Notes from the Field: My E4H Summer Internship
My name is Andrew, and I am a first-generation college student. I’m interning with the Human Resources Department at E4H this summer, as I work toward a Master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
As the first person in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, let alone attend graduate school, I will admit that I found the process of applying to internships daunting. It was new territory for me, and I couldn’t utilize family as a resource, or for advice. The internship market is highly competitive; I stopped counting after I submitted 100 applications. However, when I found a website with the purpose of supporting and placing first-generation college students in internships and careers, I felt like I had found the right venue to continue my search. The website, CareerSpring, works closely in partnership with Keystone Capital, a majority shareholder of E4H. After the application and interview process, I was selected as one of nine Keystone Summer Associates. We were each placed at different Keystone portfolio companies, including MERGE, Movilitas, Peak-Ryzex, and, of course, E4H.
The Keystone Summer Associate program has provided me with a unique experience compared to that of my Master’s program colleagues. Since all interns are first-generation college students, Keystone provides with unique programming to provide some tools we may need to succeed in both our internships and in the post-graduation workplace. Programming has included success stories of previous interns, a seminar on the power of storytelling and how to craft your story, and a workshop on building your resume, as well as several other diverse sessions. One impactful story I heard was about an immigrant who arrived in America with $100 in her pocket and almost no knowledge of English, with the expectation that she would attend medical school. After several career changes, she is now the Managing Director of Keystone Capital. This has reaffirmed my strong belief in the saying, “man plans and fate laughs,” because you never know what life will bring you.
What I find interesting is the demographics of first-generation college students: 42% of Black students and 48% of Hispanic students are first-generation, compared to 28% of white students, English is a second or third language for ~20% of first-generation students, and around 10% of first-generation students identify as LGBTQ+. We are a diverse group, and that is reflected within the Keystone Summer Associates.
At E4H, I have attended several 4wrd meetings, which is a group dedicated to increasing diversity in the firm. This has shown me the diversity of people with different backgrounds, histories, and opinions within E4H. During July’s 4wrd meeting, all Keystone Summer Associates were invited to join. We heard presentations on the importance of gender partnerships within the workplace, progress on the firm’s diversity goals, and we participated in small group discussions on how we can grow from our differences. Working in HR, I’d consider myself well-versed on the topic of diversity, but I actually learned a lot from one of the other interns that was in my breakout room. She used an insightful analogy that I had never heard before, likening diversity to cooking; a top-tier meal will use a variety of spices and ingredients. My takeaway from the analogy was that we not only have to understand our differences – we must also enjoy and celebrate them to realize our full potential.
Participating in 4wrd meetings during my time at E4H has enriched my internship experience. One of the very first tasks I did when I started here was watch recordings of past 4wrd meetings to get a feel for the culture E4H. I was initially impressed by the culture of inclusion and commitment to diversity, and that feeling has only become more solid as my internship comes to a close.
In these meetings, we have discussed a multitude of topics including non-traditional gender identities, the importance of belonging and psychological safety in the workplace, Asian solidarity, and more. The 4wrd group has a calendar of content planned for the year that touches on topics such as supporting women’s advancement in the workplace, the value of employee resource groups, developing inclusive and flexible teams, and bystander intervention to name a few. Even though my internship will be over by then, I still plan on making time to virtually attend. The content is sure to be insightful and enlightening, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to say hello to the people who made my internship experience so wonderful.