Above: Andries Vaisman.
Knight Foundation’s summer internship program is currently accepting applications. The foundation offers competitive internships in a variety of program areas that work to promote informed and engaged communities.
Below, former intern Andries Vaisman shares highlights of his experience, how it influenced his career and what advice he’d give to incoming interns.
You work now in partnership development at General Assembly in New York. What are your primary responsibilities?
A.V.: I’ve been at General Assembly - an educational institution that transforms thinkers into creators through education and opportunities in tech, business and design - for four months. Specifically, I work on building relationships with companies in the tech and business community in New York so that they can hire from our pool of talent. I’m also helping to manage our apprenticeship program.
How did you first hear about Knight Foundation's internship program?
A.V: I was a sophomore at Vassar College in New York and I was planning on being a lifeguard for the summer. Luckily, I met someone who worked at Knight Foundation who recommended that I apply and give it a shot. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity, as it was my first real experience working in a real professional setting. I had an awesome time.
What did you study in school? Was it useful for your experience at Knight?
A.V: I went to a liberal arts college and majored in philosophy and Hispanic studies. While at Knight, one of the projects I worked on was the Knight Arts Challenge, which gave me the opportunity to interact with people in the community. Speaking Spanish definitely helped!
What were some of the highlights of your internship experience?
A.V.: Working on the launch of the Knight Arts Challenge in June of 2008 was definitely one of the most exciting. Looking back now, grant challenges seem like a no-brainer, but at the time, it was untested and the idea was very new to nonprofits. For me, it was an amazing opportunity to help the foundation execute the idea and figure out how to best engage the community. I got to interact with the grantees, work on the challenge page and read through applications. I saw the excitement from the community firsthand. I also got insight into the customer service aspect of grantmaking by interactive with people around their ideas and answering their questions.
You ended up working for the foundation twice and gained a broad range of experience in the arts and communities. What job-related skills did you develop that have helped you?
A.V.: My first internship was with the Miami communities program, which at the time included arts. I learned a lot about project management, because I worked on a lot of different initiatives simultaneously. My second role was in the communications department in 2011 where I gained experience using social media. I also received exposure to the tech industry and the quickly evolving nature of how people become informed in communities. The value of my experience was also in exploring the foundation’s network, both internally and externally. For example, my experiences at Knight introduced me to people at The Aspen Institute. I later interned there at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
What advice would you give incoming interns?
A.V.: One of the best things about Knight Foundation is the people who work there. I feel very lucky to have been able to connect with a wide range of mentors across the organization. To make the most of your time at Knight, I’d recommend getting to know your peers. To this day, I still reach out to Knight friends with career-related questions.
What was some of the greatest value you got out of your internship experience?
A.V.: Knight’s internship program helped me interact with important mentors. It also opened my eyes to a variety of different fields. Another huge benefit was the opportunity to develop my resume and portfolio, as I had a lot of examples of blog posts I wrote and projects I worked on.
After college, you eventually worked at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, an advertising firm with offices all over the world. Tell us about it.
A.V.: I was based in the Singapore office, which is BBH’s Asia-Pacific headquarters. The program I participated in is one that accepts aspiring marketers looking to gain agency experience. You’re divided into teams to create an ad campaign and run it. Ours focused on raising awareness about the problem of human trafficking in Southeast Asia. We worked with a nonprofit client to help increase engagement around the issue.
You also worked in Miami as part of the community partnerships team at Google. What was that experience like?
A.V.: It was awesome to work at a company with such a clear goal of increasing access to information. In a way, it’s very similar to Knight’s mission, but it was interesting to get more experience at a for-profit company. My work focused on creating content partnerships for Google+ and YouTube with the goal of stimulating more online conversations across Google products. I loved being a part of a global team. I also appreciated that the culture of the company made it open to lots of brainstorming. They really allow you to interpret your role and ultimately make it what you want it to be.
Any last words?
A.V.: Being an intern at Knight is a great opportunity. You can take on a number of different roles based on what your interests are - whether it’s communications, a local community program or human resources. Know this isn’t an internship where you’re going to be running around getting someone coffee. You’re going to be working on real projects and getting real-world experience. And you never know where it might lead!
By Elizabeth R. Miller, communications associate at Knight Foundation
To apply to Knight Foundation’s internship program please send a cover letter and resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org.