Author: Cheryl Sun
For most of us, 2020 has been a year unlike any other, filled with unexpected challenges forcing us to adapt and accelerate our personal growth. As this turbulent year comes to a close, we sat down (virtually) with our interns here at Asian Student Achievement to hear how 2020 went for them. We hope to provide perspectives you can relate to, and pieces of inspiration to take with you as we enter into 2021. The transition to remote work is a common theme in 2020, whether for school, work, or even social events. Former ASA Operations Intern Caitlin Espinueva found the change especially difficult as a Dance major at the University of Kentucky, “I tend to feel frustrated with everything being on Zoom because dance is such a physical thing.”
For our Special Projects Intern Gina Groesbeck, virtual coffee chats have become the norm to network with professionals and learn about their respective fields. She has continued to pick up mentors through LinkedIn and recently discovered a career interest in Human Resources and Human Capital Management.
Gina has always worked with ASA virtually, which gave her an advantage over others who have never worked remote prior to this year. “I had exposure to the more professional side of working through virtual and was able to balance school a bit better.”
CEO Shane Carlin reiterated ASA is operating as normal, although the team has not been able to attend conferences and hold workshops in person, “We have been remote from day one, so if anything we’re ahead of the situation.”
This year has no doubt come with compromises as we feel the effects of shelter-in-place. Former Business Operations Intern Ei Dew describes the most difficult part about 2020 as simply, “Not being able to be our normal self… but I’m used to it now, I’ve come to terms that this is the new normal.” Johnny Nguyen, former ASA Graphic Design Intern, was working simultaneously as a graphic design assistant and a waiter at the beginning of the pandemic. “I was very emotionally disheartened I took up a lot of exploring, biking, different sports, different ways to go out and not be stuck inside.” Despite the tough job environment this year, our interns have continued to grow and develop their careers. Technology Intern Zach Son grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and was living abroad when he first engaged with ASA. He studied Mechanical Engineering, but decided to pivot post-grad and self-study Software Engineering. With a few months of studying and applying Zach recently landed his first full time job at a startup.
Gina tells a similar story, majoring in Financial Planning then deciding to pursue Human Resources. She was heavily involved in campus life, in particular recruiting for her sorority. This helped Gina realize her passion for creating fun and fulfilling environments for others, “I didn’t think of HR immediately, as immigrants my parents wouldn’t approve… they pressured me to think about my future and I gave myself the pressure too.” On top of all else happening in their personal lives, our interns have also dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy into ASA. Many found ASA through the Facebook group Subtle Asian Networking (SAN), while some found us through campus organizations or by word of mouth. Initially, Zach connected with ASA looking to improve his interviewing skills as he was job searching, and later joined as our Technology Intern. He mentioned the 1-on-1 Career Coaching sessions with Shane (ASA CEO & Founder) helped him better convey his thoughts and speak more effectively.
Zach says the biggest tip from Shane was to relate his hobby of cooking to programming–in cooking everything is free to customize, and similarly for programming a line of code can be written however you want. “I used what Shane taught me, example phrases and sentences and applied them to the next couple of interviews and landed my job.”
Prior to joining ASA, Johnny says he was “terrible at professional conversations and emailing people in general.” Working as a Graphic Design Intern taught him to converse in a professional environment and allowed Johnny to build his art portfolio.
Many of our interns balance several commitments outside of ASA. At one point Gina was working two part time jobs while interning at ASA, which took a significant amount of planning and challenged her to improve her time management skills.
Caitlin worked with ASA for a year, and in that time improved her public speaking skills and built a network with ASA. She mentions the job board as a useful direct connection for Asian Americans in the professional world, and the workshops being interesting and informative. “I loved the workshop and…the idea of educating other Asian-Americans on topics such as Microaggressions in the Workplace.” More than just a diversity-driven professional network, ASA staff and interns are a tight knit group.
Especially this year, Shane says the team is constantly checking in on fellow team members. “All of us are being more conscious of how are you feeling, how are you doing.”
Ei says she appreciates that ASA is always on the same page and supportive of each other. “Everyone is open to doing a one-on-one on personal, professional, anything. Everyone is so welcoming.”
Our interns have accomplished a tremendous amount this year. Shane says, “I couldn’t do this job, the directors couldn’t do this job, and the company couldn’t succeed without the interns.” Shane also expressed his gratitude to the ASA directors who have been invaluable to the company, “I do want to shout out to all of our directors… If I didn’t have the team of directors as well as the intern size, we would probably only be able to do a third of the work we accomplished this year.”
Through their involvement in ASA, interns not only benefit from working in a professional setting but also create long-lasting relationships, “We hire people that are doing this for no pay, but they’re wanting to do it because they’re getting true professional experience… I want to make sure I’m always a resource for them in their future, it becomes like a family.”
We hope this inspires you to reflect on your own year in 2020, how you have grown and what else you may be looking to improve. For all things career related, we encourage you to check out the various ASA resources available.
Take a look at our Job Board to stay up to date on new opportunities posted by companies seeking diverse candidates. Also, consider our 1-on-1 Career Coaching or Workshops for easy and remote learning.
We would love to continue to grow and build our network and welcome new members to the ASA family. What are you looking forward to next year?