To celebrate Black History Month, we’re sharing stories from the StreetWise Partners community about how we’re working together to close the opportunity gap and create a more equitable future.
by Olivia-Jay Bly, StreetWise Alumnus
February 14th, 2023
There are particular moments in everyone’s lives when they receive a quintessential teaching. A “Eureka!” moment that allows the puzzle-pieces of your circumstance to fall into place and present a vision of opportunity. Someone can come into your life and not even realize the gravity of their effect. My eureka moment was exactly that.
As a StreetWise Partners Mentee, I had been learning about so many important professional development skills like resume writing, interview preparation, job searching, and how to conduct informational interviews (which I love). I had also been practicing for a Mock Interview Day that StreetWise was hosting.
When I arrived at the event, I was intimidated by the many people present in the room, none of whom were familiar to me. I was quickly welcomed by a volunteer named Ryan, who eased my worries with laughs and honest perspective about how to work around my insecurities seeking employment in Analytics. Then the announcement came: “Due to an influx of volunteers, we will be conducting mock panel interviews rather than 1:1 interviews.”
Suddenly my heart was in my throat and my brain scrambled to visualize a ‘panel interview.’ I imagined multiple people screening my resume and judging me as insufficient for the role. Ryan helped temper the storm, saying “Don’t be scared, be yourself, and remember it’s a mock interview, everyone here wants to help you learn.” I was nervous, but also eager to experience something new and educational.
The mock interview was with WEBTOON, a Naver Company, and the role was Operations Analyst — my dream job and dream company. I shook hands with all three panelists, looking them in the eye and saying their name, then sat down for the interview.
Jennifer, Louie, and Lauren gave me glowing reviews after my interview. In the final moments we had together, everyone expressed that I should apply for the role and that I would be a great candidate. I faltered, feeling sheepish and explained that I wasn’t likely to get it because I didn’t have a degree.
It was in this moment when I was steeped in self-doubt and insecurity, that Jennifer exclaimed “You have so much amazing experience, so what if you don’t have a degree? Look at all that you have accomplished. Look at how many languages you speak! Look at the projects you have worked on. Any company would be lucky to have you work for them. Olivia, you are so much more than a degree.”
I was humbled and elated, like someone had opened a door for me as walls were closing in. I processed what she said with a new clarity about my situation.
Puzzle-piece-like thoughts presented themselves in the days that followed. “Is my experience really that valuable?” “How can I present myself more confidently to reflect this?” I spent hours each day researching the roles I wanted, conducting interviews with current and previous employees of companies I really resonated with and where I felt I could be a good match — putting all of the skills I learned with StreetWise to good use.
My perspective shifted and everything I did from then on was with new confidence about what I had to offer. Although I am currently working towards my bachelor’s degree, it’s with the understanding of it being an important milestone rather than the gatekeeper of my career as an Analyst. None of this would have been possible if not for the volunteers and mentors who guided me along the way.
Through StreetWise, I’ve experienced exclusive access to professionals of the greatest character. I say greatest because they’ve sacrificed their time to help me and others grow. And that growth is going to last the rest of our professional careers.
Growth is the singular most essential process as our lives progress. Growth will comfort our sorrows in the times we fail, and it will humble us in the times that we succeed. My wish for myself and for every mentee is that when the day comes when each of us reaches that particular level of growth — you know, the kind that makes you turn back and remember where you started — that we pay it forward and invest time in another just as other mentors and volunteers have done for us.