Summer in Columbus

For my STEP Project, I participated in The Columbus Foundation’s Summer Fellowship Program. I worked 40 hours a week for a local nonprofit called Besa, and participated in a leadership and professional development cohort with the other Fellows. I was able to gain experience in nonprofit management, data synthesis, customer lifecycle models, strategic planning, HR foundations, and event planning.

I had two major transformations during my STEP experience. I learned so much about the nonprofit ecosystem in Columbus, that my idea of nonprofit structures and operations was completely challenged. I was able to learn from report-outs of 14 other fellows of what challenges and projects their nonprofit host sites were going through for the entire program. I learned what challenges are universal to nonprofits, and which ones are unique. Most of all I realized the value of extra capacity and an outside perspective for organizations that are doing incredible work with minimal resources.

Additionally, the way I view myself, my value, and my ability to impact a team was completely transformed. My nonprofit host site mostly let me pick up projects that I wanted to work on, and allowed me to innovate and hustle on what I thought I would get the most out of. I broke barriers and comfort zones and challenged myself to learn topics like research, data, and coding that I had no experience with previously. This summer I learned that by just being myself, my own skillset is already an immense value add to a team, something that I was not convinced of before. I am now empowered to diversify my skillset and become more confident in the communication of my value to others.

One of the most important times during my experience was when we had life/executive coach, Regan Walsh, come to facilitate a meeting with us exploring our personal mission for Besa. This was not a typical personal mission/vision search, nor was it finding a common goal for the future of Besa. The objective was to define your mission and vision for what you hope to contribute during your time at the organization. We also


were able to share some of our favorite Besa moments and stories and really recenter as a team. As a facilitator by trade, I was deeply engaged in Regan’s facilitation style and unique take on more traditional group theories. I learned so much from those few short hours. I have only worked with developing and facilitating activities for students and individual development, but this helped me to gain insight into what team/organizational facilitation could look like.

Another critical time during my experience was when I had a coffee meeting with one of my team members to learn more about his experience being a developer on many different sized teams and projects. I was able to ask even more very specific questions about what programming looks like from typing to launching and how multiple people can even work on a single project at once. The thing Zack spoke about that resonated with me the most was that being a developer does not have to mean working alone for long periods of time to deliver a product that only you know how to build. Being a developer can and should be collaborative, innovative, and iterative. “Some people think programming is just where nerds go off into their nerd-hole by themselves, but people who are good problem solvers actually make the best developers” he said. I did take a moment to recognize that I claim problem-solving as one of my most marketable skills and tried to internalize that for a moment. The biggest motivation barrier for me to finish any of my online coding classes was not thinking I would be good at coding once I learned the language, or not knowing what to do with it next. Then, one afternoon, myself and another Besa team member, Frances, were able to take Zack up on an offer to have a mini pair-programming workshop to solve a basic problem in Ruby. I had begun learning Ruby and Javascript on my own but being able to see it in a true problem-solving capacity was pretty motivating for me.

This project and the development it gave me is critical for me going into my senior year. I have learned so much and met so many incredible people. One of the best things about being at Besa is that not only is the office full of amazing people, but all of our partners are doing such incredible work, changing lives in the community – every. single. day. It wouldn’t be a monumental life experience without me learning about myself. I’ve learned how I work in an office, and how I function on a typical 9-5 schedule. I’ve learned that personality traits like curiosity and industriousness are more prominent in myself than I thought. I’ve been empowered to be able to identify and communicate my value and to be confident in my ability to contribute. And these lessons and internal transformations have prepared me both personally and professionally for the next year ahead of me.


Thank you STEP, The Columbus Foundation, BESA, OSU, and every wonderful person willing to help me learn.