Tag Archives: networking

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

A Sad Goodbye

 

This shot from our first day was posted all around the office on Thursday. Going to miss my intern class!

This shot from our first day was posted all around the office on Thursday. Going to miss my intern class!

Thursday was the last day of my internship with AmeriCares. As I walked around the office saying my goodbyes, I was surprised at just how sad I was to go. I had truly immersed myself as part of this organization. It is a bittersweet end. I am leaving, but not without a new perspective, new friends, and new work experience.

I had updated more than 50 contacts for their emergency response appeals, I had complied research on six new sources for fundraising in the online gaming sphere, and I had written acknowledgements and analyzed third-party giving sites, it really was a comprehensive product of what development does in a nonprofit organization. I was also able to dip my toes into communications in designing marketing materials for AmeriCares Student Ambassador Program.

The opportunities to address my goals came naturally. The program strongly encouraged networking, and I was able to exchange information with not two employees but more than ten. Networking also pushed me to work on my communication skills and think about where I want to go next after completing this internship. I was really interested in what communications and multi-media were working on so those were two areas where I reached out the most. As I began working on research and updating contacts, developing organization methods and finding the best way of extracting information, was critical to making deadlines and prioritizing my schedule.

Some of my biggest takeaways were communication skills, researching and reporting techniques, and an understanding of how a nonprofit operates. This knowledge will help me in the future as I decide what field of work I want to explore and pursuing and securing a position in that field. If I do decide that nonprofit work is for me, I have a much better grasp of what that entails. Although AmeriCares operates much like any organization, there are certain differences. There is careful mind to budget, and how budgets, reports, and press releases contribute to nonprofit ratings and public appearance. It appeared that the approval process for external communications was much stricter for reasons of public perception as well, in addition to regular company policy, copyrights, and messaging consistency.

I would definitely encourage anyone to pursue work in not only the nonprofit sector, but also global health or emergency response. The work is extremely important and fulfilling, and it also attracts a certain type of person. Everyone at the organization is so caring and dedicated to what they do– they know that working harder means helping more people. For my first internship I could not have worked with a better group, everyone was willing to take time to welcome me and make sure my questions were answered.

Working at AmeriCares has changed how I look at disasters and global health issues. I watch the news and I read the paper, but it’s so different when you talk directly with people who have witnessed disaster first hand, and especially disasters that don’t even make it to the media headlines. Just this week we had a meeting with two directors from partner organizations who work in Sierra Leone and Liberia who came to speak about the Ebola crisis in Africa. These health care workers quite literally put their lives in danger to help people. They are clearly exhausted and weary from the horrors they’ve seen, but they continue to fight and do not let statistics break their spirit. These people inspire me make change and confront global issues, because it is clear from talking to them that one person can make a difference.

Getting the opportunity to talk with people who work on the frontlines is part of what has made my internship experience so meaningful. I had the chance not to read about disasters or programs, but talk with the people who witnessed disasters and initiated programs. Through pictures and reports I got to see the faces of children and families consumed with emotion whether it was joy or devastation. The stories were real and it proved to me that there is a human touch to everything AmeriCares does.