November 17, 2020, by abrierley

Baillie-Gifford – ‘Alternative Intern 2020’

by Ashley Lewis,  School of Sociology PhD student

Baille-Gifford run an annual internship competition annually, with a  £5k fund towards research costs.  On their website they note “We’re looking for people who are curious about the world around them. People who combine intellect, insights and a fresh perspective.”  Those selected for the internship complete four weeks of research during June and July, followed by two weeks in Edinburgh head office, where they write up and present their research findings, as well as learn more about investment management.

Why did you choose to apply?

I wanted the opportunity to answer the application question, which I thought was really interesting. My research subject was blockchain technology. I didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but as it’s a term you hear everywhere, I wanted to find out more. One interesting application I explored was how blockchain can be used for elections and voting.

How did you approach the research?

I signed up to an online course that was done in partnership with the Blockchain Research Institute in Canada and this gave me a broad overview of its use. Because of the Covid-19 situation there were lots of free webinars by research institutes in Zurich, Toronto and UCL. I then contacted the people who had taken part in the webinars and they also recommended people for me to speak to.

What has been your most challenging thing so far?

One of the most challenging aspects of the internship was writing the initial report. You have complete freedom to approach the subject however you want, but I had no experience of finance.  However, when we started our virtual placement in the office, I was assigned a mentor, Robin, who was really helpful. He looked at my report, gave me guidance on what to include and advised me how to make it into more of a narrative.

Beyond your research topic, what have you learnt from the internship?

I think I already knew, but didn’t really appreciate, the benefits of networking. You can read all the academic papers and online reports, but you get so much more out of people if you’re speaking to them. LinkedIn was a valuable starting point for me. One of my highlights was reconnecting with a journalist contact in New York, as she gave me some really interesting insights into how blockchain is being used to prevent piracy in the music industry.

What advice would you give to future interns?

Do something you’re interested in. Don’t worry about what you think Baillie Gifford are looking for, as that will take away from your creativity and they’re looking to hear a different viewpoint. Don’t try to please anyone as this may stop you from being honest in your opinions and arguments. They give you the time and you have free-rein to do it your way – which for an internship is unusual, but really refreshing.

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