Blog 6 – Exploration

Though I am still not entirely sure what capacity I want to work with RISE, my internship has absolutely confirmed my support of their mission. Whether I am on the team or working with the organization as a professional athlete, I plan to be involved with RISE again in the near future. My experience ended up being much more than I had anticipated going into it, specifically because I was exposed to so much in such a short window as three weeks. Though I was overwhelmed by Manhattan’s transportation system at first, I quickly learned how to navigate the city and get to and from work. I could absolutely see myself living here again in the future. While I can’t go into specific details, the main project I worked on will be launched this summer at the University of Michigan and continue on throughout the next year. It is for this reason that I took the internship and I am hopeful that it will leave a lasting impact on our university for generations to come. It is extremely important to me that I leave a legacy at Michigan, not only on the playing field, but in the community as well. The Victor’s Talk initiative is that legacy.

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Blog 5 – Overcoming Obstacles

As I had mentioned in my previous post, I faced a giant obstacle when I was assigned the leading role on developing a plan for a possible smartphone app for the company. Though it was undoubtedly an exciting project, there were two main problems with this: I was already neck-deep in another project (one which was the main purpose I took the internship in the first place) and I had never done anything like this before. To alleviate the first problem, I was forced to restructure my days and work on the app project from home in the evenings. Though there was no imminent deadline approaching, my supervisor and the CEO were frequently keeping tabs on my progress on both projects. I decided to work on the app project from home because I found it to be a more relaxing atmosphere that sparked my creative mind. This allowed me to zero-in on my less exciting tasks while in my cubicle (frequently comprising of emails and spreadsheets). I would take the subway home, go for a run, eat dinner, and begin working on the second project later in the evenings. Breaking up my day helped me to focus in the moment but also allow time for transition between projects and kept me from becoming overwhelmed.

Blog 4 – Midpoint Check-In

So far, my internship has been a great experience. I have been successful in my goal of bringing a fresh, new perspective into the office at RISE. I have, however, been a bit surprised by the workload I have been assigned. Initially, I had planned on working on a specific project alongside my supervisor, Hayes Grooms. Instead, I have also been put in charge of developing a plan for a possible smartphone app for the company. This project requires me to plan everything the app might be: design, interface, technology, purpose, etc. Though it has been an exciting task, I am admittedly working outside of my expertise. Still, I have been exposed to much about how apps are developed and how they operate on a daily basis. This experience has been particularly valuable to me due to the rise of tech jobs across America over the past decade. Though I may never work in tech, I at least have gained basic understanding of how many things work, which will allow me to better grasp the grand scheme of things in the future. My biggest area for growth would be time management. Since I am working on two projects simultaneously, it is imperative that I plan out my day and stick to the plan in order to complete the work I need to get done each day.

Blog 3 – Value of Diversity

Diversity is the essence of what RISE is. Our team is diverse and our mission is to promote racial equality through the experiences of athletes of all ages. For me, I have quickly learned that I am the “young guy” in the office even though the team itself is comprised of people between the ages of 25 and 45. I am also the only current athlete on the team, while all others are former athletes. I have found my identity as a younger, current athlete to be something that is valued at RISE. My opinion, surprisingly, has been asked on several occasions because I am more entrenched in the world of sport than much of the team. I can offer unique perspective such as how particular initiatives will be portrayed by athletes and what is the best way to connect with the athletes on a larger scale. Because my opinion has been valued and my diversity appreciated, I have been able to come to work each day with a great deal of excitement and energy. I have also been more confident in meetings and taken the initiative to speak up throughout conversations with the team because my identity has provided me with a platform.

Blog 2 – Work Culture

My first week with RISE has been a challenging experience as I have had to adapt from working in libraries and coffee shops to working in a cubicle for eight hours. Initially I found my mind wandering and I struggled to focus, but it became easier as the week went on. I eventually began to prefer working from the cubicle because it allowed me to focus entirely on the task at hand and not become distracted by movement throughout the office. I also spent a great amount of time working with my supervisor, Hayes Grooms, in his office. The first week was filled with a number of small tasks each day, so I would report back to him upon the completion of each assignment. By the end of the week, I was assigned with creating a large spreadsheet to keep a database of all the work RISE is doing around the country. Though the task initially seemed quite simple, I started to feel overwhelmed when my supervisor and the CEO requested that I add more layers to it. What I thought would take only a few short hours to complete ended up taking me about three full days to construct.

