’t have legs, teams are still challenged to think critically about how to forge a path from zero to a thriving new business.

Christine [DS]: Absolutely! Christy and I started the summer inspired and a bit intimidated. We had a complex research assignment ahead of us to support the team’s work (on a potential new offering). We knew that in order to move out of ambiguity, we’d have to become experts on our topic — and fast. One of the most important steps toward clarity was our user interviews. We needed to understand their experience in order to find their biggest pain points — in other words, our biggest opportunities to help.

Christy [PM]: And it wasn’t a straightforward path from there! We were investigating a topic adjacent to one of the Labs startup teams. When the team disproved their original hypothesis, they were able to use our work as a foundation to pivot their focus. As they made this switch, we also adjusted the scope of our intern project to further — rather than duplicate — their work. Comfort with shifting priorities and fluid ideas is critical for success at Labs.

 

B is for BIG IDEAS

Christine [DS]: Fidelity’s mission is to help people live the lives they want by sharing its financial expertise. Our work at Labs was very much grounded in this, which means that we are always working on ideas that will have a big impact to customers. As a Design Strategist, I loved the opportunity to amplify the user voice — and having the Labs team be a champion of the user at every step.

Christy [PM]: From the business perspective, it was also gratifying to know that my work would make a real difference to Fidelity’s bottom line. Labs looks for opportunities that are adjacent to Fidelity’s core business and have serious revenue-generating potential, so you know that when your startup reaches the point of piloting and scaling, you will be delivering something that actually improves the health of the business.

Christine [DS]: As a student of both design thinking and business, I was impressed that Labs “walks the talk” when it comes to marrying human-centricity and business thinking. It’s exciting to see this come to life outside of the classroom!

 

C is for COLLABORATION

Christine [DS]: C is also for cross-functional and communication… and Christeam! The team at Labs is unbelievably collaborative, and we lived that throughout the summer.

Christy [PM]: Seriously, our working relationship was unreal — and that’s not uncommon at Labs. Christine’s creativity and willingness to, as she puts it, “live in the mess” that qualitative data and a fresh stack of Post-its can generate pushed my own thinking further.

Christine [DS]: And on the flip side, Christy’s ability to organize complicated information allowed us to clarify our own thinking and communicate our ideas more easily. Our partnership demonstrated the power of the design strategy + product management combination that Labs is built on.

Christy [PM]: Then you have the larger Labs team, who were also ready at any moment to jump in to help us. Collaboration is so woven into the fabric of Labs that it now seems counterintuitive to call anything “finished” unless it represents more than one voice, a cross-functional instead of individual perspective.

 

On to D, E, F, G…

As we both return to school, we’re inspired to build on the foundation that we developed at Labs in the classroom and beyond. We’ll never forget our ABCs!

Many thanks to Christine Wheatley, David Rabinowitz, Tyler Howe, and Jennifer Hanson for being fantastic spirit guides and teammates; to Alisa Lemberg and Chris Clarke for helping us navigate the internship through their guidance and advocacy; and to the whole team at Labs for welcoming us and lending a helping hand!

#FidelityAssociate