Grey Alexander (he/him), 2022 Emerging Leader interning at DeepSurface Security, writes about the impact of his ELI experience on his career aspirations.
Finding My Entrepreneurial Spirit
“This summer, I worked as a marketing intern at a cybersecurity startup. After months of considering a career pivot to copywriting, the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d just left the fast food hellscape and was searching for a new direction with better economic prospects and intellectual stimulation (and no customers screaming at me over an Americano, thank you).
I could spend a whole blog entry detailing the skills I learned during my internship. Graphic design, WordPress, SEO writing, you name it. However, the true value I walked away with was finding my entrepreneurial path.
There’s no better place to learn fast than a startup. At large established companies, employees tend to be super-specialists. It’s not uncommon to go weeks without speaking to anyone outside your team. At a startup, this simply is not possible. When the entire staff is only fifteen people strong, everyone has to communicate. There is no fading into the background, even as an intern.
“There’s no better place to learn fast than a startup … There is no fading into the background, even as an intern. ”
I worked alongside the Head of Marketing every day. But I also connected with leaders from the sales, operations, customer success, and engineering departments. At a FAANG or tech giant, the chances of an intern meeting the CEO are slim—but I shared tacos and vacation stories with mine. I gained a broad perspective of the company in a very short time period because of the close knit, all-hands-on-deck nature of startups.
Forming a working relationship with the co-founder showed me something: he is human. And more like myself than I would have previously imagined. There is nothing magical or mysterious that separates entrepreneurs from everyone else. They are made from the same stuff as the rest of us. Some are geniuses, most aren’t. Some were born into family fortunes, plenty weren’t. And once I realized this, I gave myself permission to become one.
“There is nothing magical or mysterious that separates entrepreneurs from everyone else … And once I realized this, I gave myself permission to become one.”
In truth, I’ve wanted to start a business for quite some time. But I had limiting beliefs about what “type” of person owns a successful business. Hint: people paler and richer than me. So I shut my ambitions away, dismissing them as lofty and unrealistic. I contented myself with utilizing my talents to make other people’s dreams come true instead of my own.
But let’s be real, these limiting beliefs didn’t form from nowhere. How many teachers, counselors, and advisors are encouraging Black students to pursue entrepreneurship? Who is educating them on the available paths to business ownership and funding? Not enough. Too often, Black people are told our only option is to be compliant and “professional”, relying on white managers to hire and promote us. But of course, even highly educated Black professionals find themselves underpaid, undervalued, or altogether uninvited from the table. So I refuse to inhibit my ambitions any longer.
“I refuse to inhibit my ambitions any longer.”
At the heart of each successful founder is two things: talent and vision. A vision for how to change the world and the talent to execute it. Launching copywriting services is just the first of several ventures I have planned. My vision for the future is bright and each day I work to improve my craft so that my skills match my high aspirations.
The journey will be filled with highs and lows, successes and setbacks. But I’ve never cowered from a challenge and I’m not about to start now.”
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Read more from Grey in the blog post on Inclusive Cyberspace he contributed to during his ELI internship at DeepSurface.