BIO: Sonya Patel is a junior in the MSB double majoring in OPIM (Operations and Information Management) and Finance with a minor in Spanish. She was born and raised in Churchville, Pennsylvania and joined GUWIL her freshman year. She works at the McDonough School of Business Technology Center, a job that helped spark her interest in technology and operations. In her free time she enjoys reading, biking, and yoga. Her passion for language and traveling encouraged her to pursue an internship in Nicaragua this summer.
Q: How did you become interested in OPIM, Finance and Spanish?
A: I came into Georgetown knowing nothing about the major that I eventually chose. OPIM is an operations major that emphasizes supply chain management, data analytics, and data modeling. It takes these things and applies them to a business context. This past semester, the OPIM class that I took was “Electronic Commerce,” which is huge right now…so I guess my interest in OPIM stems from the fact that it is so relevant and pragmatic. My Spanish minor was inspired by a love for the Spanish language and culture that I’ve had since high school. However, I would definitely say that my time here at Georgetown is also spent pursuing interests that extend beyond my majors and minor.
Q: Tell us a little about your internship this summer working abroad in Nicaragua.
A: This summer I interned in Nicaragua for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Fabretto. Fabretto’s main goal is to empower Nicaraguans and improve their livelihood through education, nutrition, and community development initiatives. At first, it seemed as if we were given a lot more office work than fieldwork. We were able to develop cost-allocation models as well as cost-benefit analyses in order to better track spending among different several divisions of the organization. Later, we were given the autonomy to work on projects that we developed and created ourselves. We conducted a case study evaluating the effectiveness of the SAT (Sistema Aprendizaje Tutorial) secondary education program in determining whether it adequately gave children the skills necessary to start their own small businesses post-graduation. We traveled all throughout the country and interviewed over 100 kids in the program. We made sure to differentiate between rural and urban communities as well as make distinctions between age and experience. Having a background in Spanish definitely helped at this stage of the process. With all of this new information, we were able to create a manual that would further spark the entrepreneurial and business initiatives that the program strived to achieve. We even had the chance to meet up with a handful of student-run cooperatives in order to suggest changes and implementation ideas to better run their businesses. We put all of these suggestions in a comprehensive manual that we created at the end of our time there. It was a hectic and crazy 6 weeks but I wouldn’t change it.
Q: What did you do to standout when applying for your internship in Nicaragua?
A: One (cliché) piece of advice for standing out in any internship application process is to be knowledgeable and passionate about the company before handing in the application or going into the interview. Earlier in the year, my mom made me try applying for an internship to a bank. Personally, I have no interest in investment banking. At all. I applied, regardless. I halfheartedly looked up the vision of the company and tried to get myself into it really unsuccessfully. I wrote a cover letter and adjusted my resume, but it really was not surprising at all when I got flat-out rejected. I didn’t even get interviewed. Reading over my materials, I could tell that I lacked passion and knowledge. I was not proactive at all about the recruiting process. A lot of the time, passion and knowledge is the difference.
Q: How do you prep for interviews?
A: I always find the most interesting interviews to be group interviews. The second interview for the tech center was a group “case” interview. Advice that I was given was to be assertive and confident but not bossy or egotistical. It’s always tough to walk the line between those two things, but I think I ended up doing it pretty well. I think it’s good advice for not only group interviews, but also life in general.
Q: Tell us about your experience working at the MSB Technology Center. How have you been able to balance working with your class schedule?
A: I am trained in both Tech and A/V (audiovisual), which are two of the branches at the Tech Center. Some of our responsibilities involve configuring and troubleshooting computer problems as well as classroom problems within the Hariri Building. We also work with a lot of the audiovisual equipment around the building such as projectors, wireless mics, and other display equipment. That being said, I think our main goal is to provide professional customer service through technical assistance to the students and staff of MSB. Balancing academic work and a job is always a challenge, but I’m fortunate to have such a positive and supportive work environment. The community at the tech center is great. If things get really hectic in my life, I know that I can always count on my co-workers to take a cover for me.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you faced in the workplace and how did you overcome it?
A: I think the biggest challenge in the workplace is staying motivated. No matter how much someone may like his or her job/internship, there will be days when they feel discouraged or demotivated because of things happening outside the workplace. I think those sorts of days are the type that really define a person. It’s easy to be driven and proactive on a “good day.” It’s how people act on their “bad days” that really shows their character. I’m still working on this, but I always try to keep my attitude positive even if my day did not start off right. It’s difficult and I struggle with this a lot. Sometimes a customer will come in, and because I’ve had such a terrible day, it’s hard to find the motivation to care about their tech issues. But right when I find myself doing this, I try to fix my attitude. I hit the internal reset button and try to smile and be friendly–usually this positive energy will rub off on the customer and they become really thankful for my help. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than having someone really appreciate my time and effort.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who was interested in the same field? To a freshman?
