Author Archives: Audrey

Audrey

About Audrey

Rising junior at Tulane interning at Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City this summer. About to embark on a South American adventure for two semesters.

Bye Bye Big City – Audrey Preston

Wow, I can’t believe it’s the end of summer already! It absolutely flew by. I hope to be back here next summer, so at least I still have some time to see some of the sights that I missed this time around. I thought that ten weeks would last longer, but it feels like the blink of an eye. I’ve been especially busy the past few weeks.

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I’ll miss going through these doors every day 🙁

Things have picked up significantly at work. It seems contradictory, but now that the fiscal year end has passed, everyone has a little more time to help the interns learn the ropes and really get a feel for how the office operates. I’ve been primarily working on accounts payable, so I’m helping to make sure that all the bills get paid, and the right vendors get the right checks sent to the right address. I’ve had to pay a lot of attention to the details, and I’ve been developing a keen eye for typos. I’ve enjoyed seeing the variety of vendors that Success Academy uses; it takes a lot of resources to keep 32 schools up and running, especially when we are renovating schools in between school years. The sheer amount of cash flow has blown my mind, and I didn’t realize that operating schools had so many moving parts. As Success Academy grows, it will get even more complex.

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Turning my ID in!

Outside of accounts payable, I’ve been working on miscellaneous tasks around the office too. I’ve helped streamline the credit card payment reporting system, and gathered data for an analysis regarding cost cutting at the middle schools. One of the best things about Success Academy is the collaborative atmosphere; you really get a sense that everyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in whenever something needs to be done, regardless of the task.

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Working hard or hardly working?

The corporate culture is definitely my favorite part. The finance department is really great about building relationships and creating a cohesive team. They have a book club, where every so often they all read the same business-related book (picked by the team on a variety of subjects). We talk about it during the weekly team meeting every Wednesday. Right now, we’re reading a book called Crucial Conversations, which is about how to navigate uncomfortable discussions without damaging the relationship. It’s been a worthwhile read, and I recommend it. It’s really important for office relations anywhere.

The office is really friendly, too. Last Friday, we all took off work and went to a lake as a team building activity, and it was actually very fun. I had a great time, and felt like I got to know my coworkers much better and more informally. We had a cookout and a picnic and went kayaking, and people brought their kids and spouses. It was really fun to be able to connect with people who are older than me and come from different backgrounds. Despite the differences, we were still able to bond on multiple levels. This summer has really drove home that corporate culture is so important – going to work is a lot more fun if you like the person you sit next to for 8+ hours every day.

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They also bribed us with cupcakes – yum!

Besides that nugget of wisdom, I’ve learned so much more about what I want from a career moving forward, which is why this summer was so pivotal. I need a job that’s challenging and stimulating, but I don’t want crushing amounts of pressure, and I need to like the people that I work with. At the end of the day, I don’t think that corporate finance is really for me, but I’m very happy that I discovered that sooner rather than later.

That realization has also been really important to my future career plans. I was able to narrow down exactly what I want to pursue, which is equity research (basically researching stocks and providing recommendations to the market). Since I have a much better sense of direction, I was able to focus my energies into pursuing my options more vigorously, and with a better sense of purpose. I’ve found that people are more willing to help you if they have a better idea of exactly how to help you, and they can offer really phenomenal opportunities. For example, I was able to go to a networking event with accelerated interviews this past week, so I may have an offer for an internship before I go back to school, and I won’t have to worry about it at all while I’m abroad. We should find out in about a week, so wish me luck!

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The best part of networking is the swag…. just kidding

I can’t believe that I’m going to be in Peru in less than a week. I’m feeling nervous but definitely excited. I got an email from my host mother this morning asking which foods I like to eat, and it drove it home that I’m going to be living in South America for four whole months, speaking Spanish and seeing the sights and eating the food. It’s really surreal. I feel like I’ve grown so much in the past two months, so I can’t imagine what this semester will bring. I feel almost exactly like I did when I left for New York ten weeks ago – it’s like I’m about to go skydiving and I need someone to push me out of the plane.

It’s been quite the ride, and there’s even more adventures ahead.

Wish me luck!

Audrey

Taking a Bite out of the Big Apple

Now that I’ve had some time to settle in to New York City, all I can say is that this is one of the most incredible cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It is vibrant, dynamic, and surprisingly beautiful. While I’ve seen a few rats in the subway, I’ve also seen gorgeous skylines, intricate facades, and lovely parks.

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The view from my apartment window

Life here goes by quickly – I can’t believe I’m almost halfway done– but I am appreciating the ability to explore New York slowly, and get a taste of the different neighborhoods, all with a very distinct flavor (and now that I can navigate the subway, I can actually go places, instead of wandering around for hours on foot). I could wax poetic about this city for hours, but it’s one of those places that you have to visit to appreciate.

