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Here We Do: Students of Internship Plus (SQ22)

Here We Do: Students of Internship Plus (SQ22)

We know that not every student can afford to take an unpaid internship, which influenced our decision to establish the Internship Plus Scholarship. This scholarship awards up to $2,500 in financial assistance to students who have an unpaid internship opportunity and demonstrate financial need. Through this program, many students, like the ones below, have been able to gain important experience in their field of interest.

In the Spring Quarter of the past academic year, we funded many fantastic students in their pursuit to further their career and expand their knowledge. We have collected some of our favorite stories students have told us about their internships experiences. Read about their amazing journey’s here:

Justice Cody – Office of the City Treasurer

At the City Treasurer’s Office, I work with the Investing Department and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Team for most of my work. My current role in the Investments Department is to correct and compile a list of the different companies, bonds, and securities the City of Chicago has invested its pension funds in. As a Finance Major, I wanted to take this time to learn what a portfolio management team does to clean up any issues they have throughout their operations.

My time with the DEI team consists of coordinating different events that our Madam Treasurer could attend to promote more financial literacy throughout the city. I also work on curating different impact points that the CTO can work towards for our financial awareness program. I find these impact points by looking at the data of the participants to find any correlations to things like the increase in their FICO scores. For example, I determined that one of the best sessions that participants can do in the program to increase their FICO score is to participate in their follow-up coaching sessions. Throughout my time analyzing the data, I wanted to hone my skills in interpreting information and providing valuable results from the research.

I enjoyed the positive work environment and the ability to walk around the office and talk with everyone about their role at the CTO and socialize during lunch breaks. I also enjoyed many of the opportunities that came with having close relations with the CTO, such as meeting with several employees from countless industries whenever we either hosted or participated in events throughout the city.

It was because of my connections within the organization did I find my following internship and fostered connections with banks in the city. Since completing my internship, my biggest takeaway is to always talk to my colleagues and stay present within your organization.

I had noticed that the more I socialized with my coworkers, the better they felt throughout the day as well. This internship has helped me reach my goal of gaining experience in the workforce while learning how to communicate better with others. I have also reached my goal of having exposure to working with a Portfolio Management team.

My advice to other students looking for internship opportunities is to apply early and find ways to contact the team you would be working with if selected for the desired position. Putting a face to the name of an applicant will give you a huge advantage against your competition. As an Internship Plus Award recipient, this award has allowed me to focus more on school and my performance in my internship and worry less about the food and transportation expenses that I incurred during the internship.

Samira Al-Aghbary – Zesa Wellness

My Spring internship was with a fantastic start-up company Zesa Wellness. Zesa Wellness offers evidence-based mindfulness programs for the healthcare workplace. Zesa was founded in 2016 by co-owners Ashley Hardcastle and Dr. Maitri Vaidya. Both hold a strong background in philosophy, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Zesa lands in the industry of ‘Occupational Wellness’ which is a fast and growing industry.

My role at Zesa Wellness was Market Research and Analyst Intern. This means that I was developing research on the industry, competitors, and customers. With my research and analysis, I was able to assist the founders in which industry to submerge into, which was finalized as the ‘Occupational Wellness’ industry. Then listing several competitors in this small yet growing market, and presenting the similarities and trends from those companies. Finally, with in-depth research and finding out who will most benefit from Zesa’s services, I presented a list of high potential customers to target. 

This company taught me how difficult it can be to start a business. Although they have had three clients, this company is fresh in the market and will need to have extreme growth to remain successful. In my downtime, I was able to create fun graphics from survey stats from previous Zesa courses taken. Using my creativity to better help relay the message to potential clients was enjoyable. 

In addition, I was able to learn and embrace myself in the act of mindfulness. Learning the skills on how to cope with in your professional day-to-day life with simple acts of breathing and yoga.

This business and working with this business alongside mindfulness professionals have helped me gain insight into how important mental health is for everyone, especially professionals experiencing burnout. 

With this experience of researching a new market and analyzing data with limited information, I was able to use my marketing skills from the IME honors program to fill in any gaps. Using tools like Qualtrics with DePaul, I could curate surveys from scratch to use as a ‘mock-up’ survey for the founders to use in the future. Using tools like Qualtrics, start-up businesses can learn a lot about what their customers are looking for and how to better improve their product/service. 

Overall, all the skills and tools utilized in this internship will further help me tailor my resume and further prepare me for the real world of marketing. 

Ataib Saleem – Portra Spring

I’m part of a small team of dedicated individuals led by our founder, and we’re looking to spread brand awareness about Portra by utilizing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Portra also does this through photo galleries; these galleries do a substantial job in helping spread brand awareness. Each member is responsible for managing the three social media channels, I’m responsible for managing Facebook. All team members are also given responsibilities in the event planning that makes sure that photo galleries are a success.

I’m in charge of managing Facebook and am given the responsibility of posting daily content through conventional Facebook posts as well as Facebook stories. At the beginning of my internship, I had to create a brief strategic plan for Facebook where I had to conduct an internal analysis of Porta’s Facebook page, this included a SWOT analysis, looking at demographics and past page performance in Meta, and creating personas of our target. Externally, I was to find competitors on Facebook and monitor their page performance and how they are getting engagement, and learn from them, what are they doing right? and if they are not getting good engagement and not performing well overall, what mistakes are they making? All this information is then used to decide how to proceed with content and other strategies on Facebook. 

