2014 PFIG Recipient Will Cadigan
College of Arts & Sciences
2015 Graduation Year
Internship: Village Capital in Washington, DC.
Notes on the first week
My work with Village Capital has been incredibly rewarding, taking me from coffee shops to conferences while allowing me to hone a variety of skills and becoming a vital member of a team.
Village Capital is an impact investing firm that runs a variety of programs around the world for startups, providing the entrepreneurs with a chance to learn from mentors and from each other. What makes Village Capital unique when compared with other accelerator programs is its central tenet of “democratizing entrepreneurship,” the idea that the entrepreneurs themselves choose who receives pre-committed capital.
One of the things that has struck me throughout my time at Village Capital has been the truly unique nature of its mission. Everyone from my fellow intern friends to leaders in the industry at the Aspen Institute's Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) conference respects and is fascinated by what Village Capital has accomplished so far and moving toward.
A key reason for this success is the team at Village Capital, something that I was able to see from the very outset of my time there. My first week on the job was Village Capital's semi-annual retreat and I got to see how each one of the team members worked so efficiently in their roles, allowing them to run a global organization with a small group of dedicated employees. At the retreat, I really felt part of the team, whether it was brainstorming potential programs or talking through the team's mission statement. Village Capital welcomed my ideas and were genuinely interested in the perspective I brought to the table. I have tremendously enjoyed applying my religious studies education to the non-profit sector, looking at personnel motivation and message communication from more than just a business perspective.
On the whole, I have loved my time at Village Capital so far –the exciting atmosphere of a co-working space at the ImpactHUB in DC or the occasional coffee shop when the mood strikes us combined with an education in business all while still trying to make a difference and real impact. In truth, our location changes and mad dashes through the metro are what has illustrated to me so perfectly what makes Village Capital a fantastic organization. It is a company that embodies fluidity, simmers to the brim with adaptability and embraces energy, all while maintaining a steadfast commitment to good.
As I settled into the day-to-day life of Village Capital, it became clear to me that this company was going to give me an experience that I truly couldn't find anywhere else. Village Capital is a non-profit that thinks like a business –an entity that prides itself on helping others, but with attention to economics and efficiency. Last summer, I spent time working with an NGO in Cape Town, South Africa and while I found the work to be rewarding, I saw that it was populated by people with amazing intentions but with little eye toward details. Village Capital could not be further from this model. It embraces the challenges of social good and social responsibility and understands that they are at their most helpful level when they are at their highest functioning. Through my work this summer, it has become evident that this hasn't always been the case. Like any good organization, Village Capital has grown since its inception. The programs and cohorts run and funded by VilCap, have become streamlined and focused, rather than the simply geographically tied, but structurally and industrially diverse entities they were before.
This change in approach leads to the specialization of focus and a higher quality of service, allowing each program that uses VIlCap’s services to receive a better product, all while increasing the viability of Village Capital in the long run. It’s a win-win, improved product and increased potential for growth. I have always, and still do, consider myself on the more idealist side of the equation, more like the non-profit and less like the business. It has become clear to me, however, that the necessity of this economic thinking cannot be ignored, a lesson that a crusader like me cannot overlook. Seeing the two elements function in harmony has been an eye opening and important experience for me.
Another way in which Village Capital has been a unique experience is that it exists somewhere in between a start-up and a corporation, two incredibly different work environments with their own challenges and benefits. Village Capital team is very small, with everyone taking a very hands on approach, just like a start-up, yet their reach is global and solidified where it has taken root, like an established company. The work is on a grand scale and done in a professional way, like a company, but often comes in bursts or at unexpected times do to the nature of the players involved, just like a startup. I have learned how to work effectively with my co-workers at all levels of the organization, learning how to format emails and requests, all while becoming an essential part of the team, yet have also gotten to see the benefits of immersion in company culture and standardization. Overall, my experience has thus far been eye opening and my goal is to continue to learn all that I can.
Since returning to UVA I’ve come to realize that my experience this summer has prepared me for life both here at school and beyond. Through my internship at Village Capital I gained both communication and interpersonal skills, all while engaging in thrilling research and empowering work. I made friends I will keep for life, and got to experience a city in which I could see myself living in the future.
This year I am serving as the Co-Chair of the Sexual Violence Protection Coalition, a job which has gained prominence lately. I have been involved in advocacy around this issue since my first year, through the group 1 in 4. This year, however, I have taken a role that I would have never expected –coordinating and working closely with the Administration and the Government. Village Capital taught me the things I needed to succeed at this job. Things such as the proper way to send an email to maximize readability and efficiency. Before my Village Capital experience, I thought communication was one of my most refined skills. After working for VilCap, I know that there is so much more to communicating than simply public speaking, and am confident in my newfound abilities.
Through Village Capital I also learned about the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and how important they are to run, frankly, any enterprise –a company, a school club, or a business. Watching the other people at Village Capital work both internally and externally to manage the happiness and engagement of those they worked with really opened my eyes to the key role that HR plays in running a business. One of my projects with Village Capital was helping to write an HR report for social entrepreneurs. All of the literature I read and watching how it was used by my boss gave me excellent insight that I have taken back to UVA and will take to future jobs.
My summer experience is something that I will remember forever and will continue to serve me long after I have left UVA. I will always be friends with the people I worked with and will utilize the skills I gained for the rest of my life.