Summer Internship Series: Acumen

Rizwana Iqbal is a rising MBA2. Prior to Stern, she was working with the Government of India to develop the national healthcare innovation commercialization ecosystem. She is a technology enthusiast by profession and singer by heart. Bookworm, fitness freak, self-confessed foodie (and cook!). An explorer and an incurable dreamer!

NYU Stern’s “Summer Internship Series” sheds lights into Sternies’ internships. Posts are written by rising MBA2s who are currently working at their summer internship.

Despite the impact of coronavirus, I got the opportunity to pursue my summer internship in the company I had my heart set on – Acumen, a global nonprofit that is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders, and ideas. Given my background in technology and finance, I felt like impact investing was the best articulation of my skills, a platform which would enable me to create impact, while harnessing my strengths. Thanks to SternWorks and Yassin Choye from Acumen, I secured my internship with the Office of the Chief Investment Officer at Acumen. This global team supports Acumen’s portfolio across regions. Acumen focuses heavily on post-investment support for portfolio companies, which the company calls “accompaniment.” As part of my summer internship, I focused on how to refine Acumen’s value proposition for accompaniment across Africa, India, Latin America, and the United States.

While I have always enjoyed solving business problems, two classes at Stern really helped me perform well during my internship. Prof Marcinao’s strategy class taught me to think through problems in small steps and build towards an eventual solution. Her “high weight high variance” strategy is the mantra of my life. The implementation of my summer project needed behavioral change within the organization. This is where Prof Joe Magee’s leadership lectures helped me. I spent the ten weeks trying to understand the employees and the problems they faced and, hence, was able to eventually suggest a solution that could have the requisite results with minimal input, while shifting the organization towards a more data-driven culture. The skills of listening, negotiating and securing buy-in for new ideas, all of which we had touched upon in lectures, helped me turn my summer into a successful one.

The Acumen team that I worked with over summer provided me with an incomparable experience. The internship delivered on all the promises that I expected from an organization like Acumen. Acumen has strong, powerful women in most of the leadership positions and the culture is one of empathy, a place where you can bring your true self and your truth to work. My mentor ensured that although I was working remotely, I felt like I was an important part of the team. He introduced me to my team, the global teams and the leadership. Every Friday, we would have water-cooler meetings, where we would answer questions from a chat pack, discuss Jacqueline Novogratz’s book “Manifesto for  a Moral Revolution” and talk about current issues. These meetings allowed me to know the team and allowed them to understand me. We all shared our life stories and it created a beautiful bond of trust within the team. My direct manager was brilliant. She was confident and secure in her work. She allowed me to be creative, helped me when I needed guidance, and always made me feel heard.

While I am sad that the summer is over, I am also grateful that even amidst the challenges posed by coronavirus and remote working, my team made the effort to ensure that I always felt included and got the most out of my experience.

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