DukeEngage Detroit has given me the opportunity to learn more than I could have imagined, and it is crazy to think how quickly these past several weeks have flown by. I have not only learned consulting, technical, analytic skills, and learned so much about the operations of a non profit organization, but also, and maybe more meaningfully, I learned about myself as a worker, learner, and a team player.
First, this summer has given me invaluable experience building my technical skill set working for a company that I know I will take and apply to my classes, projects, and jobs in the future. I have learned about the importance of communication. Working remotely with an office that primarily lived and worked in Detroit and a partner who worked across the country in California in a different time zone, constant communication and transparency was vital to being productive and efficient and getting great work done. Whether it be constant texts and email exchanges, staying up-to-date on multiple Microsoft Team threads, or setting up quick Zoom check-ins, working at ProserUs Detroit this summer taught me how to be a successful communicator and team member. It also taught me how important it is to reach out for clarity and ask questions, and how willing coworkers are to be a resource of information and assistance. I also gained in-depth experience working with new platforms such as Sales Force and Form Assembly and building my analytical skill set, taking data from surveys, working with Excel and PowerPoint, analyzing information, finding trends, and effectively presenting findings and offering recommendations on how a certain workshop could be improved based on survey feedback. In addition, other projects I worked on with ProsperUs Detroit this summer allowed me to work on my research skills, writing skills, and even outreach skills.
Second, this summer taught me about how I best operate in a work environment and as a team member. I have learned how much I really enjoy and appreciate working in team settings and, in particular, with an active supervisor. My supervisor Andrew met with my partner Evan and me each morning 4 out of the 5 days of the work week. Andrew might not have realized how meaningful those first five minutes of each meeting during which we would casually talk about our lives was to me and how integral our daily check in on our work was, providing an opportunity for us to ask questions and clarify our tasks on our projects. Even when our meetings were only 10 short minutes, having the opportunity and time set aside for those casual conversations and clarifications was so valuable to me. Though I know that I will not always have this luxury in my future positions, I have learned how important building that relationship with my supervisor is to me. In addition, working with the entire ProsperUs team and Evan specifically has shown me how much I love working with a team. Though Evan and I knew that there were times that a “divide and conquer” approach allowed us to work more efficiently, and we did utilize this approach when it would be best, working alongside a partner and the whole ProsperUs team showed me how much I value working with and hearing the voices and ideas from a team of such diverse backgrounds and experiences. I looked forward to our whole ProsperUs team meetings each Monday afternoon where each individual, including those on both the Programming and Lending teams, would give their weekly updates, and others would offer their opinions on different matters allowing their dynamic personalities and unique life experiences to shine through.
And finally, I learned a lot about myself this summer. I learned about what areas of work I enjoy most, what I value, and things I want to look for in future employment opportunities. In my work conducting interviews with entrepreneurs across the Detroit area for my Storytelling Project, it was further confirmed to me how much I love client-facing work where I am able to directly engage and speak with new individuals and clients, learn about them, and how my company can help serve them better. I also learned that I love thinking analytically and creatively, turning basic numbers into charts and graphs, analyzing trends, and coming up with innovative solutions and recommendations on areas in which ProsperUs could learn and grow. My work this summer also confirmed to me how much I love the entrepreneurial space and working with small businesses. Sitting in on various lending meetings, we were given the opportunity to hear entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and small companies to the lending team and ask direct questions about the companies to see what next steps would help the entrepreneur grow their company. Was applying for a loan at the amount they requested the right decision for that entrepreneur? Would the company really benefit from a brick-and-mortar location at that moment? Should the entrepreneur apply for an entrepreneurship training program instead of a loan right now? These were all questions that the loan team gave us the opportunity to discuss, while also looking at the company's business model and financial projections.
Thank you DukeEngage Detroit for letting me grow and learn all of these things and so much more. Thank you for giving me a new friend in my partner Evan, role models in Katherine and Matt, and for all the laughs in our weekly cohort meetings. I am jealous of the future cohorts that will get to physically be together in Detroit, but even working virtually from NYC, I learned so much and met some of the greatest people. Thank you!