Intern Insights: A first look

Kiva loves to celebrate its interns and the meaningful work that they accomplish every day. Halfway through the internship cycle, we sat down with a few of them to hear about their work and how their time at Kiva has impacted them. Read below to hear what Kiva interns have to say about their experiences.

Olivia Cornfield – Kiva U Team (SF)


What led you to Kiva?

I studied cognitive science in college and was really interested in the idea of neuroplasticity, growth and how people can change and grow toward what they want to be. I was interested in questions about free will and creativity, and trying to understand how we can overcome barriers and connect people, and encourage them to grow and access their potential. That’s how I view Kiva loans: people being able to not only access financial inclusion, but also access their potential. I was initially introduced to Kiva when my sister graduated from UCLA, because Jessica Jackley, 1 of Kiva’s founders, was the commencement speaker. That was way back when I was a freshman in college. I did some research and learned about Kiva’s internship program. I kept it in my psyche until I graduated.

What’s something new you’ve learned about Kiva since you’ve been here?

Something that overwhelms and excites me, and makes me in such a state of admiration, is how much coordination and detail goes into making this whole organization function. It would be 1 thing if it were small and local, which is also beautiful, but the capacity that this organization has to be able to reach so many people is incredible. The skill level here, the intelligence in this space, is really mind-blowing.

What are you looking forward to in the next half of the internship?

I'm looking forward to getting into the Kiva groove. It’s being a part of the community, engaging with people, learning about their past and really forming relationships. I’m also excited for my upcoming projects and starting to connect with educators and students in a way that is beneficial to Kiva, to the educators and students and to myself as well. Moreover, I think being in the Kiva groove means knowing when to touch base with my manager and figuring out how to be in this professional space and how to be helpful. I think being helpful is a huge part of this internship. We want to be here. We want to be helpful. We want to be a part of this. For me, learning how to do this effectively is the Kiva groove.

What makes working at Kiva unique?

For me, it’s awesome having a cohort of interns. Often times you go into an internship and there are 1 or 2 other interns. But this is a whole cohort, a whole community of people figuring out their lives and where they’re going. They come from different backgrounds and different places too. You’re all in this space and all believe in Kiva’s mission. Kiva is 1 of the first crowdfunding platforms to use the Internet for social good. It was 1 of the first organizations to really stand up and make a difference given the technology that we have. Having a community of peers that are working together in this environment is amazing.


Simo Sirvio – Review and Translation Program Team (SF)


What project have you most enjoyed working on so far?

Right now the fun new project I’ve been doing is the Volunteer of the Month. It’s really nice because we get to conduct a phone interview with the month’s volunteer. I’ve never interviewed anyone before, so it was fun to learn how to do that. We’ve heard some very inspiring stories and our volunteers are so helpful. The volunteers are located all over the world – they help translate and review loans for us. If they do exceptionally well, as in they kept up their weekly or monthly targets, then our volunteer coordinators pick a volunteer for the month and we do a little profile on them and post it around the office. The last 1 was a Chilean woman named Theresa who lives in Virginia.

What’s something new that you've learned about Kiva?

Since starting, especially working on the RTP team, I never knew how impactful the work of volunteers, team leaders and community experts is. They help so much with reviewing all the loans. Once you see the numbers, how many loans are translated in a month and from where, you realize there are so many volunteers who want to help lessen the workload on their downtime. I originally thought that the Kiva office was going to be huge with 200 people working on translating, but it’s amazing how much we rely on volunteers.

What are you looking forward to in the next half of your internship?

I’m looking forward to the intern events. I see there is a workshop for public speaking coming up and 1 about networking. Honestly, I don't have much experience networking, as this is 1 of my first office experiences, so it’s cool to be able to do those types of trainings. Also everyone here, all the employees, are very helpful and can help give advice on how they did things in the past and how they've learned from it.

What makes working at Kiva unique?

I’ve had a few other internships, I worked at a bank in Spain before this. What really stands out to me at Kiva is how helpful and curious everyone is. In my 1-on-1 meeting with my manager every week, my manager always asks how my progress is going and if I have any questions or problems. She also asks me how life is going outside the office. It’s really easy to make friends and connect with everyone. It’s not always just about work, which is nice. Everyone wants us to take advantage of this internship, and they’re so willing to help you. If you tell someone, “I want to learn something about –,” they'll tell you: “Oh, well I know this person and he's an expert on this so let me introduce you.” It’s something I haven't really experienced before in a workplace, and it’s great. I haven't had a bad day here.


