2017 marked the pilot year of the BEAM Fellows program, an initiative designed to provide undeclared freshmen and sophomores a chance to explore non-technical internships for the summer. Through Handshake, Stanford alumni posted opportunities covering diverse areas such business development, content and marketing management, and food literacy. Below, one of our mentor-mentee pairs shares thoughts on what Stanford students can provide, what makes for a good partnership, and some of the exciting work they did over the summer.
THE COMPANY: Jamnation
Gillian Reynolds, founder of Jamnation, graduated from Stanford with an economics degree. She worked at a think tank in Washington D.C. for two years before deciding that the fast-moving world of entrepreneurship and consumer products was where she could exert more influence, creating a product that “tastes good and does good.”
“I was in Brazil about 4 years ago and had the best fruit of my life, so when I got back to San Francisco I started going to every farmer’s market searching out the same intensity of flavor I’d experienced in Brazil,” said Gillian. Once she’d found these fruits, she wanted to share them with others and turned to jam as the perfect medium. While at Stanford, she’d studied abroad at the London School of Economics, where she learned about fair trade and sugar subsidies and how they affected farmers, spurring her to ensure her product was “Fairtrade certified from Day One.”
“I was pretty excited to be part of [the BEAM Fellows] program because I wanted to give someone a summer that would inspire them and give tasks that I knew a Stanford student could handle. A lot of times, people can underestimate college students. When you’re a college student, you can be less confident in your abilities; you’re still trying to figure out where you fall in the working world.”
The Jamnation team at a trade show during the solar eclipse, Summer 2017
This is especially true for freshmen and sophomores, who are often concerned about having little experience under their belt. This can make applying for internships daunting. Realizing this, Gillian said: “I expect someone to be a little more raw when they’re a freshman or sophomore. But if they’re willing to put in the time—if they can learn, if they’re willing to do the reading and show up, then that’s what matters. I’m excited about what I do, and I want someone else to be excited, too.”
Gillian designed the internship experience with this in mind; she was determined to make sure that Naomi, the student she eventually hired, “could have things on her resume that would move her forward in her career. I wanted her to have ownership over a project. She could be proud of it, she could work on it by herself; she could see it come to life even after she left.”
Naomi Shak (‘20) had an interest in psychology and economics and was able to apply both in her role as Marketing and Market Research intern. Going into it, “I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” said Naomi. “It exceeded my expectations in that I was literally able to work with the founder of the company every day. Being able to have a direct impact on the company, Gillian listening to my ideas—for instance, I’d suggest something to do differently with the website and she’d say, ‘Okay.’ Working with her that directly helped me learn a lot; she’d teach me about marketing concepts and take me to trade shows where I got to experience more of the sales aspect and interacting with people directly.”
As Marketing and Market Research Intern, Naomi got to oversee all parts of the social media process, from taking pictures and filming to managing the Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. She also handled public relations, which, along with the trade shows she attended, put her out of her comfort zone, and let her grow:
“In the beginning, I was more reserved and let [Gillian] take over and talk more to the customers. But she’d encourage me to be more confident and give me certain tips. Every trade show I got a little more confident, so by the end it’d be fine if she had to go work on something else. I would be okay manning the stand by myself. It was a cool, challenging, and exciting experience, one I didn’t expect to be part of at first.”
On her end, Gillian was impressed by Naomi’s initiative. “I was surprised by how much Naomi went out of the way with her own personal network; I was really touched by that. We set up a promo code called ‘The Naomi Express’ and she brought jam back and forth to her friends and family so that they could get free shipping. I didn’t ask her to do that; it was her idea.”
“I really liked that she was a Stanford student,” Gillian commented, elaborating on how that served as a grounding connection for their partnership. “I think chemistry was very important. I thought of her more as a mentee than an intern. She was really flexible. I felt that we shared a lot of the same characteristics; she was a hard-worker, go-getter.
I think Stanford people all have this unique characteristic, which is that they love to learn, and they want to do good in the world.”
The Fellows program continues this year at BEAM with another batch of internship opportunities. The goal of the program will remain the same: to connect more students with alumni to pursue common objectives in meaningful work and to form connections that will last long after they leave Stanford.
BEAM Fellows is a partnership between alumni and BEAM, Stanford Career Education, to connect undeclared students interested in the humanities with non-technical summer opportunities. Piloted in summer 2017, the program continues in 2018 with alumni hiring students throughout Winter and Spring quarters. Alumni interested in hiring can get in touch here. Students in need may apply for funding to cover travel and living costs associated with their internships. For questions, please contact Elena Dancu via firstname.lastname@example.org.