Student Spotlight: Rahul Das

Name: Rahul Das

Major: Canfield BHP, Plan II Honors, Marketing 

Previous internship: Southwest Airlines

Topics of Interest: Social entrepreneurship, adoption studies, design thinking, soccer, IM volleyball, sharks

 

For students who want to pursue non-profit work while in college, Rahul Das proves it’s possible. As someone passionate about education and entrepreneurship, Rahul spends the majority of his time working as Chief Operating Officer of a student-led non-profit, The Exponentialists. 

The mission of The Exponentialists is to empower students in underserved communities through entrepreneurship. Rahul and the rest of the team spend their time mentoring students at  Eastside High School to help them start their own small businesses. 

“We teach them about important business and entrepreneurial concepts. By the end of the year, (the students) have fully developed business ideas,” Rahul said. “Then they have the opportunity to pitch (their idea) to a panel of Austin entrepreneurs and investors to win seed funding for their idea or an invitation into our incubator program.” 

In addition to working in the Austin community, Rahul has gone abroad to fulfill The Exponentialists’ mission. This past summer he went to Medellin, Colombia to run an entrepreneurship camp called Los Exponencialistas. 

“We ran a week long camp to 56 students who come from rural areas who wouldn’t know the tools otherwise without our help,” Rahul said, “We’re planning on going back to Medellin in the winter to do another camp. We’re trying to reach out to Mexico City and have something lined up there as well.”

In addition to working with The Exponentialists, Rahul is a student-leader in the University Management Business Research Association (UMBRA), an organization that consults pro-bono for local Austin businesses, and a bedtime reader for Helping Hand Home, a home for mentally-abused or neglected children. 

Rahul said he’s incredibly grateful for the opportunity to act on his love for non-profit organizations throughout college. He said Canfield BHP has helped him follow his passions and encouraged him to become a better person throughout.

“(The classes) force me to learn how to be independent and think critically and foster analytical thinking skills,” Rahul said. “Also, the community within Canfield BHP, whether it’s the alum or the current students, push me to be a better version of myself.”

Alumni Spotlight: Aaryaman Singhal

 

Aaryaman Singhal HeadshotBy far one of the greatest things you can do for your community is to give back. Canfield BHP Alum Aaryaman Singhal has decided to do just that. We caught up with him recently to discuss his time as the Chief Operations Officer at Groundwork Dallas, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the natural surroundings of Dallas and beyond. Aaryaman also walks us through projects that have been keeping him occupied since graduating and explains what he enjoys most about his job as COO.

Tell us about Groundwork Dallas’ story and what interested you in the position?

Groundwork Dallas is an environmental nonprofit that focuses on two types of programs.  One is restoring green spaces in Dallas; that means removing litter from the environment, building trails so that people can access wilderness areas, and installing benches, picnic tables, wide-viewing platforms, and bridges so that people can enjoy the spaces with family or friends. Groundwork Dallas also runs a wonderful youth program primarily for students who are underrepresented in the outdoors. Their families might not have the means to buy equipment or take camping trips. The program allows them to go canoeing, camping, and mountain bike riding – all for free. They also receive environmental education, volunteer opportunities, and environmental job training. Through these experiences, they also benefit just from being outside, which research shows, provides physical and mental health benefits.

I found Groundwork Dallas as a volunteer while working at Southwest Airlines. I volunteered regularly for a year, served on the board for a year, and have now been on staff as Chief Operating Officer for a year. Because we’re a small nonprofit, I have received many opportunities for growth here. With my business background, I try to manage as many office tasks as possible so our team can focus more on the fieldwork. For me, I felt it was a great opportunity to use and develop the skills I developed during my time at Southwest. Here, I do finance, accounting, strategy, marketing, sales, operations, and technology. There’s never a dull moment.

Take us through a day in your shoes as COO at Groundwork Dallas.

There is no “typical day” in my job. Just looking at a random day on my calendar, last Tuesday, we hosted 110 students from a local high school at one of our cleanup sites. I helped load trucks and set everything up for the day.  Some students picked up trash in our canoes, others helped move debris from flood events that occurred over the last couple of months. Halfway through that, I stepped away to meet with my city council member. I’ve been working on building a relationship with him and letting him know a little bit more about our organization so we can improve our city together. Later, I came back to the cleanup site and finished out the day there.

My days range from hosting cleanups to facilitating board meetings. Anything outside of our direct programs to building trails or work with our youth directly tends to fall into my lap – and even those do sometimes.

What do you enjoy most about working at Groundwork Dallas?

One is that I regularly get to go outside for my job. Last week, there were two different days where we were working on building relationships with different groups of funders and partners, and I got to take them paddling down the fork of the Trinity River. Getting to canoe, camp, or volunteer outside for work is incredible.

