It’s hard to believe that another summer has come and gone. As the title of this article suggests, I spent my summer working at two internships, both of which were comfortably located at the University of California, Irvine.
At UCI Applied Innovation, a Chancellor-sponsored initiative focused on uniting and growing Orange County’s entrepreneurial community, I worked on Marketing Analytics as part of the first generation of the Intercollegiate Summer Start-up Program (ISSUP). At Chicklabs, a marketing consulting company that focuses on helping female entrepreneurs and gender diverse teams, I spent my time building all aspects of several different businesses.
Here are a few things I learned over the past few months:
Meet Awesome People
Many of the people I have gotten to befriend over this summer were my fellow interns in the ISSUP program. Though almost everyone was from SoCal, we all went to a variety of universities across the United States, and brought with us our own unique experiences. A few interns were even working on their own startups: a locket that helps prevent sexual assault (and is fashionable), a personal deployable shield for military and police personnel, and a non-profit that makes giving to your favorite charities incredibly easy by rounding up any credit card purchases and donating the spare change.
One of the best decisions made for ISSUP was giving us a conference room as our own little “Intern Hub” for the duration of the program. It was in this room that everyone could help each other out, whether that was planning a strategy proposal for the head of the Marketing team or recommending the next anime series you had to binge watch. I really appreciated getting to hang out with a group of peers my age for this internship, and I think getting to make new friends along the way made the entire internship so much more fun.
Of course, I met more people than just my fellow ISSUP interns. At Chicklabs, the small team had the authentic vibe of a close-knit startup (in this case, a startup that helps other startups start up). There was plenty of fun banter, and lots of great advice from people who had spent decades helping growing businesses in some shape or form even before forming Chicklabs. UCI Applied Innovation’s physical location, the Cove, was well designed to feel like a young business as well. My bosses were literally five steps away, and, since half of the Cove was reserved for startups to have physical offices as they grew their companies, I got to meet the leaders of new businesses and initiatives from across Orange County.
Learn Outside the Classrooom
The ISSUP program at UCI Applied Innovation had an “experiential learning” component built in, which made learning from a variety of mentors much easier. From Richard Sudek’s tips on fast pitches and Tracy Kwiker’s paths and motivations to success to Fabian Geyrhalter’s in-depth knowledge on branding and John Carls’s insights into the entertainment industry, I was exposed to dozens of new areas that I may not have had the opportunity (or impetus) to explore otherwise. Site visits also augmented our knowledge of the Orange County business community, with visits including places like Edwards Lifesciences, Google Irvine, and Disneyland.
The end of the school year (and, eventually, the end of school altogether at graduation) should never mean an end to learning. In addition to listening to new mentors, I devoted time to picking up new skills that would be useful for my internships, future careers, and everyday life. From making the most of our social media’s native individual analytics reports and gaining in-depth expertise on platforms like Slack, Hootsuite, and Grum at UCI Applied Innovation to improving my coding knowledge and step-by-step debugging when building websites for companies in Chicklabs’s portfolio, I have learned a great deal about flexibility and the “self-starter” mentality that’s crucial for success in the business world.
Tap your Prior Knowledge
When I first started working on Marketing Analytics at UCI Applied Innovation, the research done up to that point mainly consisted of weekly reports on how well our social media were doing. With my Economics background, I decided to start drawing on the trove of data available and combine it with economic intuition. After four customized spreadsheets (Google Sheets and a little ingenuity costs a lot less than fancy data visualization tools), multiple weekly analytics reports, and some hypotheses on what motivates the demographics we were targeting, I presented my findings at a company-wide meeting. This not only helped get everyone up to speed on how we were using social media marketing, but also generated a lot of enthusiastic support for leveraging social media to help different groups located in our entrepreneurial hub.
Chicklabs required even more ingenuity, working within resource limitations and time crunches. I made use of the extensive reserach acumen I picked up in classes, using the same techniques that I had used to source material for term papers to quickly track down information that could help our businesses. I also expanded my prior knoweldge of HTML and Wordpress to redesign certain webpage aspects that a theme wouldn’t cover, and relied on many tips and tricks in Microsoft Word to create brochures for brokers and potential product buyers.
There’s a lot of Entrepreneurship in by Backyard
When I first arrived at Stanford, I was incredibly excited to get to be in Silicon Valley, land of entrepreneurship and opportunity. I now realize that there’s a great up-and-coming entrepreneurial nexus taking shape in Orange County as well.
Chicklabs embodies the new entrepreneurial focus in Orange County; their portfolio is a much healthier mix of company types, including physical goods, which was a fun challenge to tackle given how accustomed I am to the software startups of Silicon Valley. Furthermore, Chicklabs is actively helping to fix the gender gap in the business world, an issue of utmost importance to businesses that want to retain relevance and creativity in the long run.
UCI Applied Innovation is a tangible hub of entrepreneurship, bringing together angel groups and VCs, CoveShare startup teams, and hundreds of Experts-in-Residence (EiRs) to help those startup teams flourish and continue to expand into the Orange County community. The work I did this summer helped grow these network in my backyard, simultaneously building awareness of the Cove @ UCI Applied Innovation, encouraging engagement with our programs, and hopefully leading to long-term advocacy of many entrepreneurial pursuits.
Storytelling is Integral to Business
Nick, the head of Marketing at UCI Applied Innovation, gave the entire ISSUP team a great talk about the role of storytelling in business. In the Cove, I spent a lot of time planning out the story we wanted to tell with our brand, and figuring out how to approach this with different audiences using data and intuition. If you have a good storyline that people can follow, you can get a lot more stuff done.
I also saw this metaphor’s relevance at Chicklabs, where I spent a good deal of time reorienting the brand identities of Chicklabs and Immuno Gum. On both websites, the stories we were telling about the businesses were outdated, with awkward word choices and unintuitive website flows. For Immuno Gum, I spent a lot of time cleaning up the website, adding new content that showed off our current product packaging, and reorienting the brand towards positivity, activity, and health.
During both of my internships, I made sure to continuously and metacognitively consider the work I was doing. I wanted to make sure that, each day, I would be doing something important and interesting, something that improved the place I was working at and helped me grow the skills for success. In the end, I made new friends, found new mentors, and worked on projects that matter.
It’s been a great summer, but Junior year at Stanford calls. I can’t wait to see what comes next!