At College for Social Innovation, we know that our first jobs and internships shaped our futures and cultivated our passion for social sector work. These experiences are the reason we are here today! The beginning of summer marks the start of similar experiences for college students everywhere—experiences that will open doors of opportunity and launch inspiring careers. In this blog series, our staff will tell the stories of their own first internships, sharing advice, memories, and appreciation for their earliest professional experiences.
Ila Shah is our Managing Director! She has over 15 years of professional experience with a focus on education and talent acquisition. Ila received her Bachelors of Arts from Wesleyan University and completed the CORO Fellowship in Public Affairs. Following her Fellowship, Ila worked as a program specialist for The After-School Corporation (TASC) and then as the Director of the National Network at Citizens School. More recently, Ila was a Search Consultant at Commongood Careers and Edgility Consulting, where she played a key role in establishing partnerships with school district officials as well as community and philanthropic partners. At College for Social Innovation, Ila will collaborate with the entire team to build a dynamic and joyous community, while also developing systems for both scalable and sustainable growth.
What was your first internship experience like?
My first internship experience was on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Browning Montana. I served as a writing coach, working with middle school students to organize service projects in their neighborhoods. It was an incredibly amazing learning opportunity for me!
During the internship experience, I was immersed in a culture very different from my own and was surrounded by students who were interested in learning and growing as people. I found this environment inspiring and it provided the opportunity for me to build the confidence that I needed to become a stronger leader and facilitator. While I was in Montana, I fell in love with the mountains and was fortunate enough to have had incredible mentors throughout my internship experience.
What made you interested in this type of work (your current job)?
I have always loved working in a space where big ideas and the challenges of operationalizing them intersect. Innovative ideas, specifically in the area of education, have always had a gravitational pull for me. The foundation of CFSI and the organization’s ability to impact and grow the talent pipeline for the social sector inspires me to come to work everyday! I love the phase of development we are in- the idea that we are building the plane and flying it at the same time is exciting to me. I see opportunities in the challenges and questions associated with growth, scale, infrastructure, and impact.
The best part of my job is definitely supporting a team that is both performance-driven and fun to work with!
What is one piece of advice you would give to students in their first internship?
Ask questions. I think the ability to ask questions and listen with intent leads to the most powerful learning experiences. With over 20 years of experience in the social impact sector, I can say with confidence that my inquiry skills are what enable me to grow, learn and have an impact through my work.