Intern insights: A first look

Kiva loves to celebrate its interns and the meaningful work that they accomplish every day. As we pass the mark of the mid-internship point, we sat down with a few of them to hear about their work and how their time at Kiva has impacted them thus far. Read below to hear why Kiva interns are working to become the next generation of social innovators.

Cody - Direct to Social Enterprise Team (SF)

What led you to Kiva?
Two years ago, I was working in banking, and I started having the discussion of where my career was going and what I really wanted to do. I realized I had always wanted to work in economic development, but I always told myself I could just do this for now and get there later. Then, 4 years flew by and I didn’t even realize it, so I knew if I didn’t take a step back now, then I was never going to make a change. I started looking around at different companies to figure out what I wanted to do, and it was during that search that I found Kiva. I became a little bit obsessed, and I learned about their Internship Program, the Fellowship Program and right away became a Kiva lender. 

Which intern programming event has been your favorite?
I really enjoyed the public speaking workshop, because that’s something I’ve always struggled with in my career and know I can always improve at. The woman who hosted the workshop, Amy, had a good way of getting me out of my shell and more comfortable with my communication.

What’s something that you’re looking forward to in the last half of your internship?
I recently switched from crowdvetting to due diligence, so I’m looking forward to improving this skill. I can’t wait for one of the companies that I conducted the due diligence for to get posted on Kiva’s site and watch them, hopefully, get funded. Last month, I watched 2 of the companies that my teammate researched, posted and were eventually funded, and one of them, LegWorks, got a $50,000 loan funded in just 2 days! It is an inspiring prosthetics company that sent an amazing note afterwards: 

“I always knew what Kiva did in theory and thought it was super cool. But, to see this immediate, amazing traction and to really feel a part of this movement of global people who endorse the work you do on a daily basis - now this is a wonderful feeling. Truly.  We work SO hard at LegWorks, and we do it for the mission and to really change the game in the developing world, but often you feel like you're climbing this enormous mountain and no-one is watching and you feel incredibly lonely in your work. This Kiva campaign has really put new heart into our team seeing all these lenders from all around the world lend us money... Thank you for your help and support!!!” 

What makes working at Kiva unique?
For me, it’s the people. You’re constantly surrounded by like-minded people, and I’ve never had that before. I had always felt like the odd one out; when I walked into my office on Wall Street and said “Hey guys, I’m quitting to go volunteer in Kenya,” they all thought I was insane. At Kiva, if someone said that, they wouldn’t say “Oh, why would you do that, you’re crazy,” they’d say “Oh why wouldn’t you do that?” It was a complete shift in mentality when I started working here, and I don’t even think I realized that such mission-driven companies like this one existed. There’s no profit that drives us forward, it’s just our mission, and that’s why I moved cross-country for this internship. It’s been worth it because I’ve gotten the experience that I wanted, and the people here are so welcoming and warm. They understand where you’re coming from and completely value your time. While your title says “Intern,” you’re treated like you’re any other employee with real responsibilities, and your work is constantly validated and appreciated.

Tarek - Marketing & Communications Team (SF)

What led you to Kiva?
I’ve been a Kiva lender since 2012. I’m originally from Egypt, and I found out about Kiva while I was studying abroad in England. I thought it was a really great concept, so when I graduated school, I knew I really wanted to get out there, do something that’s impactful, and help people. I always thought that Kiva was like Facebook, but for good. You get to see all these borrowers’ pictures, read their stories, connect with other lenders and even form lending groups. After school, I stayed in San Francisco, working at very politics-centric organizations, but I had always been a big fan of Kiva and of nonprofits and humanitarian work in general. So when I found out Kiva was headquartered here, it felt like it was meant to be, and I applied!

What project have you most enjoyed working on so far?
I’m on the Marketing and Communications team and my focus is online marketing in particular. I think I really liked creating content for our Farm & Table Match Days. We sent out a request to all of the current fellows, asking them to send us pictures of the different kinds of local food they eat in the country that they’re placed in. We featured the photos on our social media in order to help fund as many borrower loans as we could. It turned out to be very successful, and we ended up funding 13,149 borrowers! I think that’s what drives people who work here - at the end of the day, you know that your work is going to help change someone’s life.