Blog 1 – Goals

In my time with RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality), my goal is to bring a current athlete’s perspective into the office. The mission of RISE is to spread the unifying power of sports into the world and promote racial equality through it. As a current athlete, I can bring a unique, fresh perspective to the team in New York. My goal is to help the team connect with other young athletes like myself who are passionate and committed to being active in bringing social change to their campuses and communities.

From this experience, I hope to get an idea of if this type of work is something I would be interested in doing full-time if my professional football career runs short. I have always been active in the community and in sport, and RISE is the perfect balance between the two. I also hope to decide whether or not New York City is a place I could see myself living in, regardless of my career. Growing up in the northeast, I have visited New York on a number of occasions, but not at a great length. I am hopeful that my three weeks in Manhattan will reveal this to me.

Summer Goals

This summer I will be entering into a new, unfamiliar field. The field I am entering is one that has a big reputation that needs to be upheld. I am working for InStyle magazine, one of TimeIncs magazines. The magazine industry is one that is said to be prestigious, fast paced, yet always exciting. My goals that I have for this summer differ slightly than the goals I made last summer (for my first internship). This summer being my second opportunity at an internship I have guided my goals accordingly. First, I would like to make a lasting impression. The magazine industry is one that I always dreamed of being part of and now with my foot in the door I hope that I can make the people I work for remember my name. Another goal that I have is making connections. It is up to me to make something of this internship and I need to leave my comfort zone and make my own connections. I am going to use this summer as a chance to learn exactly what I want out of my future and hopefully become one step closer to achieving it.

Garage Style

SVN rents its office space from a place called Ann Arbor Startup Garage. Located on Liberty St., the Garage is the leftover space of Menlo Innovation, a software development company. 7 startups share the Garage, operating in an open atmosphere office from which each team runs their business. It has been exciting for me to witness other teams at work on their startups. I have enjoyed seeing the texture of other companies, as well as hearing about their ideas. The renters at the Garage are testimony to the fact that there is no mold for starting one’s own business. Founders vary in age, previous occupation, skill sets, yet all share a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation at the Garage.

Navigating No

An inevitable component of working in business development is that one is repeatedly faced with the word “no.” For every new deal or interested partner, there is an ocean of others who have declined. I was told the first time I conducted cold calls to expect three of 300 companies I had prospected to become deals. That maxim has not been far off the mark. More challenging still, are the halfway wins. The people who are interested in one of SVN’s products, but decide at some point in the sales process that the product doesn’t suit an investment. These engagements, while inevitable, can be taxing.

The experience imparts substantial value, however. What I have gained from facing “no” is a comfort with rejection. I have overcome the apprehension that many place around “no” and instead interpret each rejection as an opportunity to learn. And the lessons pay off. In my work with SVN, I have succeeded in developing relationships without any major prospecting list. I am no longer playing the numbers on cold calls, and instead am able to reliably secure interest from nearly every company I contact. Interest precedes investment, and although I will never be able to turn every prospect into a client, I have reached a point where I can consistently generate business for my company.

Interconnected

Interconnectedness is central to the technology of SVN. The software SVN develops and the motion sensors the company deploys act in synchronicity to connect people to the infrastructure surrounding them. Over the last semester, I have benefited from the opportunity to connect with the SVN team. The projects I’ve carried out have ranged from developing content for advertisements, to preparing a report that retained our team’s access to research funding. In my work, I have gained insight into how small technology companies operate. I have also learned more about my individual career plans.

SVN stands as the third startup for which I have worked across the last two years. The experience has been exciting. In each role I have held, I have worked across departments and served as an instrumental member of the team. I have enjoyed the empowerment I have held to lead my own contributions. I do feel, however, as though I am missing something. At the companies I have worked for, SVN included, I feel as though I have lacked mentorship. I value that I have been able to learn by doing in each role I’ve held, but I want the chance to learn from a team as well. Recently, I have come to consider that working for a larger company would benefit me. I remain strongly interested in technology startups, but I am eager to experience a technology business at its fruition, rather than exclusively in its development. It is with that conclusion that I am endeavoring to find employment at a large technology company, or the kind of company that funds them. I crave a new perspective on what makes a company valuable.