Prouder of Who I Am Than I Have Ever Been

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Valerie J. Toledo, COL ’19

This summer, while interning at d’expósito & Partners I realized not only a love for the advertising industry, but for the Hispanic advertising industry.

d’expósito & Partners is a Hispanic advertising agency both inside and out. Walking into work every morning felt like entering the home of a relative. It was as if someone had bottled up my native Miami and placed it there for me to enjoy. Pero likesand Dales flew around the office in every conversation, Hellos and Goodbyes were always accompanied by besitos, and one of my supervisors wore the same guayaberas to office parties that my Abuelito wears to his job interviews. We referred to each other as d’familia in emails, and World Cup matches were streamed during internal meetings (albeit silently). It was a place to intern, but it was also a temporary home for a young Cuban woman who felt overwhelmingly alone in New York City.

Dex was a comfortable place to work, but it was by no means lethargic. Like at any advertising agency, hard work is a constant, and they manage high stakes deals and clients with high standards. There’s just no need to hide behind a practiced accent or stoic American expression. Because their clients depend on them to provide Hispanic insight and check that messages aren’t tone deaf, they don’t have to change who they are to gain clients’ respect.

In addition to the intrinsic cultural insight that comes from being Hispanic, there is the Hispanic or Latino work ethic. Most of us are immigrants, or our parents are, and so we were raised to understand the meaning of sacrifice and of perseverance in every situation. Everyone at Dex puts their best foot forward because it is second nature to them, and in doing so are proving to our challengers that , Latinos hacen buen trabajo. In my opinion, the work ethic exhibited by that agency inspires those in the industry, and I know it attracts other minorities who have the same understanding of what it means to struggle for something. 

On a more technical level, this internship at Dex taught me that within the Hispanic advertising industry, strategy is the trade I want to learn, a craft that marries research with creative thinking. Because I speak the language and know the customs, gaining insights that will lead to creating effective Hispanic marketing strategy won’t be as difficult as task as it might be for someone who doesn’t have those same experiences that I do. While I know that it’s important to step back from my own personal experiences in order to be objective, I also know that these experiences can equate to a form of cultural common sense.

Estoy orgullosa. I’m prouder of who I am than I have ever been, and I attribute that to this summer. My trademark Cuban loudness is not vulgar, it is what enables me to speak up in a meeting. My socioeconomic status is not a disadvantage, but a privilege when I consider how it has forced me to manage resources carefully and be sensitive to others. My bicultural identity does not make me foreign to the way things are, but rather, opens up doors of opportunity and visions of the way things could be. I hope to return to the world of Hispanic advertising after I graduate, because in that world, being myself is an asset.

At the US State Department

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Justin Iannacone, COL ’20

This summer I had the opportunity to intern in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) in Washington. CSO analyzes conflict trends, works to prevent outbreaks of violence, and responds to emerging threats to peace around the world. It focuses on issues like gender-based violence, election monitoring, reintegrating extremist fighters, and treaty enforcement. Living in D.C. and working for the State Department this summer was a fantastic experience. In addition to my work, I interacted with public officials across the government, met Penn alumni and other students, and experienced vibrant city life in the nation’s capital.

My role varied throughout the summer based on changing regional situations and emerging crises. I was able to work on issues in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Kenya, Eritrea, Serbia, the Philippines, and many other countries alongside expert diplomats. I often conducted background research and provided daily updates to the Bureau on urgent country situations. I crossed paths with important American government officials and interacted with foreign dignitaries in meetings at the State Department and embassies. While meeting influential global leaders was certainly exciting, the most rewarding connections I made this summer were with Foreign Service Officers working in Washington. They all had incredible backgrounds that led them to careers in diplomacy, and the stories they told me about challenges they faced on deployments showed me how intelligent and resourceful diplomats must be to succeed.

