Going Back to Where I Came From – An Internship in Kosovo at Manaferra LLC
Every time I am asked to explain who I am, I get an existential crisis… so I’m going to make this short. I am a daughter of immigrant parents, a business student at Turku School of Economics (in Finland) and I like basketball… and bread… probably should have mentioned bread first.
At the end of my Bachelor studies, I wanted to take a little break from my student life and started looking for possible internships to apply for. After three years of studying (and half a dozen random student jobs), I figured it was time to add some relevant work experience next to my business degree. All I knew was that I wanted to do a business-related internship abroad, where and what were some things I hadn’t figured out yet.
Like many families that left Kosovo during the war in 1999, we still came back here for almost every summer vacation. Our parents didn’t want us to forget our culture, I guess. After some soul searching and dreaming, (as much as the Spanish beaches and French cuisine were tempting me) I decided this would be a great opportunity to get to know my home country better. Spending the summers in Kosovo is like a month-long party, but I wanted to know what Kosovo is like without the Schatz-es and the smoke from shishas in every corner. I wanted to know what everyday life in Kosovo looks like.
Once it became clear where I was going to do my internship, it was time to start looking for “what”. I started looking for different internship opportunities in Kosovo and I came across an SEO trainee position at Manaferra – neither of which I was familiar with. I noticed that it was the last day of the deadline for submitting the application so I quickly did some research on SEO and the company, and decided it is something I would like to learn so I decided to apply. The requirements were not too high, so I was feeling rather confident.
After a few weeks, I got an email saying I got invited for an interview. Attached were a few articles to read to prepare myself for it. It was my first Skype interview so I was quite nervous. The interview was nothing what I expected. It felt more like an oral exam based on the materials they sent than an interview. I understood that it was their way to make sure who is seriously interested and eager to learn since the field is rather new and not many people understand SEO. We had a bit of a misunderstanding when I asked about “pizza Thursdays” that were mentioned on their website. I guess they had forgotten about writing that there and later deleted it. (I took screenshots though and made them get us pizza one time… but that’s a different story.)
After passing the interview, came the second phase which was a link building exercise. The exercise was sent on a Friday and I was given three days to finish it. To my bad luck during that weekend I was in Germany with my laptop back in Finland. Fortunately, they were understanding and pushed the deadline to when I got back.
Then, after a week or so, I got the call to the training period.
From more than 200 applicants, 8 were invited for the training period – 4 of them for SEO. You can read more about how the training period was like for the others on my colleague Dafina’s article “Being an Intern at Manaferra”.
Being the only applicant from abroad, my training experience was a bit different. Due to my studies, I wasn’t able to attend the training when others did. I completed mine during a 2-week stay in Kosovo for the winter holidays. When I came, all the other trainees were chosen and were already in their second month of being trainees. My first impression of Manaferra was very positive: everyone was so helpful and nice. The training revolved around link building and I guess I did pretty good since by the end of the training they called me to the meeting room aka Oda and asked me when I would be able to start.
It’s March 1st. With a Bachelor’s Degree in my pocket, I’m hopping on a plane to Kosovo to start my journey as an SEO trainee at Manaferra. I am very excited and happy to see everyone again and on Monday, March 3rd, my internship begins. I will be spending the next six months of my life in one of the nicest offices I’ve seen.
The atmosphere at Manaferra is very welcoming. All the staff members are friendly and I got very close to them very soon (I was practically besties with all the girls here within the first week). At Manaferra, the work culture is quite serious – as it should be. Tasks are scheduled at the beginning of each week and employees are expected to take responsibility for them. Effectivity is a big word here and something that bosses really emphasize each day. They encourage their employees to read and do research to better themselves so that they can be more effective at the work they do. The work schedule is from 8 am to 5 pm. You can be up to half an hour late in the morning (at 8.30am we have the scrum meeting) but just remember that you should stay as long after work as you were late – in other words: flexible working hours.
At Manaferra, work is taken seriously but during breaks, we relax. We often go to lunch together, excluding the times when we can’t come to a unanimous decision where to eat (This only happens when Graniti insists on eating hamburgers at Noari). Also during the afternoon break, we all go out to the terrace or just hang out inside and talk about different topics… or just play Uno.
During the internship, link building was a big part (and by big I mean more than half of the time) of my tasks. Sometimes a bit boring but yet necessary since backlinks are one of the main factors when it comes to domain authority. When I was not doing link building, I was doing research and various kinds of analyses: competitive audits, backlink analysis, keyword research, keyword gap analysis, on-page analysis and improvements etc. I really enjoyed doing different kinds of analyses because I feel like those were the times when I learned the most. Most of the analyses I did was for my main client and I also got to attend a Skype meeting with them.
Now onto the fun stuff… Ulcinj, Birthday party, Byrek Fridays
In April, we went on a work retreat to Montenegro for a long weekend. It was such a nice start of the internship. The whole staff got to hang out and get to know each other better, chilled at the beach, had a barbeque and played Uno (Uno actually became an everyday thing during our 3 pm breaks after that). It was among the best times spent with Manaferra peeps!
About a month after that, we had a great birthday celebration since my colleague Gramoz and I both had birthdays in May. His mom made us fli for lunch which is like the best birthday present anyone could get (if you don’t know what fli is, I’m sorry…). After work, we went to have coffee and cake and it was such a fun time.
I can’t finish this article without mentioning Byrek Fridays that has become a tradition now. I will actually be attending my last Byrek Friday this week… for now.
By the end of my internship journey, my title changed from SEO Trainee to SEO Associate, colleagues have turned into close friends and I got better at spelling Albanian words. All in all, these last six months have been amazing. It has been such a great experience. I have learned so much about SEO and grown professionally. If Manaferra has done one thing right, it’s that they have succeeded in hiring the best people to work with them. I have made some great connections, but most importantly, I have made lifelong friends that I will never forget.