Back in early April, we introduced DBT readers to five participants in the Year Up program, which recruits students from underserved communities to a program that combines a college education at Wilmington University with six-month internships at local companies.
As promised, we wanted to update you on their progress. We interviewed them right after a grueling elevator-speech competition in May, where they were asked to tell a judging panel about themselves (Spoiler Alert: One of them — Ronald Shackelford Jr. — won the competition and all five did very well).
As you read this, they’re finishing up their first semester and preparing for six-month internships at local companies that begin in July.
What would you do differently? I would breathe because the whole time I held my breath and I didn’t realize until the end when I was out of breath that I didn’t breathe and it kind of brought me back to my swimming years. During the 50s I would just go straight through it and was out of breath at the end.
Tell me about the program so far. I am passing all my classes. I have developed this kind of mentality to help others out. I’ve always had it, and I’m kind of kicking it into overdrive a bit more on helping people out. I’m seeing what I’m capable of doing. One night I stayed up all night typing up a study guide and trying to help others pass the test.
What’s been the hardest thing? Sometimes you just feel like “oh my gosh, how am I going to do this?” but when I put myself in the mindset of “just do it, get it done get it done and then that’ll be it and you’ll get through this slump,” I’m OK.
What do you want to accomplish that will make you more ready for internships in July? Get my resume on point because that’s what they see before they see me. So, great resume, great LinkedIn.
Can I assume that your emotion is tied to how proud you are of how you did? I think a lot of people can confuse the confidence you show with not having any fears or struggles. I’ve struggled with speaking in public. I was so so so scared. I just went into the room and prayed for a little bit so I went in confident. I wanted to act like the elevator pitch didn’t matter. I avoided everybody. I didn’t write anything down. Everything that I did was off the top of my head. I think what really hit me was I was proud of myself when I sat down. It wasn’t even the point of being top five or anything like that. It all just kind of hit me at once like “wow, we’ve progressed so much through the program already.” Being called back by some of the JP Morgan managers and having a private networking with them yesterday led to a huge tsunami of emotions.
Is there anything you would’ve done differently today? I think there was a lot I could’ve done differently. I think if I did that well off the top of my head, I could’ve done a lot better if I actually took the time to write everything out and really practice.
What are you particularly proud of? And what has exceeded your expectations about the program so far? I think the growth I’ve seen in myself. I think Year Up is a big mirror that forces you to look at yourself and what you’re doing and deciding what you’re doing right or what you’re doing wrong, and then taking the steps to change it. I am 100% different than what I was in February and I’m not even at my full potential yet.
What’s the hardest thing? You have to really, really do all the work. A lot of what we learn in class and a lot of what our instructors teach us about business professionalism and emotional intelligence and self-awareness and things like that — those are things that are embedded in our personalities and you have to (change) your own bad habits and really mold yourself into the person you want to be.
Between now and the internships is there one thing that you really want to make movement on or change? I want to be prepared to hit the ground running. I know everything’s not going to be perfect and there’s going to be hiccups along the way, but I want to go in there prepared for whatever they throw at me. Everyone will say “I’m able to learn and adapt quickly and things like that” but I really want to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
What did you get out of this exercise? A lot of things I’d done prior to Year Up helped me out. I’m still nervous like everyone else, but I don’t really show it. I like speaking in front of people, but I do still have nerves. The only thing I wanted to get out of it was just one 10 (from the judges). So I was helping out people this morning with their elevator pitches trying to make them more comfortable because I didn’t want them to go in there and have all these nerves and mess up.
Is there anything you’d do differently? Critique myself after someone else critiques me. I didn’t have a script, but I did have points that I wanted to hit. Every time I did it in front of people, no one had any feedback because I think they saw how confident I was. But after the actual elevator pitch, the lady was like “slow down a little bit.” The people I practiced in front of said, “your tone is fine, your flow is good” but I wish (I had found people who would have been harder on me). Going forward, I’ll critique myself even more.
Tell me about the program so far. Everyone else has grades; Java students like me don’t actually have grades. Our teacher comes from Zipcode. He teaches us how to learn and he gives us projects and it doesn’t matter how it gets done as long as we’re able to deliver the final product.
What’s been the hardest thing? The hardest thing is the Java. We’re the only group of kids here till 5 and then even after 5 we put in extra time. I think actually getting this knowledge and experience of putting in that extra work and showing that you want to learn the extra work because we’re learning a new language. That’s what I want to bring into an internship. To show my manager or my manager’s manager that I’m not leaving until after 5. That I’m putting in that extra effort to make sure I’m understanding the content or making progress.
Between now and the internship what do you want to accomplish? Right now, we’re learning to build an API from scratch through our interface, which is spring boot. That’s the main thing that (our instructor) really wanted us to learn. In the beginning he taught us the basics of the language and how to build angular apps, but the main thing the banks actually use in our case is spring and spring boot applications. The main thing before internship is grasping that concept so I can apply it to the real-life situations in the internship.
Ronald Shackleford Jr.
How do you feel about this competition? At first I felt a little weird that they forced everybody to participate, but now I understand after going through it and seeing everybody perform well. I think getting the feedback from the panels and performing under that pressure is very beneficial to everybody. As far as preparing, I was all over the place. When I first heard about it, I was super excited, super gung-ho. I wrote out everything. I practiced a lot but realized last night I overprepared. When you focus on remembering something verbatim it comes out like you remember it verbatim and it sounds really bad. I didn’t practice today. And it turned out great.”
What would you have done differently? Not stress as much.
How’s the program going so far? Way better than I expected. I’ve had my ups and downs just like everybody else. You learn to push through and learn to lean on your support system. You learn to lean on your coaches, and you find nifty little ways to just get it done.
What’s been the hardest thing about it? For me personally, it’s bittersweet to perform well. I’m very closed off when it comes to my personal life and I don’t think people understand the adversity that I’ve faced. People say, “Oh you’re always winning everything.” They don’t understand how hard I work. I have a son; I have no degree; I have a family to support. I worked a bunch of BS jobs all my life. A lot of people in the program are younger and may not have found their purpose or their drive yet. I’ve got to eat so when I’m come in here, I’m going 210% for my family, 210% to beat the past I came from. I have tattoos on my face. I can’t just go into a job with a resume and say “hey, hire me” because it’s most likely not going to work like that. Everything that I do has to be undeniable.
Between now and the internships what is your No. 1 priority? I would say networking. Then once I get the experience from the internships, I think everything I’ve learned from the program and how I present myself will give me a very good chance at being successful in the future.
What would you do differently? I would have done more preparation. I underestimated how long it would take and how nerve-wracking it would be. But I was very happy with my scores.
How’s the program going so far? Every day more exciting. I really am starting to love Excel. And I definitely have seen a drastic change in my drive and who I am as a person. And we have great facilitators who are just as dedicated today as they were on Day One. I’m grateful for this program.
What’s been the hardest thing? Keeping a positive attitude every day. It’s a lot of work and gets exhausting. You have to make sure you follow dress code every day, wake up early, and be on time.
What do you want to accomplish that will make you more ready for internships in July? Finish out classes strong and be as prepared as possible. I did well in my first semester and in Finance class. I want to finish with a good GPA, especially in economics and challenge myself more with Excel.