Works and Days

AnyPerk, Reed Winter Externship Program, Anna Ma

Anna Ma, a senior economics major, participated in the Reed Winter Externship Program. She spent a week at Anyperk, a start-up that connects small and medium-sized businesses with benefits typically restricted only to larger companies. Read on for her story:

My externship with Michael Stapleton at AnyPerk lasted only a week, but the experience I got out of that week left an impression that will last much longer than that.

I never envisioned a start-up to be what AnyPerk was like. My prior beliefs about start-ups encompassed what I have only seen in movies, like “The Social Network”, fast-paced environments full of young people (mostly men) who are all code-literate. My week at AnyPerk upheld and destroyed some of my beliefs, which I was happy about because the world of start-ups has always been incredibly intimidating to me. That’s why I took this opportunity to not only explore marketing, which is a field I have had some interest in exploring, but also to discover what it really means to work for a start-up.

I was happy to know I was not the only extern, because it feels less lonely to dive into a new environment with someone else who is doing the same. I did my externship alongside Elise Ringo ’15. I never met Elise before, but like most Reedies that I come across, I got to know Elise and enjoyed her company while we were both discovering and understanding what working in marketing actually means.

Michael Stapleton, an alumnus of ’10, took us under his wing. We were college seniors not sure about our futures but curious as to where this externship could possibly lead us. I met Michael before, on an impromptu meeting at one Working Weekend, because one of the people I was supposed to meet up with didn’t show up. Michael fortuitously was free and sitting at the same table I was supposed to be at, and he started talking to me and this was a happy surprise since he worked as the marketing director for Gild at the time, and I was considering marketing after I graduated. I didn’t follow up with him then, but when his name appeared next to the list of externships being offered, along with the proximity to my own home in the Bay Area, and the externship being in the field I was interested in made it all the more appealing for me to apply. Luckily I got the opportunity to explore this field with the externship.

Start-ups provide the fun environment that a twenty-something might want if they don’t want to jump into a stodgy corporate job. I’ve had an internship at a huge corporation before and the environment I saw at AnyPerk was a breath of fresh air. It was everything I imagined it might have been, and more. The office was a studio space with desks that more than just hinted at the need for collaboration with the people in your team. Start-ups, by definition, involve lots of collaboration. This is not the type of environment I imagine for someone who prefers to work alone, since the spirit of building a company from ground up requires more than a few hands to help build the foundation and the structure from its nascent.

In one week, I learned a lot. Marketing involves a combination of data and words, a perfect medium for a more wordsmith-y economics major like myself or an English major with a secret soft spot for numbers, or anyone in between who likes to work with data and words. Michael took the time to carefully organize people at AnyPerk who took time out of their days to talk to us about their jobs, mainly regaling me and Elise with the stories of how they ended up there. The majority of the stories involved knowing someone who introduced them to someone else who worked at AnyPerk, and the advice I keep getting from alumni and career services really hit home: network, network, network! This is especially important when going to a small, college relatively unknown to the job world (Reed is not quite the place you can name-drop except in certain circles), at which job fairs are nonexistent on campus.

I also learned so much about marketing, thanks to Michael. He took some time in the beginning, middle, and end of the week to meet with just me and Elise to teach us the basics of marketing, which gave me such a good insight that I am not as intimidated now to apply to marketing jobs in the future. We also learned from the other members of his team because we worked with them on a few simple projects they gave us to do to occupy our time and to help us learn about the type of tasks we would be doing if we were to work in marketing. I realized that work at a real job can be fun, but can also be mundane; not at all that much different from the work I have had to do for my classes. In a way, Reed is helping you prepare for this after graduation.

The externship taught me a lot, about what I should do in my job search and what I might want to do. I’m still not yet decided about what field I really want to enter, but at least I am one step closer to knowing what I might want to do when I prepare to step into the real world in a few months.

Tags: winter externship, anyperk, marketing