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The city that never sleeps is just as beautiful at night

One of the greatest perks about spending the summer in New York is the proximity to young professionals and recent college graduates. Don’t believe it when people say that networking is hard: I have been blown away by how friendly and helpful the majority of people are when I reach out to them. I also cannot emphasize enough how useful it is to get real, honest answers to questions about life after graduation. Informational interviews have helped me decide what career I want to pursue, while I still have time to change my mind. I’ve also met some amazing people who I genuinely want to stay in contact with.

I recommend going to the Alumni Crawfish Boil, as it was a lot of fun and I got to eat some mudbugs.

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Mmmmm crawfish.

In addition to everything I’ve been learning in my free time, I’ve had a great time at my internship so far. Success Academy Charter Schools is one of those rare non-profits that is operated like a for-profit company; they are results-oriented and performance driven.

It is organized like an imaginary web: the network office is the central hub, with each of the 32 schools branching out from the network. Curricula, practices, and personnel are shared across schools. If a person or a process needs improvement anywhere in the network, management figures out a way to make it more efficient, with the ultimate focus on the kids (who are referred to as scholars). As a result of this insatiable desire to improve, Success Academies have proven, well, successful.

Although the model is controversial, I have never seen a more respectful, mature, and curious group of second graders than when I visited Success Academy Union Square a few weeks ago. They were all sharp as a tack, and each one could definitely beat me handily in chess (which is a daily part of the curriculum). I was impressed.

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Success Academy scholars excel at chess – they even go to national tournaments

 

 

I feel exceptionally grateful to have the opportunity to intern with Success. I get to spend every day with engaged, dedicated people who are passionate about their work. It’s a very close-knit community, motivated by the desire to make a difference in education reform. I genuinely like my supervisors and my fellow interns, and I enjoy the work that I have been doing. Granted, it has been a lot of Excel work, but it has definitely improved my knowledge of spreadsheets and shortcuts.

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Goofing around on my lunch break with Autumn, another Success intern and Tulane student

Beyond the tables with literally hundreds of rows, I have been fortunate enough to work on some interesting projects. I read municipal bond proposals to raise money for a teacher training institute; proofread the business expense policy handbook; and attended meetings with auditors to improve internal controls. Since Success receives public funding (albeit at a lower rate than district public schools), they are subject to substantial government oversight, so we have been working a lot on preparing our budgets for approval. I am learning a lot about corporate finance and the charter school model in general, and I’m also improving less tangible skills, like time management and punctuality.

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Am I professional yet?

I am greatly enjoying my first foray into the real world. Stay tuned for more updates!

Getting Excited to Intern with Success Academy This Summer — Audrey Preston

Before I really dive in, I wanted to mention that this is my first time blogging! I feel so adult right now – halfway done with my college degree, about to spend a summer in New York City by myself, and now I’m a blogger. Wow.

 

I’m so excited about this summer, and now that my finals are (finally) over, it actually seems real. This summer, I will be interning in the finance department of Success Academy Charter Schools, which is a charter school organization that operates about 30 schools in the city, educating over 9000 students. Unlike many elite schools, Success admits students based upon a lottery, to prove that anyone can succeed with the right resources. They emphasize many aspects of learning, from math to art and even to playing chess. Their holistic approach has gotten results, too: they are ranked in the top 1% in the state for math scores. Their inaugural class just entered high school, so it will be interesting to see how the future of Success pans out. To learn more, visit http://www.successacademies.org/

 

I was extremely lucky to get an offer with Success, and I have been so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way. I first heard of the opportunity through Julie Hauber, who is a Career Consultant with the Career Management Center in the business school. She has been such an incredible resource for me throughout my time at Tulane. She had forwarded me an email from Matt Jasie, who is involved in the finance department at Success. He had mentioned that they were specifically looking for women to join their team, so I decided to apply, and the rest just worked out.

 

I have always been intrigued by education and education policy (although I’m not very good with kids), so this is a great opportunity for me to get a first hand look at the inner workings of a charter school organization. I will be working in the finance department, so I will be performing tasks such as organizing financial information, preparing financial statements, and submitting budgets. I may also be involved in grant writing and fundraising. I won’t know my exact duties until we get the team together, so we can work with everyone’s strengths and interests, but I will definitely have real responsibility within the organization. No coffees and copies for me!

 

This summer, I have three main goals: develop skills, build connections, and have fun. I want to be working with the actual operations of the firm and make an impact, and I want to gain experience while I’m at it. I want to learn how to write a grant, how to raise funds effectively, and how to manage a multimillion dollar budget. I also want to become a pro at Excel and become Excel-certified. The experience that I will gain on the job will be valuable, but the connections I will make will be priceless. Ultimately, I want to work in New York’s financial district, and since the financial sector is so competitive, it is really important to build a strong network. By the end of the summer, I want to have built a strong relationship with at least one person from every firm I am interested in working for post-graduation. Finally, I want to enjoy my summer. New York is an amazing city, and I am so lucky that I get to spend two months there. I can’t wait to be living fifteen minutes away from all of the places I’ve seen in movies: Central Park, MoMA, and the Empire State Building. I know finals are over now, and I’m starting in less than three weeks, but it still seems surreal. I can’t wait!

 

Until next time,

Audrey