Startups for Dummies (aka Liberal Arts Students)

By Antione Gray C’17

I’m not in Wharton, nor am I an engineer, so a startup is probably the last place I would’ve imagined interning this summer. In my mind, working at a startup entailed either dealing with complex models in Excel or spending countless hours writing code, so I focused much of my internship search on finding positions and companies that I felt were more aligned with my academic interests and previous work experiences. Having interned at a charter school, a real estate firm, and for the federal government, I knew I wanted my next internship to be a springboard for a multifaceted career in real estate, government, and nonprofit management, as well as an opportunity for me to explore my options for graduate studies in either law or business.

Antoine and his colleagues at Paladin.
Antione and his colleagues at Paladin.

After applying to about a dozen internships ranging from financial services to economic empowerment nonprofits, I stumbled upon a posting that captured my attention, and my imagination. Paladin, a social justice startup that connects professionals—starting with lawyers—with personalized pro bono opportunities, was looking for an intern to work alongside the founding team identifying and formatting pro bono cases from partner nonprofits, matching attorneys with personalized cases, mapping the pro bono ecosystem, cultivating relationships with partnering law firms and nonprofits, and developing a long term social media marketing strategy. Though I had no idea what working at a startup would be like, Paladin’s mission to provide access to justice for society’s most vulnerable citizens, as well as its unique relationships with the legal and business worlds, drew me in. While the law vs. business school debate raged inside me, I figured that helping to create a business for lawyers would give me the best insight into both realms and ultimately help guide me in the right direction.

Having been working at Paladin for the past four weeks, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying working at a startup—the notion of a new company having an uncertain future makes everyday a new adventure. Currently, I’m helping lead the search for a Chief Technology Officer, and being so intimately involved with such an important process provides me with a birds-eye view of the ways in which businesses attract talent, manage their employees, and establish their core values in order to raise employee morale and realize their mission. Moreover, I’ve been exposed to the many ways in which businesses, especially startups, can further social good without the layers of bureaucracy that may inhibit individuals working in other sectors from achieving their true potential. When my internship is over six weeks from now, I know that my work will have contributed to helping Paladin onboard hundreds of pro bono attorneys who will use their talents to make the world we live in tomorrow better than the one we live in today.

Antione Gray - ID Pic 200Bio: A Queens, NY native, Antione Gray is a rising senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Political Science and Sociology. Last semester, he participated in the Penn in Washington program where he interned in the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. He holds a Real Estate Salespersons License in New York and hopes to leverage his passions for real estate, government, and social justice to pursue a career in affordable housing development, city planning, and nonprofit management.