Tell us about your favorite Kiva moment.
I really enjoyed the Mid-Internship Celebration that we just had in the office. I think it was very tender to have all the interns and intern managers come together, since some people don’t normally interact with each other due to being on different teams, having different schedules, etc. So it was really nice to have this moment to hang out, eat some food, share appreciations and celebrate since we’ve all made it this far together.

My other favorite moment though would be seeing Verlance (our office manager) everyday. He just brightens up my day, and he really embodies Kiva. When he was gone on vacation, you could just feel a big energy missing from the office!

Jake - Kiva US Team (San Jose & Peninsula)

Tell us about your favorite Kiva moment.
My favorite Kiva moment is when I help someone with their borrower application - whether on the phone, through email or through text - and we don’t visually see each other, but then we invite that borrower to an open houses or marketplace where they could sell their products, and we see each other for the first time. They’ll say “Hi, my name is XYZ and I sell this and that,” and I’ll respond with “Hi, I’m Jake” - they’re immediately like “Whoa, you’re Jake! Thank you so much for all of your help!” It’s an instant human connection, and it’s not just one moment, but a series of moments I get to experience. 

What are your next career steps and how has this internship prepared you?
Something I’ve definitely learned from this internship is how to take a step back and be more understanding of people. You never know what someone’s story is - whether good or bad - and Kiva’s taught me not to assume anything or judge anyone, but rather to listen, learn and try to see things in a different light. I’m definitely going to take that with me after this internship.

In terms of where I’m going to be after this internship, I’m not sure, but I do know that I want to continue to help people. I want to be there for someone who doesn’t have a voice, for someone who’s underrepresented, undervalued or pushed to the side. I believe we’re in this world to help each other, and I know I’m happy when I can make someone else happy.

What are you looking forward to in the last half of your internship?
The San Jose & Peninsula launch on November 1st. From day one until now, it’s all been about the launch. All of this hard work is to make it known in San Jose and the Peninsula that small business owners are the backbone of our economy, that they matter, and that they could use our help. We are trying to bring attention to these businesses in a region that is largely overshadowed by the big tech companies of Silicon Valley. Kiva’s here to help these entrepreneurs or small business owners - these makers, designers, creators - have access to both financial and social capital. By launching on November 1st, we believe we will really change the lives of so many people who could really use this platform to expand or start their business. Just saying that, touches my heart in all these different ways, and all of us on the San Jose & Peninsula team are really excited!

Chibin - Development Team (NYC) 

What project have you most enjoyed working on so far?
My favorite project was my first grant proposal for a leading financial services company. They have a microfinance sector and just started doing work in Africa, so Kiva wanted to form a partnership with them. As I came to know, this company’s grant proposal process is fairly demanding, and they ask for every detail about Kiva, every document. For this reason, I’m glad it was my first proposal, because I came to know Kiva very well in preparing all of these materials and it helped me with my proposals to follow.

What are your next career steps and how has this internship prepared you?
I’m aiming to pursue a PhD degree in economics. This internship has given me a lot of great ideas for my thesis topic: the impact of microfinance on environmental sustainability or the impact of microfinance on the traditional banking sector. Additionally, I have definitely strengthened my writing skills and will bring that to my future studies. 

What’s something new you learned about Kiva while being here?
I originally thought that applying for a grant was very simple: you apply for it and then you either get it or you don’t. I found out that it’s actually a very stretched-out process that hasn’t been streamlined. When I got to Kiva’s NYC office, I thought that we’d have a template, but we don’t because the process varies for every company. My writing experience before was mostly with writing academic papers, but I came to find that grant applications ask us to tell stories - about Kiva, about the borrowers. It’s very emotional and not just fact-ridden, so I’m writing in a way I wasn’t used to before. I’ve worked on at least a dozen proposals, but I learn a lot with each one I write.

About the author

Mona Lee

Mona is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley where she studied cognitive science. She is originally from Southern California, but has enjoyed her last 4 years in the Bay and her half a year stint living in Copenhagen, Denmark during her study abroad. During her college career, Mona worked in the Computation of Language Laboratory and the Gopnik Cognitive Development Laboratory as an undergraduate research assistant. While she one day hopes to go to graduate school, she is very excited to join the Kiva Fellow and Intern Programs team at this stage of her life. She has been a Kiva lender since 2011 and is excited to help support the operations of a community she has long been a part of. In her free time, Mona likes to go to concerts, travel, eat good food, play with dogs that aren't hers, and be the only one in her friend group to like baseball.