At the beginning of the month, Career Services opened the application for the Swarthmore Future Entrepreneurship Program. Students were informed and encouraged to apply via the Career Services website. The program includes several internships that are local to Philadelphia. The participating companies are mostly small tech start-ups and, unlike most tech companies, demand relatively few specific skills. Students with a wide range of interests and abilities were able to apply. In addition, students who decide to participate will be awarded a $4350 stipend. The companies’ flexibility, along with the stipend, helps students gain exposure, narrow down interests, and make meaningful contributions.
Career Services initially contacted participating companies through resources at Ben Franklin Technology Partners, an organization helping to finance small tech start-ups. “We have an alumni who has been with [Ben Franklin Technology Partners] for a long time and he has a portfolio of these start-up companies, and a lot of them are based in Philadelphia,” said Pattie Kim, assistant director of career services and the coordinator of this program. Through the alumnus’s email outreach, Kim was able to receive inquiries from various tech start-ups.
Subsequently, Kim contacted selected companies and was impressed by their enthusiasm. Kim described, “I’ve talked to a couple of employers already and all my interactions with them have been very positive. They are all very energetic about the opportunity.”
Kim was also confident in the companies’ ability to make use of various skill sets.
“They are very open to different types of students. Because it’s a startup, there are lots of different projects that an intern can work on. For them, it’s more about getting the right person,” she said. Even with minimal technical knowledge, students are able to contribute to the task at hand.
According to Kim, the flexible nature of the companies means that students’ work will have a significant impact. “You can wear many different hats… You will be [sic] doing from advertising to hiring to even coding yourself,” she said. Due to the small size of the companies, students can feel the weight and the immediacy of their contributions. As Kim explained, “Your impact is more measureable because you are working on a team of three to five people. You work directly impacts the person sitting next to you.”
Diana Martschenko ’18, who interned at a startup called ROAR for Good this past summer, agrees by citing the multitude of responsibilities she had. “Day to day, I performed a really large range of tasks and learned a ton about marketing from the close relationship I had with the CEO, Yasmine Mustafa,” she said. According to Martschenko, the small size of ROAR contributed to the abundance of responsibilities. She said, “There were only four full-time employees and four interns at the time, and I was able to see what sort of work went into business and product development.” She added, “I was able to contribute many ideas and then see them incorporated into the vision of the company.”
This platform will give students the power to shape their experiences. “You can have one-on-one with colleagues and find ways to explore your interests or even hone some of the skills you really want to hone,” Kim said.
And this is good news for students like Lisa Kato ’19, who hopes to advance her career search. “I want to get first hand experience because I want to narrow down my interests,” Kato said, “Getting an internship as a first-year is really difficult, but as a sophomore I would rather have or participate in an internship that will actually connect to what I want to do as a career.”
Not only does the program give students a chance to pursue their interests, it pushes them to explore other career options. As Kim noted, “For an undergrad, it’s a really wonderful opportunity. I think it really helps students to explore things that they never thought that they would explore in an environment where creativity and innovation are really valued, as well as hard work.”
In the case of Martschenko, the internship fostered an interest in marketing. She said, “I enjoyed the work so much I applied to a few marketing internships for this summer even though I am a computer science major.”
The program is also an excellent opportunity for students to connect with the start-up atmosphere at Philadelphia. “Philadelphia is becoming a start-up hub. And so a lot of start-ups are here and we want them to connect with our students, and get them to know our campus,” Kim said, “It’s a great relations that we have.”
In addition, the program grants a stipend of $4350 to participating students, which helps to create a low-risk environment for both students and companies. Kim explained, “Our office gives a stipend. It’s through the college… There is no risks for the employers; there is no risks for the students. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Kato agrees that the stipend eases her financially. “As an international student, it’s hard to find housing and being able to receive a stipend is really helpful,” Kato said.
The excitement and flexibility of small start-ups, their strategic location, and the stipend all provide the means for students to contribute and learn much. And Kim is confident of this. “Every student I talked to last year who did the internship, they’ve loved it,“ she said.
Martschenko affirms this claim. She said, “I learned many new things, gained new skills, formed close relationships that have continued since this summer, and had the chance to explore the beautiful city of Philadelphia.”