The network effect that plays out across venture capital can often be traced back to college. So it makes sense that an effort to bring change would start by providing students with experience working at VC and investment management firms.
Back in March, education nonprofit Steppingstone Scholars announced it was revamping some of its programming thanks to a $100,000 grant meant to support the org’s STEM equity and innovation lab, Inveniam.
Part of that refresh included the introduction of the Inveniam Equity Internship, meant to address systematic barriers that keep low-income and Black and brown students from entering industries that have historically been very white and very male, like private equity, wealth management and venture capital.
This six-week internship will launch June 1 with a cohort of seven students from local colleges and will provide one-on-one coaching and structured professional guidance, including a network of mentors they can go to for advice and future job hunting. The equity-minded internship was born from the #hireandwire movement — that is, hire Black talent and fund Black-owned companies — ignited during the call for racial justice last summer, Steppingstone VP Chris Avery said in a statement.
“Educational equity is important, but it is the access to paid professional opportunities that profoundly changes the trajectory of college students’ lives, especially students of color,” he said.
Three East Coast firms are hosting students this summer, including Moore Capital Management in New York City, SVPGlobal in Greenwich, Connecticut and Hirtle Callaghan & Co in Conshohocken.
Katie Hamill, head of talent at Hirtle, said the firm been working with Steppingstone for a long time and jumped at the opportunity to host three students in the internship. Hirtle has an existing internship program, but it was revamped through Steppingstone’s lens to focus on the practical technical skills that will open doors for the students in the future and the network of professionals they can grow, Hamill said.
"I want to see some real-world applications of things I've been learning. I'm hoping to get that deeper understanding of investments and when to take risk."
“The goal is when they apply for their first job, they have more access than they did before, and there’s no question about their ability,” Hamill said.
The students heading to Hirtle will work in a hybrid setting, getting some in-office face time for optimal engagement, she said. They will rotate departments and focus areas every two weeks, hitting a list of deliverables and diving into how prospecting, client research, investment strategy and portfolio management work. They’ll also learn common industry technology, like eMoney, that would be required at most entry-level jobs post college, Hamill said.
Hamill said when she joined the firm last year, she was excited to dive into diversity practices that the industry historically lacked.
“Our best thinking happens from diverse teams, and the only way to do that is to have an inclusive environment and to have diverse pipelines,” she said.
For Cobree Hooper, a rising junior in business management at Lincoln University, the internship is an opportunity to look past her classes and imagine how her career might unfold. She has been involved with Steppingstone since elementary school, but is taking the time to consider how she’ll use her degree.
“A friend actually showed me the internship and I told her, ‘I don’t even know what venture capital is,'” Hooper said. “So I started doing my research about investments, what they were a part of, how business worked, and I realized, this sounds like something I’d actually be interested in.”
Hooper will be interning with SVP this summer, and just completed the program’s “prep week” of training. The group went over elevator pitches, how to communicate ideas, and networking.
“I want to see some real-world applications of things I’ve been learning,” she said. “I’ve been working within accounting, but I haven’t really applied it outside of my own personal finance. I’m hoping to get that deeper understanding of investments and when to take risk.”
The week also provided an opportunity to prepare students and senior org leaders for their working relationship together and address the systemic challenges that the students have experienced and talk about how it has informed their lives. Senior leaders were also asked to confront the unconscious biases that they may have and address them prior to a student’s work with them formally beginning.
“We didn’t want to simply create another internship program. We wanted to create a model and support structure that leads to real professional engagement and success,” Avery said in a statement. “Learning an industry and being given the chance to do the work in it is important but what is even more valuable is building real relationships with those who can be active in their guidance and counsel.”-30-