By Oliver Bielak
As a senior in college, I receive a fair number of questions from family and friends that never fail to stress me out at least a little bit regarding my post-grad plans. “What do you want to do with your major?” and “Any idea what kind of work you want to do after graduating?” are particularly common and anxiety-inducing inquiries that I still worry about from time to time. At the start of this school year, I was feeling pretty lost about what the answers to those questions were since I was still trying to work it out for myself. But now with just a couple weeks until I complete my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Cruz, I am feeling more excitement than anything else and am finally able to answer those once-daunting questions about my post-graduation plans.
I can confidently say that everything changed when I started my internship with Cruzio Internet in September of last year. As an economics major, a challenge I faced until recently involved considering the focus of economics in which I was most interested both in terms of studies and career path. After considering my options, academic interests, and frankly, Google searches of what one can do with an economics degree, I decided that I wanted to explore marketing, and following a brief search, I secured a marketing internship at Cruzio Internet.
Aside from my coursework from UC Santa Cruz, my experience and knowledge of the world of marketing was limited. Furthermore, I had never worked for a company in the technology sector, nor had I ever worked for a company of Cruzio’s size. Needless to say, this was going to be a very new experience to me, which was both exhilarating and slightly nerve-racking. Fortunately, due largely to a passionate yet welcoming staff and an energizing work environment I was able to adapt to my new position smoothly. In the end, I’ve found that working with Cruzio has not only been a pleasurable time but also a tremendously valuable learning experience.
Like many other people, I’ve always been a naturally curious person and working with Cruzio provided me with the opportunity to explore many of my curiosities. Even before I started studying economics, I had always been interested in the ways in which businesses choose to present themselves and their products to the public. I wondered how, say, Apple chose to offer a mini version of the iPad, how they chose to price that product, and what they did to sell as many units as possible. With Cruzio, I had the good fortune of being a part of the team that actually thinks these questions over and makes those kinds of judgment calls, which in and of itself has been immensely enriching. One of my first projects as the marketing intern was to research the internet service providers with which we compete to find out what services they offer, the details and terms of the services, and how much each service costs. This information is vital to us so that we can be aware of what we are going up against, while also helping us decide whether or not we should change our own price points or alter our products in order to remain as competitive as possible. When your main competition is massive corporations like Comcast and AT&T, this process is not an option but a necessity. As you can imagine, it was quite enjoyable to perform such an important task that also allowed me to get a better understanding as to how businesses present and price their products, which is something I had always been curious about. Learning about these concepts in my classes on campus was great, but getting that first-hand experience was much more gratifying.
A second major project I worked on was planning and coordinating our weekly Cruzio Coffee Hour. Since Cruzio is a coworking facility as well as an internet service provider, we try to make our office space as fun and appealing as possible to make sure all our coworking members are content and cheerful. As such, I took the responsibility of organizing Cruzio Coffee Hour, in which I would find a guest speaker from a local organization or business to talk about their experience in their field and engage in discussions with our coworking members, all while we enjoy coffee and snacks together. Over the past few months, we’ve hosted representatives from Bike Santa Cruz County, Idea Fab Labs, the Bird School Project among other organizations. While I’ve definitely had a great time hearing these amazing people talk about the things that they are passionate about, the biggest takeaway from this project has been engaging in a task designed to make people happy. Our Coffee Hours exists to give coworking members the chance to get away from their work for a little bit and stimulate their minds in ways that may not happen in their daily work lives. From an academic or marketing standpoint, this project is great for customer retention and satisfaction, but the aspect I’ve enjoyed most about it has been providing the people here with a chance to further enlighten themselves and to continue to educate themselves even when the academic, studious part of their lives may be well behind them.
Another great set of experiences from the internship is our weekly marketing meetings. During these meetings, we talk about advertising, brand graphics, social media metric, and more; everyone on the marketing team (including CEO and co-founder Peggy Dolgenos) has the chance to bounce ideas off one another, talk about current and future projects, and think of creative ways to make Cruzio as appealing as possible. In these times, I am able to become more aware of the various channels of marketing in which Cruzio is engaged while also having the opportunity to make my voice heard and present my own ideas to the rest of the team. Overall, these meetings provide me with precious insight as to how team members collectively brainstorm, refine ideas, and ultimately, take action. It has been awesome to get a better understanding of the inner workings of a business, particularly one with so many different departments and operations.
One more highlight of my time with Cruzio was helping to organize and execute our annual Open House Extravaganza, or OHE. This event is a First Friday party in which we open the doors of our facility to the public for a night of fun; we have food and drinks, trivia with prizes, local art, games, free gifts, and inform guests about Santa Cruz Fiber, Cruzio’s state-of-the-art fiber broadband network. While this party is a great time for all of our guests, it was genuinely fulfilling to plan something for so long and to see so many people have such a great night. I also loved seeing how excited guests were when I was able to talk with them about Santa Cruz Fiber or other amazing Cruzio projects. OHE is very much a way for Cruzio to give back to the community and getting to be a part of the planning and execution of the party was a truly rewarding experience.
With any internship, the least one can expect is that the work is educational in some way and provides them with real workplace experience. With Cruzio, I had the fortune of not only obtaining valuable experience in the field but also getting to do work for a company that is exciting and relevant. Cruzio is doing so many awe-inspiring things throughout Santa Cruz County, like installing fiber-optic cables to eventually serve the entire county with reliable, lightning-fast internet. It feels good to be a part of the team that is in the vanguard of pushing Santa Cruz’s technological capacity forward and know that I have gotten a lot out of this experience. At the end of the day, work is still work and there are definitely times when I’d rather stay home, get comfy, and watch some Netflix. But when I am here at Cruzio and am focused on a task, chatting with my co-workers, or just walking around the office, it actually feels beneficial to my life. I enjoy myself when I’m working and know that I am getting a lot out of my time here and that what I am doing is valuable. As my internship comes to an end, the only thing I regret is not being able to do more in the time that I have. On the bright side though, I know that I’ll be able to take the skills and experiences I have gained here and use them to my advantage as I graduate from college this June and enter the real world. While I’m still nervous about what is to come next, I am feeling more prepared than ever and welcome the challenge openly.