2019 Startup Internship Reflection: iTHRIV, Anahissa Almaraz

Internship Location: iTHRIV

As a fourth-year student with little experience in formal marketing but varied experience in communications and sales, I was excited to begin my learning experience in marketing as a Digital Marketing and Communications intern at iTHRIV. What drew me the most to this position and this organization was not just the opportunity to learn more about a career in marketing but also to delve into an organization here at UVA that I was quite unfamiliar with and which was in the beginning of its own career as an organization. Understanding the complexities of the organization, what its goals were, and who its target audiences were also pulled me towards it, as I came to understand their dedication to collaborating with the community and improving all aspects of health and research. 

This dedication to continuous improvement and growth in the goals of the organization itself also extended to my experience as an intern, as I had many opportunities for growth and mentorship throughout my time there. From the outset, I had someone guiding me through the ins and outs of the organization, scheduling regular weekly check-ins so that I would be able to voice any concerns or take any initiative on projects I would be interested in working on. Each individual within the organization was very open and helpful whenever I needed assistance or had any clarifying questions at all, and that’s not even including all of the snacks made available to me which was an added bonus! I was even given the opportunity to interview several individuals within the organization on their perspective of iTHRIV’s inner workings, goals, and audiences in order to gain a better, holistic understanding of iTHRIV, placing me in an improved position to create a communication plan that would adequately capture all of iTHRIV’s complexities. 

Of note was the opportunity to begin a marketing career from scratch; that is, there was no communications person at the organization, which was in its first stages, which meant that I and the other intern would be responsible for building a foundation for an incoming marketing person and creatively coming up with new ways to do this. This gave me the opportunity to combine several of my past experiences in my approach to communication for iTHRIV, as I pulled from my experience at large multinational corporation as well as from my time at a local organization to understand how to best move forward. I was able to use this and the collection of interviews I had conducted at the organization to collaborate with my manager and the other intern on best next steps for iTHRIV’s communication plan, which included creating a draft of the plan itself. 

It was very exciting to not only launch my experience with marketing with such an attentive and helpful organization focused on improvement but also to dive into it headfirst, with only my past experiences and the advice of others to fuel myself. Keeping that in mind, I had a wonderful time learning about the organization, about what communications looked like in that context, and creatively considering ways to sketch out a communication plan. However, I also look forward to continuing on this path of continuous improvement by working directly with a marketing manager in the coming semester, where I will have the opportunity to formally learn marketing strategies and implement those strategies over the course of the semester. I am grateful for the opportunity to have both sides of it: learning as we go and learning in a structured manner. Both have proved very useful to the start of my career and have helped me create a balance for myself.