Sophia from Loyola University Chicago offers insight into transparency and her guide to ‘Faking it Til You Make it’ .
Written by Sage Corps 2017 alumnus, Dalvin Sejours.
In Spring 2017, I was very excited to study and intern abroad in Sydney, Australia through the Sage Corps program. I went to class by day and interned at Bonjoro, the startup I was paired with, in the evening. On the weekends and during the various breaks that I had throughout the semester, I would adventure and learn more about Australia by delving into the cuisine, art, and nightlife. However, while I really enjoyed exploring the country and all that it had to offer, I never got the time to document my travels! I had a travel journal, but it was never in reach.
In addition to the obvious exposure to a new culture, country, and city, Sage Corps also gave me the opportunity to get up close and personal with entrepreneurship in the tech bubble known as “Silicone Beach” in Australia. Sage Corps set us up with a whole calendar of local events such as pitching competitions, lunch and learns, and meetups, which inspired me as I heard about the amazing ideas that “regular”people like me had to offer. Not only that, but Bonjoro was a tight-knit startup. I was able to pick the brain of Bonjoro’s CEO Matthew Barnett, since his desk was right across from mine. We would casually chat about how he came up with the idea for his products, and he would drop gems of wisdom on being fearless and taking that initial leap. These conversations with investors and various stakeholders is what set the seed for what would become the iTravel Journal app.
After my life-changing experience through the Sage Corps program, I made a pact to myself that I would travel to a new location every year. Every new location I go I would have amazing food and experience new ways of life…but still kept forgetting to keep notes.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 - my New Year’s resolution was to build an iOS app, a goal partially inspired by my exposure to entrepreneurship and software development in Sydney. After reminiscing on my past travel pain point, I decided to create an app addressing just that. Thus, my idea came alive: an app that functions as a travel journal. I sketched out the initial design and my vision came to light - a simple and easy way to save your favorite locations abroad with notes. I created two beta versions, and had close to 100 users try the app and provide feedback for me in a Google Forms sheet. Feedback is a gift and a curse, but it ultimately allowed me to create the first version of the application.
Currently, the app is available on the iPhone App Store under the name “iTravel Journal”. Please feel free to try it out and rate it, as I continue to tweak it and make it something bigger and better. It was amazing that I was able to take a real world problem that I experienced on the Sage Corps program and beyond, and create something out of it - which is the essence of software engineering.
Last January, we were proud to roll out our pilot Start! Program in Dublin, Ireland!
Our very own Director of Programming, Cara, flew across the pond with students Adele, David, Camilla, Owen, Lauren, and Tristan to lead them through a two-week micro-internship, where they acted as consultants for two startup companies.
So why did these students decide to take us up on this opportunity, you ask? We asked them the same thing.
“I’ve always wanted to experience working professionally abroad,” Camilla explained. “So, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try that out.”
David shared, “I wanted to get more work experience, but mainly I wanted to be able to get experience working in a different country. I had never been to Dublin and the dates lined up, luckily, so it was an easy choice!”
Adele, on the other hand, was not there to participate in the micro-internship. As a Sage Corps 2017 alumna, Adele tagged along as a Project Manager to help the other students develop their projects. How? She explains, “My performance and enthusiasm as a Sage Corps Summer 2017 fellow led me to the Start! Program. The experience I gained working abroad during the Summer was directly applicable to my ability to make positive contributions to it.”
What Did They Do?
Start! Fellows Lauren and Tristan were placed on the Groopeze team, and were instructed to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Groopeze competitors’ social media presences, research social media best practices (type of content, posting frequency, etc.), build familiarity with and utilize a social media scheduler tool, develop a template for a content marketing plan, and utilize marketing template to schedule posts for a predetermined time frame.
Separately, fellows David, Camilla, and Owen were placed on the Popertee team, and were instructed to conduct a comprehensive review of the layout and content of the existing website, analyze user trends on existing the site, research UX/UI best practices, make recommendations on UX/UI, develop content (written/video) and future A/B testing recommendations based on learnings from applicable data, and provide B2B market research solutions.
Throughout the two weeks, both teams worked alongside Adele to execute the projects that their startup had given them. On their last day, the Fellows presented their findings/recommendations to the startups - and the response from the startups was overwhelming.
Joe from Popertee, Head of Product and Operations at the startup, explained, “the amount of work the guys put in over the last couple of weeks was clearly evident, I was very impressed. The insights and recommendations were amazing considering they did not know Popertee existed not that long ago.” Additionally, Darragh, CEO of Groopeze, stated, “I thought the presentation was excellent and the quality of the students was phenomenal - all three of them will have no problem walking into a senior position when they graduate.”
Of course, this micro-internship experience was quite different than most other internship experiences the students had previously held. David explained, “I wasn’t used to working so closely with other students. My past internship experiences have mainly been me doing my own tasks and not on teams. The Start! Program has been my only real team internship experience and taught me a lot about coordinating and task-managing with other people. The only times I had ever done that before was during school, which is a very different environment.”
Additionally, Camilla noted, “It was different because we were given more autonomy. We worked together in small groups, away from the company, so we were able to do things on our own terms, really acting as true consultants.”
What Did They Learn?
Through this internship experience, the fellows were able to identify and approach work challenges in a whole new way. Camila shared, “My micro-internship taught me how to surround the business problem and attack it from many angles, and how to strategically get inside the minds of consumers and work toward a solution from their point of view.”
And apart from hard skills, the fellows’ soft skills were also challenged. Specifically for David, he noted an improvement in time management skills. Luckily, those skills were transferable to his next big professional move: “As an intern at two film production companies this summer, I definitely had to know the value of time and make sure I could handle everything on my plate. By the way, in the summer interviewing process, more than a few of my interviews were started with "Tell me about how you got to Dublin!"
Adele’s experience was obviously quite different, working on and leading both teams. With a whole new level of responsibility, her leadership skills were put to the test:
“This program was monumental for my professional development. The opportunity allowed me to lead my peers in a professional setting with a high level of responsibility. I was able to put together high impact work and have conversations with leadership from multiple startups. The level of responsibility and expectations combined with high impact work in such a short time frame is unparalleled. The Start! Program helped me become a more confident and capable young professional, which has been evident through my work in the consulting industry following the program.”
“Sage” Advice for Future Fellows
This year, we are pleased to be sending TWO cohorts on our Start! Program - to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Berlin, Germany.
When we asked Camilla why or why not she would tell a fellow student to follow in her footsteps and participate in Start!, she responded, “I would recommend a prospective student participate in Sage Corps’ Start! because it is crucial to your professional development, immersing you in challenging business projects right away. Additionally, its an awesome way to meet new people from around the US and the world!”
David agreed, adding that the Start! Program “allows you to travel to an amazing place and immerse yourself there in the work (and play) culture. You get valuable experience working on team projects and you get incredible travel memories (not to mention new friends that you will continue to keep in touch with).”
We get it - you’ve never heard of an experience like this one. It’s new, it’s different, and you’re excited about it! ….and also still a little unsure. But take it from Camilla, who told us “I had nothing to be nervous about!”