Steve Jobs travelled throughout India, learned calligraphy, and designed video games. Mark Zuckerberg learned how to code from a private tutor in high school. Bill Gates was one of the few students in his state who had access to a mainframe computer in the 1960s.
Each of these technology visionaries created the future because of things they learned outside of school. Today, most students tell us that their college experience wasn’t enough to prepare them for the real world.
Because of globalization and digital technologies, the world is changing at an ultra-fast rate, but our college curriculum isn’t changing fast enough. Plus, students today have more options than ever on which career path to take. It can get really confusing.
That’s why many students these days are turning to a foundational career experience to guide them in choosing the right path.
A foundational career experience can be an internship, a new skill, an apprenticeship, a study abroad program - anything that can expose you to the real world and provide you with a wealth of knowledge, skills, and relationships that you can use as a springboard to success.
We asked Reach Labs founders, Jordana Valencia and Oliver Segovia, about their foundational career experiences, what they learned, and how it helped them in their careers.
Before founding Reach Labs, Jordana was the Managing Director of MIT’s Launch Entrepreneurship Program in Cambridge and taught clinical psychology at De La Salle University. She graduated with a BS Psychology degree, summa cum laude, from UP Diliman and was awarded class valedictorian. Jordana is currently leading People Development at Ideaspace, an accelerator for Philippine technology start-ups, and created Safespace, a Facebook video series on mental health. She has an MBA from Harvard Business School and MA in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University.
Meanwhile, Oliver is the founder and CEO of Ava Online Group, an e-commerce and digital strategy company with consumer and enterprise businesses. Ava is the first Filipino tech startup to be featured as a case study at Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB. Previously, he worked with Procter & Gamble in Singapore where he helped launch new products and campaigns across Southeast Asia. Oliver graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School.
What was your foundational career experience?
Jordana: My foundational career experience was when I joined a summer business program in New York City right after I graduated from college. It taught business fundamentals to non-business students.
Oliver: My foundational career experience was being an international exchange student in Singapore. I was a Singapore International Foundation Fellow. That involved being in Nanyang Technological University and at the same time, being an ASEAN Fellow where we worked and collaborated with 40 other students in Southeast Asia.
What did you learn from this experience?
Jordana: I learned business fundamentals such as marketing, strategy, and finance. It was exciting because I came from a social science background and knew nothing about these things. I also learned a lot about business cases - different companies, what problems they were going through, and how they solved it.
Also, for the first time, I was in an international environment. I met people from all over the world. I got to learn so much from them and see if there was a potential fit with what I wanted to do.
Oliver: Singapore’s ASEAN Fellowship was a fantastic and incredible program because it involved working with, studying with, and getting to know other students from Southeast Asia, all of whom became lifelong friends.
We were introduced to the case method. A lot of our finance cases weren’t just about numbers, but about the real problems companies faced. It was a diverse group. Each of the major ASEAN countries were represented, and it was my first time working in a cross cultural environment.
How did this experience help you in your career?
Jordana: It helped me get my first job! Joining the program put me in a really unique position because I was now a psychology graduate with a business background. But more importantly, it allowed me to explore and discover other career options. I was able to see what else is out there, and explore what else I can do beyond the options presented in college.
Oliver: My time as a Singapore Fellow helped me in 3 ways. First, it also helped me get my first job. Because I was already in Singapore, I was able to interview for regional jobs at Procter & Gamble’s HQ there. So my first job involved living and working in Singapore for the next 4 years.
Second, it helped me get into Harvard Business School. I consider our Executive Director in the program as one of my mentors, and he ended up writing my recommendation letter.
Third, it sparked my interest in technology. At NTU, one of the cases we looked into was Google, who was about to do its IPO at the time. It was this exposure to the digital economy that helped me decide to found an e-commerce startup today. I wish I had something like Reach Labs when I was still a student!
Reach Labs is an education and travel program for college students and recent graduates in the Philippines to experience entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. Designed with advisors from Harvard Business School, Reach Labs provides students the knowledge, skills, and mindset they need to be confident business leaders.
We're not just an educational travel program. We're a foundational career experience that will help you:
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