If you asked me what I would be doing as an incoming freshman, I would have given you a much different answer than working for the State Department. Taking international relations classes at Penn broadened my interests and made me consider opportunities outside of traditional political or legal internships. After working for an NGO in West Africa following my freshman year, I became passionate about international development and stability. This internship was a perfect opportunity to transition my experience in Africa to the US government’s central efforts to promote global cooperation and peace.

My experience did not come without some frustrations. I witnessed firsthand how partisan politics and bureaucracy impact effective policymaking. I learned how government departments balance the interests of Congress, the Presidential Administration, and other stakeholders when prioritizing issues and strategies. There was often competition between different government agencies and budget constraints that limited our options, but despite these challenges I sought to remain focused on the importance of the work I was doing.

One of the most inspiring aspects of this experience was working with people who came to work every day with the same passion and dedication to government service they had when they began their careers. In an era of political divides and cynicism, this summer showed me that hard work, skill, and belief in the right ideals still yields a better and more peaceful society. I am very grateful for my summer experience, and I cannot wait to return to Washington next year.

A Different Perspective on News and Media

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Connor Chong, WH ’20

I find it fascinating on how information disseminates itself throughout society, throughout various social, economic, political, and cultural vectors. One primary vector that captures a majority share in this information transfer is the news and media. Over the summer, I was able to work at Speakable PBC, a media/tech/social-impact hybrid startup that sought to understand how people interpret the plethora of media around them, and hopefully alter the surrounding apathy around the typical news reader and call them to take action. Their unique vision of empowering readers of news captivated my interest, and a grant from the Career Services Summer Grant was able to allow working for this company and living in the albeit expensive city of New York to become a reality.

As the company was rather small and growing, I was able to wear a variety of different hats on the job. Coming from a more technical background, I was able to contribute a significant deal to their engineering team, completely re-engineering their website to use more modern JavaScript frameworks to allow greater scalability and efficiency (stress tested to over 200k server requests per minute). I also wore the hat of a data scientist, utilizing their SQL database of billions of records to inspect variations in performance and answer more complex questions about their products. As a capstone project, I built a data analyzer engine, which would query their database, parse the data, perform statistical analysis on the data, and spit out the data in an easy-to-read format.

However, the lessons I learned in the unique sector of media were powerful. Learning the specifics of the industry as well as the digital advertising space has been key to understanding both the monetization as well as purpose of news. News can be primarily seen as necessary to “educate the masses”, but lately has become more of a form of entertainment. As entertainment promotes lackadaisical-ness, readers of news frequently begin to create emotionally visceral reactions to news compared to intellectual understandings of the problems at hand. As consumers of the media today, we must be wary of how much we let our emotions govern our response to news; we must be motivated to act on our emotional response in an intellectual way, seeking out pathways to societal change through political, economic, and social responses.

This summer, I definitely learned a lot, such as on the technical side gaining familiarity with tools such as ReactJS, PostgreSQL, NodeJS, TypeScript, and more, but also with statistical foundations that I had to learn to build my data engine. In addition, I learned more about the news industry, understood more clearly our role of consumers of media, and saw the ways that we can mobilize to take action on the news that we read. From an amazing team, to passionate coworkers, to unity around a common theme, I was able to grow as an individual from my experience this summer.

Cape Town Reflection

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Ghelila Masico, CAS ’20

My experience in Cape Town has not only been eye-opening but has allowed me to reach clarity in the pursuit of a career. Prior to interning in Cape Town, I was greatly confused as to what career path to pursue, for I was juggling between selecting the administrative or the clinical aspect of healthcare. The prospect of interning in South Africa was worrying to say the least for I did not know what to expect in terms of my work and life dynamic. After having surfed the internet for an understanding of South African culture and history I was, instead, inundated with articles on the rising crime rates and the prevalence of diseases. Naturally, I was concerned, especially considering I would be interning in a hospital, an environment where airborne illnesses are to run rampant if appropriate preventative measures are not enforced. These concerns were put to rest as soon as I set foot in Cape Town. As I walked the streets of Towne, I came across people who were nothing but welcoming and hospitable. Many Cape Tonians took time out of their busy schedules to engage in conversations revolving around topics that like healthcare and the lasting implications of apartheid.

