The Macquarie LEADS Internship Program goes virtual: A spotlight on intern, Aldon Caba

The Macquarie LEADS Internship program was established in 2008 to support young people on track to become the first in their families to attend college. The program helps to enable high school students to reach their educational, professional and life goals through on-site paid work experience, professional development training and one-on-one mentoring by Macquarie employees.

Since inception, the Macquarie LEADS Internship program has become embedded in staff culture as a highly valued talent development initiative; with more than 150 Macquarie staff involved with the program each summer, serving as intern mentors, career exploration coaches and skills-building workshop facilitators.

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic and subsequent remote working environment, Macquarie transformed LEADS into a fully remote program and welcomed the largest LEADS class to date, with 20 high school interns joining the firm from Houston, New York and Jacksonville. The program was run in partnership with four of the Macquarie Group Foundation's college and career success grant partners: New York City's Double Discovery Center at Columbia University and The Opportunity Network, Houston's One Goal and Jacksonville's Take Stock in Children. The 2020 program ensured under-represented minority students at the highest risk of decreased economic mobility due to the pandemic were still able to engage in an impactful and paid summer internship.

Below, Aldon Caba, a LEADS intern who joined Macquarie's Corporate Affairs division based in New York and his mentors share their first-hand insights on their collective experiences:

 

1. What attracted you to the Macquarie LEADS Internship program?

There were multiple factors that attracted me to the program. I wanted to spend my summer in a productive way and learn more about business and future opportunities, but most importantly I wanted to develop new skills and grow as a young person entering the early stages of my career. For me, Macquarie seemed like the best program to get that experience. I also admired the company’s values, which I saw showcased on their website: Opportunity, Accountability and Integrity, and how Macquarie works in supporting the community and giving back. While I was not sure what I wanted to do for a career, I was very interested in experiencing what the business world was like by participating in this internship.

2. Due to COVID-19, the 2020 LEADS program took place virtually. What was your experience working remotely?

From the beginning of my internship, I felt like I was in a professional setting while working remotely. There are some aspects of the program, such as the atmosphere of the office or casually running into colleagues in shared spaces, that I was unable to do, but I was still able to schedule meetings and network with colleagues from across the business and learn key skills in our daily workshops. The program was shortened this year due to it being remote, but I was able to develop relationships with my fellow LEADS interns and my mentors as well. Overall, the program really helped to make me feel comfortable by providing resources in the format that I needed to work remotely.

3. Much of the LEADS program is focused on mentorship. As a first-time intern, how did having a mentor impact your working experience?

Having a mentor was a helpful part of the LEADS program experience and really eased any stress I felt. When first starting an internship, it can be hard to put yourself out there and start interacting with people you don't know, but my mentors really took the initiative to set up meetings for me, give me feedback on my work and check up on me to see how I was doing. I genuinely believe I would have been a bit lost without their guidance, and I am grateful that I got to collaborate with Sarah and Jillian during my internship.

4. What have you learned over the course of your internship and how will you apply these lessons moving forward?

I thought coming into this internship that some of the skills I would learn would only be useful in a business context, but they are skills I can apply to life in general. From speaking with many people across Macquarie, I learned that it is fine to not know exactly what I want to do professionally at this point, but I will continue to search and learn more about the areas I am interested in, including international affairs and event marketing. The daily guided sessions throughout the internship have also helped me focus on my personal brand, communication, teamwork and how these disciplines are crucial for my future as a professional. Importantly, I also learned how a company's purpose, work environment and values are important when choosing a future employer and that taking advantage of every opportunity is important. We should not limit ourselves because we may be surprised at what we can accomplish. I do not think I would have learned everything I learned at Macquarie anywhere else, and I am ready to put these lessons into effect in my daily life.

5. Jillian and Sarah, as mentors in a remote environment, what did you take away from this experience?

Sarah: We were both initially nervous to see how an entirely new working relationship would develop remotely. So much of what makes mentoring effective is establishing a connection, which can be difficult through a screen. However, our experience with Aldon and with the LEADS program this summer has been transformative. The program created a platform for us to become leaders within our organization in a way that transcended the virtual boundaries we all face during the pandemic.

Jillian: It provided us the opportunity to think collaboratively and creatively about our own experiences as young professionals and the knowledge we wish we had access to leading up to the college process. Watching Aldon's growth throughout the program has been amazing, and we are excited to continue to build and develop our mentorship as Aldon enters his next chapter.

Update: On December 9, Aldon reconnected with his mentors during a virtual LEADS college prep and mock interview workshop. Enthusiasm, curiosity and openness defined the reunion as LEADS alumni and their mentors continued the conversations started earlier that summer.