A: I would definitely tell freshmen to keep their options open. Nothing astounds me more than when a freshman comes into college thinking they know exactly what they want. I’ll be honest in saying that Istill have no idea what I’m doing. I probably only declared my major because I had to by the end of sophomore year. Everything that I’m doing right now, like tech and OPIM, are only interests. I see college as a time to explore my interests rather than get fixated on one single thing. I see that a lot; people get fixated on one thing and then it becomes uncomfortable when they realize it’s not what they wanted. This is why I go about my goal-planning with a flexible mindset. Nothing is the “end-all-be-all” career or field that I plan on pursuing. I think I plan on pursuing many things till I find the right fit. I always saw myself as a “career-changer”—someone that would take a 180 on my career path later down the road. I used to think that this wasn’t normal, but it’s actually sort of common. At the GUWIL Summit, I volunteered at the Entertainment panel. Every single woman on the panel had completely changed her career sometime during her life. One woman had fixated on politics throughout college and post-grad. She was a political science major in college, had interned on Capitol Hill, and had run all sorts of campaigns, only to later realize that her true passion was filmmaking. She makes documentaries now. Another woman was a lawyer—a successful one too– before realizing that she had other interests that she wanted to pursue. Right now, operations and technology is what interests me among other things, but who’s to say that it’s what I want to do forever?
Q: What does feminism mean to you? Modern feminism?
A: There are so many technicalities behind the term. Initially there was “first-wave feminism,” then “second-wave feminism” and apparently we are now on “third-wave.” Some even speculate “fourth-wave.” I have no idea anymore. I read an article recently (maybe it was even posted by GUWIL, I’m not sure!) that said that modern feminism is different than older waves of feminism because modern feminism is mainstream whereas older types of feminism were very “inclusive.” By inclusive, they meant that it was only geared towards extreme activists and intellectualists. I found that interesting. If feminism is really going “mainstream,” it could explain why there is such a stigma attached to the word nowadays. There are certain stereotypes and images attached to the word that make it so unglamorous: feminists are bra-burning lesbians; feminists are stubborn women who “don’t need anyone;” feminists hate men. I hate to consider any of this feminism. This is why it is tough when someone asks if I consider myself a feminist. However, if feminism is simply an “equality of the genders”—the way Beyoncé’s new song defines it—then yes, I think I have to consider myself a feminist. But it’s hard for me to pick one side because the word has become way too complicated and the definition has too many interpretations.
Q: How has your Georgetown education thus far prepared you for your future?
A: I definitely have a lot ahead of me and a lot more to learn. I have yet to deal with the brunt of the recruiting process, so I have that to look forward to. But if there’s anything that my Georgetown education has prepared me for thus far, it’s gaining confidence. I remember walking into my business seminar class during the fall semester of my freshman year and being terrified. Not many people know that I was terrified for the first couple of weeks. I’m not shy at all when it comes to holding conversations with people, but for some reason, I was afraid to speak in class. The class was discussion-based and I remember feeling as if everyone else’s comments were so much more insightful and thoughtful than my own. Eventually, I got over it. But looking back, I really cannot believe that I ever was nervous at all. A lot of the people in that class are now my good friends, so it’s always odd to think that they intimidated me at one time. Now after many similar classes at Georgetown, I know that it is irrational to think that my own thoughts and comments do not add value to a discussion.
Q: What’s the best piece of professional or career advice you’ve ever received?
A: I mean I guess this is general advice for people my age, not really “professional,” but I remember someone once telling me to take advantage of this time in my life because “it’s the only time in my life where I just have to worry about myself.” Not in a selfish way though. I’m 20, not married, no kids, and do not plan to have either in the near future. I have so much mobility. I do not have to worry about anyone but myself right now and there’s something so freeing about that. Obviously I constantly care for my family, friends and community, but compared to the future, I have so much less responsibility right now. The point is to take advantage of all the prospects. So I guess the “professional” advice I could gander from this is to take risks and seek out opportunities because the future holds a lot more duties and responsibilities than the present. This goes for both women and men our age.
Q: Where do you see yourself going from here/What’s your next move?
A: I’m not sure yet! I tend to take one day at a time. I have been preparing for recruiting though. I think the best thing for me to do right now is to investigate all the different possibilities. I have been going to a handful of internship and job information sessions in order to explore what I like and what I don’t like. And then hopefully I can just take it from there.