2016 Startup Internship Award Winner supported by The Rosalind (WG’76) and Roy (WG’76) Neff Entrepreneurial Internship Fund
I’m majoring in Political Science and pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Global Human Rights, which both seem to have little to do with entrepreneurship. For the past few years, I’ve always been sure I wanted to work in a traditional, well-established nonprofit or think tank. But after exploring various perspectives of working in this area – research, fundraising, event management – I decided to look into new perspectives too.
As I talked with more and more people at Penn and learnt more and more about international development, I became fascinated with the potential that technology and innovation has to accelerate social change, especially in the Global South. Soon, I looked to social entrepreneurship – particularly, the power that tech entrepreneurs have in driving change on the ground so that we don’t remain static as we wait for the nonetheless necessary structural changes in policy to take place. I wanted to learn more about this way of advancing international development by experiencing working at a young tech social enterprise in the Global South, and that is how I came to work at Impact Guru in Mumbai, India.
Impact Guru is an online crowdfunding platform for individuals, nonprofits, social enterprises, and corporates to raise money online for social or personal projects. It was a natural first step in combining my non-tech background in fundraising for nonprofits with my desire to learn more about tech-based social entrepreneurship. When I saw the founder – a Wharton alum – recruiting interns online at Penn, I jumped at the opportunity.
This summer was the one where I grew the most – not only did I learn from being immersed in social entrepreneurship, but I was also incredibly inspired by the new places I saw, the people I talked to, and the experience of living in a completely new culture. Every day brought something new, and made me all the more motivated to pursue my own goals of working in tech for human rights. By the end of the summer, I learnt things that I wish I’d known before I started my internship – whether it’s things that my new mentors have taught me or things I came to realize myself, I hope to share two of them with fellow students who may be considering an internship at a startup. They may not work for everyone everywhere and are more reflective than advisory!
1. Don’t wait to be told what to do . It’s not enough to read up on everything about the startup beforehand – show up on the first day with a plan for the summer, including the goals and objectives you wish to achieve for yourself and for the startup by the end of your time there. Talk with your supervisor or the CEO (the great thing about small and young startup s is that the CEO most likely will be your direct supervisor) about your plan and adjust accordingly! Of course, this depends on how much you know about your specific role or the startup’s needs before your first day, but the main point is that it’s important to demonstrate your ability to take initiative the very first time you meet your boss face to face!
2. Take everyone to coffee (assuming there are small breaks from the hustle and you’re not working 24/7). Especially when you’re working at a startup with a strong social mission – isn’t it interesting to see why fellow interns, full-time employees, and even the CEO are working here? Chances are you’ll be inspired by your colleague’s stories, and even better, they’ll know someone (or know someone who knows someone who knows someone) who would be a great connection for you to make, whether it’s for personal interests, projects, academics, or a future startup. Having a one-on-one conversation with someone outside of the office (or garage or trailer) is how you can really get to know them quickly.