Making Professional Connections

Making Professional Connections

Wearing a look of confidence Juliette Weiss 15 GD walks up to talent recruiters from Andreessen Horowitz, a $4-billion venture capital firm that has financed some of Silicon Valley’s most successful startups. Without a hint of hesitation, the graphic design senior whips out a digital portfolio and presents some of her latest UX/UI apps. The reps from California make no promises but offer to connect Weiss with a mentor from the firm who can give her additional professional feedback.

Weiss’ meeting was one of hundreds that occurred during Internship Connect, the latest RISD Career Center networking event, held on October 8 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. More than 350 undergraduate and graduate students eagerly presented their portfolios to representatives from 65 influential companies ranging from Apple to Alexander Wang Inc., Facebook, IBM, Hasbro and Samsung Research America. While most students received on-the-spot advice on how to advance their burgeoning careers, some were offered coveted internships on the spot.

In addition, students had the opportunity to start conversations with reps from companies that interest them. For instance, Liz Holland MID 14, who has spent most of her adult life living an adventuresome life abroad, approached recruiters from Airbnb, the popular lodging site cofounded by Joe Gebbia 05 ID/GD and Brian Chesky 04 ID, to suggest there’s untapped opportunity for the company to capitalize on travelers interested in communal living. Representative Alex Andersen recommended the graduate student draw up a detailed proposal outlining her ideas.

“I think you have an interesting array of skills – and an immense amount of vision,” Andersen noted in perusing Holland’s résumé. “I have no doubt we could use this kind of fresh thinking.”

While thumbing through a thick portfolio of work by Michelle Dunbar 16 TX, a representative from the clothing retailer Anthropologie paused to inspect an image of a remarkable jacquard tapestry. The eight-foot-long textile appears to be sprouting unruly, twisted branches from the corners. When asked to explain her process, Dunbar said that she dips threads in liquefied rubber to create an unusual texture. She also noted that the inspiration for the wild piece came from a strange natural phenomenon.

“I read about a rare fungus that changes the behavioral patterns of ants that build colonies in tropical forests. If infected, they act like tiny zombies,” the junior explained with a shy smile. “I wanted to make something decorative that’s just as odd.”

To Dunbar’s delight, the recruiters from Anthropologie offered her a summer internship as a display designer at the company’s headquarters in Philadelphia, where she’ll collaborate with a team of designers to make elaborate window installations using paper, fabric, wood screens and salvaged objects.

“I’m impressed by the scale of your work – but I’m even more excited by your thought processes,” noted Mike Smith, a regional manager at Anthropologie. “This is a prime example of why everyone at the company has a soft spot for RISD alums. They’re intensely creative and also amazingly technical artists.”

–Abigail Crocker

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