Secondly, the sheer variety of tasks that I work on at Groundwork Dallas is exhilarating. There’s always a new challenge. I’m always learning something new. I don’t think that I would have been able to get that type of hands-on learning in any organization that was larger than 12 or 15 people. It’s only been a year so there’s so much more to learn still – and it’s really exciting.

Tell us about a project you’re currently working on and what you plan to achieve.

When I arrived at Groundwork Dallas, we tracked all of our expenses in a way that combined GL accounts,  grant-specific expenses, and project-related expenses into one hierarchy. In reality, this metadata is all different and independent. I worked with our accountant to define all of our grants and types of expenses we have, such as office supplies, tools, and machinery costs. Then, we identified every program that we run, every grant we have, and the spending restrictions on each grant. After implementing some new financial tracking tools and processes, we can track each transaction to all appropriate spending categories.

A big project for Groundwork Dallas is the Frasier Dam Recreation Area. It’s 115 acres of wilderness in West Dallas, which is an industrial and more neglected part of the city. After many years of cleanups and partnering with the City of Dallas, the recreation area is now open to the public.  We’re working to build more trails and install more picnic areas there now.

How do you think your time at CBHP aided your success at Groundwork Dallas?

Two ways. First, education in all aspects of the business (marketing, finance, law, org behavior, technology, etc.) is critical for me in my role. I have a major role in all of these verticals of our organization. The second way and more important way is that in MIS301H I learned how to figure stuff out when I am lost. While having some background in many aspects of business is great, I mostly figure stuff out on the fly like I had to in 301H.

What can the community do to help Groundwork Dallas in its mission to regenerate, sustain, and improve the Dallas Elm Fork Greenbelt and Great Trinity Forest?

Volunteer – bring your office or community group. We love hosting groups of all sizes, 10-200. Email us at volunteer@groundworkdallas.org to learn more.

Partake – come enjoy the spaces we have developed in Dallas (Hines Park and Frasier Dam Recreation Area) and/or tell others about them.

Do you have any advice for current Canfield BHP students?

I almost dropped the program on a few occasions because I didn’t always feel like I fit in. I am so glad I stuck it out for the background knowledge which makes me more effective in the field of my choice today. There are lots of Canfield BHP students who don’t go the consulting/banking route. Follow your passion because your day to day job is too much of your daily life after graduation to be doing something you don’t deeply care about.

Groundwork Dallas believes that everyone deserves a green, healthy, and resilient environment. Be a part of the wonderful work Aaryaman and the amazing people at Groundwork Dallas are doing for their community. If you have a passion for the great outdoors and would like to help keep Dallas Elm Fork greenbelt clean visit groundworkdallas.org or email Aaryaman at Aaryaman@groundworkdallas.org.

 

Destination Southwest – A Talk with Mike Van de Ven

Written by Zoya Saxena

UT graduate and alum Mike Van de Ven returned to the classroom, this time sitting on the other side of the lecture hall. Van de Ven, Chief Operating Officer of Southwest Airlines, visited the sophomore Business Honors Lyceum to share advice with the students and talk to them about his time in college and career at Southwest. 

Ever since he watched UT play A&M during the Thanksgiving football game, Van de Ven  knew he wanted to come to UT. When applying to college, Van de Ven was also searching for the best school to complete his degree in Accounting.

 “UT has a great return on investment. I am proud of the quality of education which you can receive here in such a cost effective manner. That’s why I love this school,” said Van de Ven. 

Van de Ven said that he feels reenergized when he returns to campus and that his passion for education and development of young professionals is what keeps him coming back. 

“A while ago, my wife and I sat down and asked ourselves what we truly care about. I thought I would have a long list, but we were only able to come up with a few things: young people, education, and bringing that (talent) into our company,” Van de Ven said. 

Many students were curious about Van de Ven’s time at Southwest and what made him make the switch from accounting to the airline industry. Van de Ven explained that his job in accounting allowed him to identify problems or issues, but that he wanted to make a larger impact and be part of resolutions.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the job. The best part about Southwest is that if you enjoy what you are doing, there is no limit to the work they allow you to do,” Van de Ven said.

Van de Ven also stressed the value of people, relationships, and the community. He said that anyone in the workplace needs to pass what Van de Ven has coined ‘the lunch test’. Van de Ven believes this mantra is a reason why Southwest is a successful people-focused and community-driven company.

He said, “You should be able to go to lunch every single day with the people you work with. It’s not necessarily the smartest person in the room, but it’s someone you can have a dialog with, and someone who brings an interesting perspective.”

At the end of the discussion, Van de Ven left the students with three key pieces of advice:

  1. “Stay connected to the people around you.”
  2. “Be yourself out there.”
  3. “If you are not having fun, don’t do it.”

