THE HOD “DAY IN THE LIFE” FEATURES STUDENTS WHO HAVE COMPLETED THE HOD INTERNSHIP AND THEN SHARE WORDS OF WISDOM TO ILLUMINATE THEIR EXPERIENCES. THIS WEEK HIGHLIGHTS THE STORY OF SHANNON VAN DER WALT, A SENIOR WHO INTERNED AT JUMA ADVENTURES IN SAN FRANCISCO DURING THE SPRING OF 2017.
Who: Shannon van der Walt
Internship Site: Juma Ventures
What was the highlight of your experience?
As cliché as it sounds, the highlight of my experience was having the chance to work with some truly incredible people. My coworkers are from all over the country and world, and all have fascinating backgrounds and stories to tell. Similarly, the students we serve spend afternoons in the office and consistently bring excitement, happiness, and the latest pop culture updates. Juma is a family, my supervisor is a mentor and friend, and work has never been so much fun! From coffee/boba runs, to staff picnics out on the lawn, to cramming into the HR closet, every part of my experience has felt like a team effort. Juma made me feel valued and welcome, and it’s made all the difference!
How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?
No other internship has ever made me feel so immersed, impactful, or independent. Working 32 hours a week, for fifteen weeks gives you a much deeper understanding of the organization, which rarely to never happens over the course of a typical internship. I was given the opportunity to work on projects that wouldn’t typically be assigned to a summer intern, and as a result, I could contribute in a more significant and meaningful way to the organization. The capstone internship also provides an invaluable opportunity to live and learn in a new city, find a healthy work-life balance, and transition from a student to a young professional.
How do you think you have grown as a professional?
Some projects that I’ve worked on include: recruiting and onboarding new youth and full time staff, designing a brand new professional development program, and creating a manager onboarding packet. Each of these projects has been a unique learning opportunity, and has taught me how to apply HOD concepts to real business processes and decisions.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?
- Start early, and start with your passions. This is a wonderful and unique opportunity, so don’t waste it! Be proactive and find an organization that shares your values and interests. You’ll be spending four months of hundreds of hours there- make sure you’re genuinely excited about it from the start.
- USE YOUR NETWORK. I can’t say it enough, your professors, peers, and past employers will give you the best introductions, and will genuinely enjoy helping you out. As Juma’s CEO says, “Your net worth is your network” (but also you are worth so much more). Do not be scared to reach out to people you have not talked to in a while, it’ll be worth it if they can help you land that dream internship!
- Kill the game from the beginning. Making a very strong, very positive first impression in the first two or three weeks will make the rest of your internship a breeze, and will earn you a reference that can talk in detail about your qualifications, professionalism, and work ethic. This means: get to meetings early, always be prepared, and give it 110% to make an impression. Don’t forget to add your coworkers on LinkedIn!
Why did you choose your site for your internship?
Having just taken Jim Schorr’s class on Social Enterprises, I was fascinated by this idea of nonprofits using traditional for-profit business strategies to maximize social impact and sustainability. Throughout the class, Juma was repeatedly used as an example of an innovative nonprofit that strives to break the cycle of poverty. Enamored with the organization and the location, I reached out to Professor Schorr to make an introduction at Juma. Soon, I had an interview with the CEO and then the Director of Operations, and was offered and accepted an internship within a week. I was very lucky to have such a targeted and quick process!
How will this internship impact your future?
My capstone internship has been extremely influential in regards to my future. This internship has also given me a chance to try out living in San Francisco, and I’ve realized I love the city, and will stay here post-graduation. Through my Airbnb housing adventures, I’ve lived in 5 parts of SF. I’ve seen how diverse and wonderful different parts of the city are, and have gained an appreciation for public transportation, food trucks, and walking up and down crazy SF hills. I’ve also confirmed my passion for nonprofits, and have begun building a network within the nonprofit sector in SF. Overall, I feel so much more prepared for graduation and the post-Vanderbilt life!