By Robert Babich
Robert is a senior in the School of Communication, majoring in Communication Studies and Economics with a minor in Transportation & Logistics.
Describe your summer internship.
This past summer I had the privilege of interning at Align Income Share Funding as an Operations Analyst for the startup’s unique product: Income Share Agreements (ISAs). In this role, my responsibilities focused on a wide spectrum of projects ranging from data analysis and cashflow modeling, to preparing pitch materials for prospective investors and collaborating with the executive team on ongoing improvements. Most of my projects involved sifting through data on the day-to-day operations at the company, but I was also given high-responsibility projects pertaining to their ongoing capital raise and reporting for due-diligence materials.
Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?
I learned about opportunities through the Chicago Field Studies program this past spring and was intrigued by Align’s customer-friendly product, which offers people a way to break cycles of debt and have alternatives to predatory lenders. My advisor in the CFS program was incredibly helpful after I mentioned my interest in Align, and she encouraged me to express that same interest to the COO—who then interviewed me and gave me an invitation to contribute at Align. The company’s website and other interns’ reviews of the experience were incredibly helpful when it came time to narrow down my choices.
What did you enjoy most about the experience?
At Align, I felt like a valued, trusted member of the team from day one. I enjoyed being assigned to challenging projects and receiving feedback in real time—their willingness to give me hard tasks is what I enjoyed most about my time, as it demonstrated their trust in my abilities. When I was doing something right, it could be implemented right away; when I was doing something wrong, I heard about it and could make corrections quickly.
What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?
My biggest takeaway was to simply ask for what you want. Besides the fact that it shows people around you where your interests lie, it is explicit and encourages action. Make your needs, wants, and roadblocks as clear as possible so that your network can look out for you and your managers can engage problems on your behalf. Ask, so that other people can help you more effectively.
What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?
Being entirely authentic about why you’re interested in the company is the first thing I’d suggest—in your initial outreach, make it clear what they do that gets you excited. This will not only make you a more attractive candidate, but if you have an engaged supervisor they’ll be much more likely to find projects that align with these interests. My follow-up to this would be to accent your value, because that’s the ultimate goal of the interview. By coming in with clear examples of your work and how you will continue to produce results, you can spend more time getting to know the other side—what value will this internship provide to you?
As a 2018 Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) recipient, how did SIGP impact your summer?
Quite simply, it made my summer possible. Without a SIGP grant, I would not be able to pursue an internship at a socially responsible financial startup like Align. My SIGP grant gave me options to spend the summer developing my skills in a highly instructive workplace instead of grinding through a job simply to cover living expenses.