Discovering Retail: Martin Otto’s path to H-E-B

Written by Zoya Saxena

A few weeks ago the Canfield BHP class of 2022 had the opportunity to meet the Chief Operating Officer of H-E-B, Martin Otto, during its Honors Business Lyceum. Students had the chance to ask questions and listen to Otto speak on a variety of topics such as his career path, time at H-E-B, and the company culture Otto is proud to be a part of. 

Otto began by detailing his career path, highlighting his time beginning in accounting and then moving to real estate. It was not until Otto was in the process of completing his MBA at Harvard when he took his first retail class. “I loved it,” he said.

Since then, Otto has been with H-E-B for a little over 28 years. When asked about what kept him at the company for so long, he expanded on H-E-B’s inclusive and people-centric company culture.  

“The company is truly focused on serving customers and the community,” Otto said. “H-E-B is a wonderful place to be.”

Over the course of the seminar, Otto also took the time to articulate why he wanted to come speak to Canfield BHP students. He said he wants to encourage students to really “figure out what (they) want to do” and help those students who may not want to “follow the traditional path.” Otto went on to say that if he was not thinking deeply about his career, he may not have ended up with a fulfilling job at such a great company. 

Otto recognized the caliber of the students and the quality of education in the Canfield BHP program. “Y’all have a great school and great students,” said Otto.  He went on to state that if he had to do it all over again, he would choose Canfield BHP. 

Otto encouraged students to make full use of the resources available to them at UT and be proud of the program in which they have been admitted. Furthermore, Otto emphasized the importance of curiosity and hard work. 

He said, “Smart people are not a dime a dozen, but there are a lot of smart people in this world. There are not enough people in the world who work hard enough, to be curious enough to ask the 100th question to be excellent.” 

Otto’s advice revolved primarily on putting thought into the career process. He said students should work to understand their passions so that they’re working on something they love once they enter the workplace.

“My advice to you is to figure out what you want to do. I could have shortened that process (of finding my career path of choice) had I known retail was out there.” Otto said.

Student Spotlight: Samantha Lustberg

Name: Samantha (Sam) Lustberg

Major: Canfield BHP, Management Information Systems

Company: Bringg 

Position: Business Solutions Analyst

Topics of Interest: kickboxing, all the foods in the world, social dance, the ukulele

It’s not often students get to travel abroad for an internship, but Samantha (Sam) Lustberg had the opportunity to work not one, but two internships this past summer in Tel Aviv, a city on the coast of Israel. 

Sam began her summer in Tel Aviv as a consultant at a boutique firm, Targo Consulting, where she worked with pre-seed startups analyzing the ideas presented by budding entrepreneurs. After working at Targo for a few weeks, Sam pivoted to a new role at Bringg. 

Bringg, a Series C technology startup, is a delivery logistics software that partners with Fortune 500 companies to ensure data security when working with food delivery services like Uber Eats and Postmates. Sam worked as a Business Solutions Analyst on the Business Development team. She had the opportunity to strategize with the sales and marketing teams for the rest of the summer. 

“I had two experiences. A lot of it was me transferring what I learned in the consulting firm to this new tech company, Bringg, where I worked in Business Development,” Sam said. “My job was to realign the sales and marketing teams. There was this problem with connecting the most recent marketing materials with sales. So I helped create a centralized platform for all of that.”

In addition to helping to create a centralized platform, Sam worked to develop Bringg’s international marketing efforts. As an American intern in another country, she brought a unique skillset to the table. 

“Bringg is an international company and I was in Israel and obviously there’s a huge language barrier,” Sam said. “They were looking to market around the world and I helped with building emails and content so their English language marketing was improved.” 

Throughout all of her work, Sam said she loved her time in Tel Aviv. As someone who hails from New York and has studied abroad in Hong Kong, culture shock does not come easily for her. The biggest challenge Sam faced was finding and securing the internship in the first place. Sam’s advice to other students is to network and stay involved outside of McCombs. 

“Navigating actually getting these opportunities is not as easy because I didn’t do it through McCombs. I went through Texas Hillel, which is an on-campus organization which then connected me to the third party organization that led me to the internship,” Sam said. “If you want to have an opportunity outside of McCombs, then you really have to talk to other organizations, continue networking with people and just make sure you put yourself in the right places at the right time.” 

Sam also advises students to find friends and champions to support them through the recruiting process. She said peers from Canfield BHP and Texas Hillel kept her connected and vouched for her during the recruiting process. 

“There have been other Canfield BHP kids in the past who have gone to Israel and using them as champions was helpful,” Sam said. “For example, a friend was going to do the program that I did, so she helped me make all the connections. The key takeaway from that is there’s a network within Canfield BHP for whatever you want to do. If you want to go into Tel Aviv it can happen. If you want to go into television or any other industry, it can happen.”