May 7th, 2020
Most college internships at tech companies don’t involve the opportunity to quiz a CEO about his innermost thoughts, but that’s one of the things that Jade Thompson remembers most about her time at Snap last year. During one of the company’s trademark “Council” sessions, Jade asked Evan Spiegel how he would introduce himself to a stranger on a deserted island, and she remembers his reaction vividly.
“He just looked at me and told me my positivity was infectious. Everyone, including Evan, made me feel so comfortable and affirmed,” Jade says.
While “inclusion” has become something of a corporate buzzword, most young people wouldn’t necessarily use that term to describe work environments at big companies. Snap feels different to young people who work here.
Sumaiya Hassan had interned in government agencies, nonprofits, and big banks before her internship at Snap last year, and she felt the love as well. “Snap’s core values are kind, creative, and smart,” she says, “and everyone at Snap really just emits those characteristics all the time.”
Jade and Sumaiya came to work at Snap through a partnership with Basta, a New York City-based nonprofit organization that works nationally to support first-generation college students of color get great first jobs. Basta bridges what the Christensen Institute’s Julia Freeland Fisher calls the “social capital gap.” While academic research unequivocally demonstrates that young people from marginalized backgrounds do just as well - if not better - than their more privileged peers in their first jobs, students whose parents didn’t go to college lack access to the networks and social markers that allow wealthier students to access opportunity ladders. As a result, corporate hiring culture tends to reinforce racial and socioeconomic inequity, instead of ameliorating it.
But that doesn’t have to be true. Last year, Snap and Basta engaged in a unique partnership to close this social capital gap, by offering internships at the company to students who participate in Basta’s programming. While Basta is a non-profit organization, they work with the talent and human resources experts at Snap and other companies. “If we’re viewed as charity by the folks in corporate philanthropy, the young people with whom we work don’t get taken as seriously,” says Sheila Sarem, Basta’s founder and CEO. “We are supporting the next generation of talent. Companies that want to drive diversity, equity and inclusion throughout their organizations understand that entry-level hiring is one of the best ways to start diversifying a company’s talent pool. And that’s what we do better than anyone else.”
Basta’s programming works, not just for the young people, but for employers. About 80% of students who participate in Basta’s flagship fellowship program get great jobs within six months of graduating from college and finishing the program, compared to less than 50% for students with comparable backgrounds outside of the program. Meanwhile, Snap and other companies get to tap into an amazing talent pool of hungry young people who are prepared to be effective on day one.
That’s what happened with Jade and Sumaiya, who both made serious contributions as interns in ad sales. On top of that, team members from Snap get to volunteer with Basta as a part of the “Volunteer Force,” wherein seasoned professionals provide resume coaching, mock interview feedback, and real-time mentorship to first-generation college students in Basta’s programs. Ben Petrich is Snap’s manager of global security risk, and he was impressed with the preparation of the young people he met through volunteering with Basta. “They all knew how to ask questions and really listen,” Ben said, after doing mock interviews. “So many people come in for interviews and haven’t done their homework.”
Will Muiru also works on the global safety and health team. He talks about how working with Basta fellows changed his perspective about how diversity and talent intersect. “A lot of tech companies say they have a difficult time finding diverse talent,” Will says, “and then you meet Basta fellows and you’re like, ‘You’re not looking hard enough, these young people are amazing!’”
Will and Ben - not to mention Sumaiya and Jade - agree that diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than buzzwords at Snap. Whether it’s affinity groups like Snap Noir, real conversations about race with senior executives, or individual managers having diversity goals as a part of their own performance reviews, the company’s commitment is more than lip service. As the country continues to wrestle with the complexities of how technology, opportunity, race, and class intersect, Snap is listening and learning.
Jade felt the love and will be back for more this spring. After her internship, she was offered a job as a full-time account manager. She stood out at Snap by writing case studies on successful ad campaigns in the mid-large market segment, where her internship focused. She took advantage of her manager’s position as a cross-functional leader to get experience with a huge variety of teams at Snap.
Jade has always been one to take initiative. “When I was in elementary school in Mount Vernon, I had a lemonade stand that made $11,000 one summer,” she recalls. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and Snap let that side of me flourish.” That, and the love she felt at Snap, is why she’s coming back.