My concern regarding health was also put to rest after having been introduced to my internship supervisor, Dr. Clint Cupido, an internal medicine doctor at Victoria Hospital. He informed me about the strict preventative measures being implemented within the hospital and the new health initiatives introduced into the South African healthcare system. Throughout my internship at Victoria Hospital I was able to involve myself in several projects that span different fields of medicine. Initially I was placed under the Cardiology department where I was expected to assist with Cardiac Rehab Program, a program aimed at educating heart attack and stroke patients on their conditions and possible methods to improve their lifestyles. Here, I was not only able to interact with patients, but also put my cardiology knowledge to test by constructing and presenting presentations on transient ischemic attacks. After this 4 week program came to an end, I joined Abundant Life, a palliative care program aimed at improving the quality of life for terminally ill patients. After having joined Abundant Life’s dynamic team, I was given the opportunity of participating in weekly home visits where I was able to visit and assess these patients in the comfort of their homes. Accompanied with a doctor and a nurse, I was able to interact with these patients and take notes on their medications, symptoms, and conditions.

My internship placement has given me the opportunity to experience, first hand, the clinical world of healthcare. I not only participated in ward rounds, ICU visits, and medical workshops, but I was also able to gain an understanding of the South African healthcare system. This experienced reaffirmed my passion for eliminating health disparities by actively working within the clinical healthcare field. I was also able to develop emotionally and professionally for I became a more versatile and well rounded person. I believe that this journey has given me both personal and professional clarity.  

Robot Summer

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Eli Gottlieb, SEAS ’19

I arrived in Chicago on Tuesday, May 15th, the day after commencement. I had the pleasure of watching my colleagues and some of my closest friends walk across the stage, ready to embark on the next step of their journey before setting foot on a summer journey of my own. I had received an internship at IFM, a startup focused on using Computer Vision to make warehouses safer and more profitable by optimizing forklift efficiency and accuracy. During this internship, I would have the opportunity to work closely with the CEO and Hardware Lead to develop robotic systems capable of harnessing this technology. However, due to the company’s startup nature, they were unable to provide me with enough to cover the cost of living and working in the metropolitan area of Chicago. Thankfully, the Career Services Summer Funding Grant helped provide the support I needed to take advantage of this educational opportunity.

            I submatriculated into the field of Robotics due to my passion for technology. As a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate, I felt a lack of understanding of electronic systems and software that comprise most of today’s technological ecosystem. Mechanically powered systems are no longer leading the market, and in order to create technology capable of making a difference, it’s imperative to collaborate all three components of robotics. At IFM, I was responsible for designing mechanical prototypes that optimized material usage to house electronics and microcontrollers. Given the diminishing size and increase of accuracy of robotic systems, this company had allowed me to gather real world experience of designing working component by combining mechanical and electrical systems and software.

            The robotic industry is growing steadfast. With my degree in Robotics, I plan on making a difference. Currently, robots play an active role in the medical industry, such as minimally invasive surgical tools. With capabilities such as path planning and collision detection, they can increase performance on riskier operations like open heart surgery. I’m fascinated by the advancement of medical technology, and although my summer program wasn’t directly related to the field of medicine, the knowledge I’ve gained through my internship at IFM increased my understanding of creating robust robotic systems, and thus extends to my long-term goal of developing robotic-based medical devices.

            Additionally, working at a startup with summer had provided with the challenge of succeeding on a small team with limited expertise. The office was comprised of three full time employees, two of which were under the age of 25, and only one of which worked on the Mechanical Engineering/Hardware team. With my boss only being one year out of school, we spent the majority of the summer learning from each other, him with his experience working on the device at this company, and me with my hands-on classroom and project experience. I felt as though I was pushed to hold a role larger of that of a typical intern, but also held much larger influence in the company, and am grateful for this opportunity.