For our content, we curate photography available on Instagram and feature them in our posts. We also utilize Canva to create ads for things such as our events and other types of content in an attempt to drive more engagement. Utilizing Canva for social media content is very important, and it has allowed me to think creatively as a plan and design banners for Portra.

For our events, each team member is responsible for finding leads, this includes scouting for talented photographers on all social media channels, I mainly do this by using Chicago photography-focused Facebook groups. There are many photographers out there in Chicago, my team members and I reached our goal and got 25 photographers signed up for our event that happened on June 18!

We are now focused on advertising the gallery to potential attendees. Finding leads has led me to gain skills on how to better approach potential conversions and pitch them an opportunity. 

Event planning and promotion have to be my favorite part. After spending two months scouting for photographers and also promoting the event to other attendees and having them come out to the event (we have around 80 people coming in), it’s just so satisfying seeing your work pay off.  And this is also my biggest takeaway from this internship, spending time and effort promoting to make not only this event, but also helping a small startup like Portra that has a very limited budget and relies on organic growth, can be challenging, especially on a platform like Facebook, but if you constantly keep at it, you will see gradual growth.

Another skill I’m learning with events is communication. Keeping up with multiple emails and communicating professionally as a business is a vital skill that shows that you can represent and appropriately represent a business by coordinating with our participants (the photographers showcasing their work) about the event.

Even though this internship is for a small startup, it’s a good base for someone seeking their first internship opportunity. My advice for students seeking their first internship is not to be choosy about a specific company or industry, in your job search, to broaden your horizon, you may find an opportunity that might lead you to discover something else you like. All that I mentioned above about my duties and responsibilities enhanced my understanding of what is to be expected in a marketing-related position.

Kristian Dankov – WMOOR Clothing

I was working for a small startup streetwear clothing brand named WMOOR Clothing. The WMOOR stands for We Make Our Reality. I was in charge of creating and executing a marketing strategy for the brand through paid search and social media, as well as creating content for social media and optimizing the web page. 

My biggest takeaway from this internship was learning about how to market a brand from zero and knowing what it’s like to have full creative control of the brand marketing efforts (alongside input from the owner, of course). I learned about the long process of creating a plan, the steps that are needed to execute the plan, as well as how important proper execution is. On top of that, I also took away that not everything is going to work the way you want it to from the get-go, and that it’s important to continuously look at how things are performing and optimize/adjust from there.

It helped me get closer to my goals as it gave me the experience I wanted on what to do and what not to do when marketing a brand. I, one day, want to have my own business, and knowing how to properly market a new business is important, especially in today’s day and age.

I would advise students seeking or working at internships to not be afraid to fail at a given task. Failure is one of the greatest learning experiences and nobody expects you to do everything perfectly from the first try. Don’t be afraid of trying things because you might fail.

This award impacted my quarter as I had enough financial means to perform at my internship without having to worry about where I’m going to get money to buy gas and groceries. It helped out a lot when it came to that and not having to worry.

Cee Pham – Pathfinders Project

Pathfinders Project is a documentary project started by Magdiel Carmona which focuses on queer elders’ stories, filming at Center on Halsted. I worked as a filmmaker, switching roles and jobs amongst the various other filmmakers. Some days, I would work as the director of photography. Some days, I would work as the interviewer alongside Mag. Some days, I was the sound person, recording the interview itself. Some days, I would work as the camera operator and lighting operator. Nonetheless, the project was a great opportunity for me as a filmmaker to try various parts of filmmaking and learn how to work with various people.

The best part of the internship itself was allowing these queer elders to open up about their experiences and connect with them. It was exhilarating meeting other queer elders who were also people of color. I was able to connect and talk to people similar to me. Though I always thought multi-generational conversations were difficult, I found it easy to share similar values and learn from these queer elders. The most memorable moment was connecting with Angela Barnes who is a fellow queer person of color. She had various moments where she wanted to connect these drastically different parts of her identity, her queerness, her blackness, and her femininity, to which she created a queer-friendly BIPOC bar. 

One of my biggest concerns with being in the film industry is not finding a space that’s welcoming to Asian American women, especially a cinematographer. Since the film industry glorifies big picture films and working on them, the Pathfinders internship was a breath of fresh air.

The internship is a small project with a big impact. It is a passion project created through the limited equipment the filmmakers have. It allowed me to believe that I can truly pursue anything I want to and don’t have to confine myself to Hollywood films.

I would suggest working on anything that students are remotely interested in without the fear of not being successful in the film industry. As long as people seek out work with similar interests as them, they will have a good experience regardless. 

The Internship Plus award helped me allow focus on my school and career without the financial stress.  It was my first quarter as a student at DePaul that let me feel like an actual college student. This was the first quarter that I have not worked a minimum wage job to pay my rent. It helped me focus on film school and have the privilege of spending time working towards my passion.

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