Service Design Lead, Year Up
New York, NY
Urban Studies Major, Psychology Minor, African American Studies Minor
My freshman self couldn’t imagine I’d be designing products and services. After roles in project management, marketing, and business development, my partner encouraged me to explore my interest in design. Long after my freshman year, I discovered design is more than just visuals; it’s an approach to making human lives easier and more delightful. As a designer, my day-to-day work includes leading workshops, defining design challenges with business metrics, and developing solutions based on user research and feedback.
It’s less surprising I’m working inside a nonprofit’s innovation lab. Year Up’s mission to close the opportunity divide is deeply meaningful to me and I’m reminded of this mission every day. In addition to our functional roles, staff participate as coaches in a learning community with up to 40 young adults who are 18-24 years old. Every staff member says participating in a learning community is their favorite part of the job and I agree.
Our identities and relationships are shaped by how we grow up. Those early lessons influence how we communicate and collaborate within our teams to perform at our collective best.
Orientation week with my first learning community still stands out as meaningful. For a reflection activity called Milestones, participants and staff mark their initials at significant points along a physical timeline. I added mine. Living with my aunt’s family, afraid I wouldn’t graduate from high school while in a homeless shelter again. Graduating from Penn. Sobbing on Thanksgiving after losing my mother. Taking the plunge to teach myself design. Learning more about my father’s life through his death. The final point on most of our timelines was being at Year Up. It was powerful to reflect, listen and share.
Aside from reflection, the purpose behind Milestones is to build community and trust. I used to avoid discussing my past because I didn’t believe it mattered once I made it to college. Our identities and relationships are shaped by how we grow up. Those early lessons influence how we communicate and collaborate within our teams to perform at our collective best.
Our founder often says, “talent is equally distributed; opportunity is not.” I’m fortunate I had the opportunity to graduate from Penn. It’s allowed me to chart a path to my own “year up” and help our young adults design their careers. — October 19, 2018 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons