Start-Ups, Houses and Kissing Bugs:

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Gabriela Goitia Vazquez, COL ’18

ggv1Apple. Google. Twitter. These are the names that immediately come to mind when one thinks of Silicon Valley: big companies that earn millions of dollars a year through new technology and consumer spending. So when I found myself working for a start-up non-profit in San Francisco (a Y-Combinator backed start-up at that), I can’t say that I knew what to expect. Sure enough, by the end of the summer I had acquired a skillset that can only come from working in a really small, really fast-paced organization: an organization like New Story.

New Story is a non-profit that turns slums into sustainable communities. It crowdfunds homes on an online platform, and it offers a 100% transparency model. This means that the organization’s overhead costs are funded separately from home donations, so every dollar that a person donates to a campaign goes directly into building a house. Although they’re based in San Francisco, New Story currently funds communities in Haiti, El Salvador and Bolivia. The team is really small: 6 people to be exact. Despite the team’s size, though, it’s created major impact by successfully building over 200 homes and funding over 600.


Although, I joined New Story as a Marketing Intern, I ended up working ggv3 with the entire team. I arrived a time when the organization had just hired two new members (a Chief Technological Officer and a Global Impact Manager), and was about to launch a major publicity campaign. Needless to say, I hit the ground running. On my first day, my immediate supervisor told me I would be in charge of connecting with influencers on social media platforms to promote our Kiss Campagin. The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness about a kissing bug in Bolivia that was putting our community members in Mizque, Bolivia at risk of the Chagas illness.

ggv5Being given so much responsibility so early on gave me a sense of ownership over not only the Kiss Campaign, but also over all of my other tasks. By the end of the summer, our followers increased by over 1,000 on Instagram and by over 600 on Twitter. I also got to help with a myriad of tasks, including summarizing literature on the impact of housing in international slums, strategizing new tactics for non-traditional start-up growth, and even creating recommendations for our donor gratitude system. I quickly learned two things: don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of how to do something, and always be willing to lend a helping hand, especially to your fellow team members.

This summer, I fortunate enough to work at the intersection of technology and social impact, in a part of the world that’s often known for monetary interests. New Story taught me that innovation can and should have a conscience; it should move the world forward in order to create more equitable opportunities for people in all parts of the world.

(One campaign at a time.)

A Summer with the League of Women Voters

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Halle Abram, COL ’17

IMG_2564When I first walked into the office of the League of Women Voters of New York City, I was surprised by how tight knit of a community the organization seemed to be. It looked less like an office, and more like a casual convention—a home in one way or another—of powerful women committed to civic engagement and citizens’ empowerment.
I was first interested in working as an intern for LVWNYC because I knew that they strive to reverse disenfranchisement and inequity through voter education on a variety of issues. I knew that I would find it rewarding to restore agency in American citizens through a commitment to the most important process in our country: voting.
I’ve always been outspoken about inequity because I—like many other Americans—have high standards for our government and our country. However, working at the LWVNYC gave me the opportunity to actualize my plans for change. Leveraging the organization’s legitimacy in political spaces, I was able to take part in and lead several voter engagement initiatives.
At first, my main responsibilities at LWVNYC were constituent facing roles like answering to citizens’ questions about voter registration, the board of elections, and candidates seeking election. In my first week, I also got to sit in on a variety of committee meetings, like the Affordable Housing Committee, the Voting Services Committee, and the Campaign Finance Reform Committee. These committees comprised of members of the organization that were especially passionate about those respective topics, which organized agendas and coordinated statements for the organization’s lobbyists.
I became very fascinated by the ideas discussed in the Campaign Finance Reform Committee in particular. I asked my supervisor and the head of the committee if I could do research on money in politics, and they were delighted with the idea. As a result, throughout my internship, I researched legislation in New York State that has allowed high-net-worth individuals, special interest groups, and big businesses to donate millions of dollars to candidates through limited liability companies as “shadow” campaigns. I was then tasked with educating the rest of the LWVNYC membership on campaign finance reform through social media management in a series of tweets, utilizing different hash tags like #ShineALightOnShadowCampaigns and #KnotTheLLCLoopHole. This project also led to my controlling of the League’s social media accounts for the remainder of my internship.
Through mid-July, I continued to research campaign finance reform, but I also started a new project that took my work in a new direction. After my co-intern and I realized the real lack of young people involved in the organization, we decided to ask our supervisor if we could take charge on a project for youth expansion. Over the course of three weeks, we designed an in-depth business plan for a campus representative program on five campuses in NYC designed to increase youth membership, generated revenue, and voter turnout in NYC’s college students.
Interning at the League of Women Voters of NYC was exciting and empowering. Not only did I gain diversified work experience, but I also developed connections with some of the most hard-working, passionate, and inspiring women. I will forever cherish my summer experience, and I will take the skills and connections I accrued with me throughout my Penn career and my career at large.

Monday is Labor Day

labor lady

Monday is Labor Day, meaning that The University of Pennsylvania will be closed for business, including here in Career Services.

We hope that you have a relaxing day off and we look forward to serving you again on Tuesday morning, starting at 9am.  Beginning next week, our library and front desk resume their extended operating hours: 9am-6pm Monday-Wednesday and 9am-5pm Thursday and Friday.

Remember that our website, blog and social media are online 24/7 and contain a wealth of knowledge and answers to FAQs.

Happy Labor Day!

An Unforgettable Summer

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Prashant Arya, MSE ’17

I have always been interested in designing new products and coming up with innovative solutions to problems. I was overjoyed when I got an offer from Keriton, a Pumped Breast Milk Management startup, to work as a Product Design Intern. The work I did over the summer has turned out to be my most rewarding and intense internship experience yet.

My first day at Keriton started by going to the NICU at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania. On my first day, I was given the major task of identifying the core user needs and conduct user interviews. But I guess that is what a startup stands for, you start learning and applying your knowledge from day one. In the initial briefing I was told about the project and within next few hours I was sitting next to a 2-day old pre-mature baby, observing how he was being fed. The basic problem was, when mothers brought in milk bottles for their babies, a lot of time was being wasted in sorting and storing these milk bottles by nurses as the entire process was manual.

I spent the next few days going to the NICU and talked to parents and nurses, sometimes six hours at a stretch. I observed the entire process of feeding the babies which helped me understand the loopholes in the milk feeding process. We even conducted design thinking sessions with the nurses to understand the process flaws.

I was given the task to design a hardware where the nurses would scan and store the incoming milk bottles without relabeling them. I developed many concept ideas and sketches and finally started prototyping. To save money on prototyping we bought a 3D printer. I spent hours designing, modeling, printing and polishing the prints. Our 3D printer broke down 4 times within the first few days because of our intense prototyping.

Finally, our first version of the hardware solution was ready and we presented it at the ILCA conference in Chicago. The feedback from the nurses was just mind-boggling. They had never seen such a simple solution to this problem, that would bring down the time of attending the bottles from 45 mins to 5 mins. All that strengthened our belief further and inspired me to work even harder as we were in the process of solving a real life problem faced by hospitals all over the world.

In these 3 months I made some really good friends at my workplace and also learnt about the difficult situations that come across when you run a business. My CEO, Mr. Vidur S. Bhatnagar was massively supportive and helped me understand the software part of our product. I learnt that one should not be afraid of learning things outside their interest sphere and always strive to acquire new skills. I am trying my hands on coding now and will continue to work at Keriton in the coming year.

I am immensely grateful to the Career Services for supporting this opportunity and me. The lessons I learnt in my internship has allowed me to be one step closer to my goal. Finally, I will never forget what my CEO taught me about having a winning attitude in life by giving an example of a river, which cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.