Giving Back to The City of Brotherly Love

Nancy Zhu, SEAS & WH ’24, Philadelphia, PA

Thanks to Penn Career Services’ Summer Funding, this summer I had the opportunity to explore my interest in product while giving back to the community that I grew up in. I worked with a startup called whose mission is to provide secure storage of identification for those experiencing homelessness. 54% of homeless individuals are denied access to shelter and food. As a Philadelphia local, I had a personal connection with the mission of the startup. Penn Career Services’ Summer Funding gave me the ability to pursue this opportunity to explore my interests by financing my housing and food expenses during the summer. I am beyond grateful for the support that I received through the funding.

During my internship, I specifically worked on developing the product team for the startup. Thus far, the startup built out a beta and launched with a couple of nonprofits. However, they were looking for more direction and a strategic roadmap on how to further develop their product. I worked with engineers and upper management to build out new features for the platform. I was exposed to common challenges encountered by product managers including technical roadblocks and user misinformation. I learned how to lead a team and create value for the product that I was working on. It was fun learning how to form partnerships with local nonprofits while delegating tasks to ensure that everyone was on track. Additionally, I am grateful that I had a wonderful team who was receptive to my ideas and worked alongside me to make the project happen.

Working at a startup allowed me to have autonomy on my projects. Experiencing the startup culture was in itself an experience as I got to see the horizontal work culture of the group. In addition, working with others who are just as passionate as I am about the cause made the entire experience worthwhile and fun. We even got to visit some of the nonprofits in Philadelphia and volunteer. This was especially insightful as I got to speak to those experiencing homelessness and empathize with their challenges and needs. It was nice getting to speak to all the stakeholders of the project as we all had a common goal. I am grateful that I not only got the opportunity to work on a product for the community but physically help at nonprofits.

From this experience, I also got a better understanding of what opportunities I look forward to getting involved in the future. I learned that I value the people and work culture of a company. As someone who was lost about what career, let alone which industry I wanted to join in the future, this opportunity has allowed me to learn more about myself and what I value in a career. I am excited for the following summers to come and to explore other industries and work cultures. As I finish my internship, I am grateful for the opportunity and it would not have been possible without the help of the Penn Career Services Summer Fund. Without the donors and university resources available, I could not have contributed to’s development. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. Thank you! It is clear that without a donor, I could not have contributed to a cause that I am passionate about, and I might not have been able to even accept the internship opportunity. This highlights how grateful I am for the kind philanthropic spirit and strong devotion Penn Career Services and its donors have. Thanks to you, I have grown both professionally and personally, in ways which will define my future life decisions. Thank you.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services