By: Lexie Newhouse
Photos by: Deniece Griffin
Paris Stroud (B.A. ’19) sat down with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute to share her experiences with working within the startup Steppingblocks as a Digital and Outreach Specialist while majoring in International Economics and Modern Languages at Georgia State.
“Whatever they need me to do that day, I do it. I think that’s an important component of having a ‘startup’ mindset.”
– Paris Stroud
How did you find out about Students2Startups?
I was browsing through my Georgia State email and stumbled upon ENI’s Pantherpreneur Newsletter that discussed this internship program connecting students to different startups needing assistance with tech, marketing, and other things of that nature. I found it to be an extremely interesting opportunity, so I ended up applying!
And what company are you working for through that program?
I work with a company called Steppingblocks, which was founded in 2015 by Carlo Martinez. It is a software and data analytics company that works with institutions of higher education. For the past few years, the company primarily dealt with digital footprint tracking. This involves looking at individuals’ resumes and social media online, then using those tools to construct insights on post-graduation information including the types of jobs that graduates secured and if they continued their education for example.
What inspired the development of Steppingblocks?
Carlo, the founder and CEO of Steppingblocks, is a Georgia State alumnus that majored in Finance at the Robinson College of Business. He shared that even with a degree of that demand, it was still difficult to secure a job following college. Obviously, Carlo isn’t the only person that has experienced that problem. This ultimately inspired the idea behind Steppingblocks to better prepare students for the real world.
What kind of products or services does Steppingblocks offer?
We offer two different products. One is our student platform, which addresses the issue that Carlo encountered when entering the work force. We partner with universities to grant students access to the platform where students can search various career paths and the steps to get there.
For example, if students want to see the path to becoming a data scientist at Facebook, they can utilize the Career Mapping Module within our platform to search “data scientist” and “Facebook.” Within the platform, they can see every data analyst at Facebook along with their education, past employers, and positions. (Mind you, you can’t see names or contact information). With over 60 million professionals within our system, which is half of the US workforce, students can better understand what steps they need to take to reach their dream career.
The other side of Steppingblock’s products regards data analytics. With Steppingblocks, universities can better follow their students’ post-graduation from the types of jobs they’re securing to whether they’re working within industries that align with their degrees and majors. When speaking with universities, I stress that Steppingblocks isn’t just supporting students; we’re also supporting universities as an institution. With our data, we can deliver outcomes reports to institutions as far as 30 years post-graduation.
What do you do for the company as an intern?
My official title is the “Digital and Outreach Specialist,” where I work under Steppingblock’s marketing supervisor. I also work with our CTO with data cleaning and verifications. My primary responsibility is to reach out to different universities, specifically within the career services and institutional research sector, to promote Steppingblock’s platforms.
What challenges have you encountered when reaching out to those career centers?
Universities initially confuse us with different vendors. Career services offices oftentimes think that we are trying to compete with Handshake for example, but that’s not our key product offering. Handshake is a platform where students search current job openings then apply to those positions. Our services rather focus on career planning and exploration. Additionally, our data analytics platform supports not only students, but universities as a whole, with their internal services.
What skillsets do you offer as an intern?
The semester before I had just wrapped up an internship at the Federal Reserve, where I was working with their business survey specialist to speak with controllers and CFOs across the country to form partnerships to join our survey regarding how companies affect monetary policy.
In the past, I have also conducted research here at Georgia State. Having that experience shows that not only am I comfortable with working with large amounts of data, but I am able effectively communicate those findings. It’s important to be able to talk about data in a manner where the everyday person can understand.
When they hired me, Steppingblocks had just finished redeveloping their platform. Carlo discussed with me during the interview that their transition from redeveloping the data, to focusing on the product and distributing it to various universities, was where my communication skills would play in as an intern.
What have learned since working with a startup? How would you describe the startup culture?
When you’re first developing an idea and designing a product, you must be incredibly flexible. Whether it be a popup meeting or a new bug in the code, it is a matter of being adaptable when unexpected events or issues arise. You constantly have to be connecting with investors and influencers to search and navigate those new opportunities, which can be extremely time consuming when you’re having to focus on so many dimensions of the business.
Do you plan on having any entrepreneurial endeavors of your own in the future?
I’ve toyed around with the idea for a while of what it would mean to own my own business. Initially, I was intimidated by that. Now that I’ve had experience working in a startup, it doesn’t necessarily seem easier, but it seems more doable. If you are passionate about your idea and you make a plan, there definitely is an avenue to achieve it.