Xhorxha Nikoll – Kiva US Team (SF) extender

What’s your favorite Kiva moment?

1 thing that has stuck to my brain was a particular borrower. She was a 3rd-time borrower with Kiva and was fully funded within a week. She had been working on a project with previous interns, and once she got fully funded she sent an email to all of us, including previous interns, saying thank you to each and every 1 of us. For me, it was sweet to start my internship like that. It’s 1 of the things I’m going to remember, because sometimes I’ll think, 'Ah, I’m only here for 6 months,' and they go by so fast. But when things like this happen, it’s nice to know that your work and time, and the work of previous interns, is acknowledged and appreciated.

What are your next career steps and how has this internship prepared you?

I don't have a next step as of yet because it depends on immigration policy. However, I know that whatever comes next for me is definitely going to be in the non-profit world. This internship has allowed me to work with a diverse and unique group, and has taught me how to adapt to talking to all sorts of people. For me personally, as a foreigner, it has given me a lot more confidence in speaking in English. I used to always worry about saying things correctly, but now I am able to be more confident. I also think this internship has given me more confidence professionally. I learned how to set the tone with my managers, directors and coworkers. I also learned about office attitude and how to approach people. Before, I would get flustered if I had to email staff asking for information, and now I’m like, 'Yea, let me just email them.' The more experience you have, the better you become at it. This internship has helped me learn a large set of new skills. Kiva has set the bar really high for whatever comes next.

What makes working at Kiva unique?

I feel like a lot of people always say this, but it never stops being true: the people that work at Kiva truly make it unique. The culture of the organization makes it special. The people you get to work with and get to know, their passion and humbleness, is amazing. Mission-driven people are the best people to be around.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with a potential intern applicant?

There are so many things that can motivate a person. Find out what motivates you, and you’ve learned a great lesson. Another general life rule is always give value to your time. Even as interns, and even though we are unpaid, at the end of the day you go back home and what do you think? You think, 'What the heck did I do all day?' What I’d say to all interns is always try to add value to your time. Give it your best. Have a plan of what you want to learn and strongly pursue it. You will be amazed at how many people are willing to help you in the office – whether it's your manager, interns or other staff members. This kind of attitude really makes a difference. Add value to your time, because you could be doing literally anything in the world, but you chose to do this. Stick to your decision and make the best out of it.


Saleh Alghusson – Kiva US Team (NYC)

What led you to Kiva?

There's this TV show called Khawater. I saw an episode featuring Kiva 2 or 3 years ago. The show runs during Ramadan. Everyone at Kiva knows about it because it brought down the site for a while. Apparently it brought Kiva more attention than Oprah! The biggest reason I came to Kiva was because I talked to the staff here and really liked them. I went to school at the University of Texas at Austin and studied computer science. I’m originally from Saudi Arabia.

What project have you most enjoyed working on so far?

My manager connected me to a few people in San Francisco to work on some projects relating to my degree. It was really nice that they accommodated me. Here, I do everything from reaching out to borrowers to troubleshooting issues. I never thought I would do something like this. Through Kiva, I’ve been meeting a lot of people in local businesses who are my age and befriending them. I went to a farmer's market on the weekend and ran into 2 borrowers on the same day. 1 invited me out for lunch!

Tell us about your favorite Kiva moment.

I represented Kiva on a panel at the Queens Night Market. It was me and 3 other people, and they were all wearing suits and had years of experience in finance. I showed up in my Kiva t-shirt, and out of everyone, I got the most time to speak because of how differently we do things. The audience was made up of vendors, and they listened to us talk for 3 hours. I also give workshops at the Small Business Associates Center. I usually do 2 of them per week. I get to meet real New Yorkers around different parts of the city, in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan. I’m scheduled for 1 in the Bronx next month, so I just need to do 1 more in Staten Island and I'll have done a Kiva workshop in every borough.

What are your next career steps and how has this internship prepared you?

I just wrapped up an interview today, and have another this week for full time positions at technology companies. The original plan was to get a full-time software engineering position, but this internship was amazing because wherever I work next, I won't get to be a part of a small team in an organization full of people who are so passionate about what they do. In computer science we don't talk to people or make connections, but spend all day looking at data and code and fixing problems. At Kiva, I’ve learned how to communicate and manage a huge amount of emails. I’ve also learned how to speak in public, especially when I’m standing next to people with more experience. I’m really happy I got to have this experience.


About the author

Michael Light