Bellwether was thrilled to have Kat Black join our Chicago office as a summer intern on the Talent Services team from June to August 2016. She came to us in between graduating from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and beginning a full-time role in human capital consulting at Deloitte Consulting in New York City.
We spoke to her about her career goals, highlights from her time with us, and what makes Bellwether unique.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did you get inspired to work with underserved kids?
My love for helping students started in undergrad at Amherst College, where I worked as an intern in the admissions office helping with diversity initiatives. Following graduation, I accepted a fellowship role as an admissions officer at Amherst. One visit to a particular school, the High School of Leadership and Public Service in New York City, had a great impact on me. I’ve never forgotten the kids there. It was a predominantly black and Hispanic school, and for those students to see someone who looked like them coming from a school like Amherst meant a lot. It also reinforced my awareness of the lack of resources so many students face. Since then I’ve done a substantial amount of college preparatory tutoring for students at different under-resourced high schools in NYC and Chicago, but want to do more in the future.
My dream is to open up my own organization that works directly with kids doing college prep work. Starting an organization requires resources and knowledge in terms of how to actually run things. I have the passion from my experience at Amherst, and now I’m working to put the skills behind it.
How did you hear about Bellwether?
I came to Bellwether through Education Pioneers. I was studying abroad in South America and said look, I’ll have four months off between graduation and my next full-time role, how can I keep growing? I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but from the moment I spoke to the Talent Services team, I have never looked back.
I don’t think I’ll ever work in another organization where one of the cofounders invites me out to brunch before my start. Coming into an organization and already feeling like I was part of it was a big deal. My first day didn’t feel like a first day because I’d already been welcomed so much in advance.
I went from wavering about how I wanted to spend my summer to meeting the people at Bellwether and saying this is literally a dream job.
What’s something you’ll never forget about this summer?
One of the things that struck me the most is Bellwether’s commitment to diversity. In my first interview, I was asked about diversity, and I was honestly at a loss for words. I’ve never in an interview process been asked a question like that. A white person asked me my thoughts on the diversity of Bellwether’s staff. It was not something I expected to be asked.
As a black woman who is not used to race being discussed in the workplace, I was floored when the Talent team reorganized a call after the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, building in forty-five minutes to talk about what was happening in the world. This turned into an hour-and-half-long discussion because people wanted to keep going. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them this. In that conversation, people were so honest, even though you had a lot of people of different identities on that call.
That was one of my most special Bellwether memories. I’ve never felt a deeper appreciation for my coworkers. These are people who actually take the time out of their day to understand that because of my background, I could be thinking about things beyond the immediate workday standpoint of “let’s get this project done.” I worked with people who were genuine, passionate, and interested in me and what I could bring to the organization. And I’m not talking about lip service or “we need a statistic here.”
When an organization understands you have to actually take care of your people and of each other — I think that’s how you go far. You feel supported in the work that you do.
How would you say the work environment at Bellwether was different from other organizations?
I didn’t feel like I was going to work — that’s the big difference. When you have the flexibility to work from whatever location best suits your needs and during your preferred hours, that takes into account the fact that you are person. It’s huge when I don’t need to worry about going to the dentist or the doctor and having it reflect negatively on me. You’re encouraged to live your life at Bellwether.