International student thrives, makes connections from coast to coast

By Megan Lupo and Samantha Brandbergh

Some students land an internship through endless online research; others find an opportunity in a yoga class.

For business communication graduate student, Franziska Schmitt, it was all about connections that led to internships at Morgan Stanley, a financial services corporation, and Kemgo, a marketplace for chemicals and fertilizers.

Schmitt is an international student from Germany, who received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from Baden-Württemberg’s Cooperative State University, and has not worked in the financial service industry in the United States until now.

She heard about the internship at Morgan Stanley from her friend in Germany, who referred her to Cheryl Young, managing director at Morgan Stanley and one of the United States’ top 100 financial advisors.

Schmitt applied in December 2015 for the summer of 2016 internship and was able to be phone interviewed, later landing the internship.

How Schmitt found her current internship at Kemgo is more peculiar.

“It was a year ago in September 2015 when the co-CEO’s wife was my yoga teacher,” Schmitt explained. “During a get-together at the yoga studio, she brought her husband, Joe Naaman, and I was able to connect with him. We talked about what we are both currently doing, and his start-up sounded so interesting.

“While I was starting to look for summer internships for 2016, I told Joe that if he is ever interested in having an intern, I would be happy to help.”

From there, Schmitt went on to write Kemgo’s first two press releases; the first one being featured in respected industry journals, while the second one was submitted only last week. Other press releases she has written have been published by online magazines Plastics Technology and Plastics Engineering.

While working for a growing company was challeging, interning for a business as large as Morgan Stanley was worthwhile because of the influential people she met, Schmitt said.

Schmitt has been inspired by Young, describing the chance to work for her as “once in a lifetime.” Young’s career-driven persona and her ability to manage one of the highest producing teams that handle more than a billion dollars in assets inspired her.

At the Morgan Stanley office, Schmitt’s tasks included “overlooking the marketing and communication strategy and optimizing it, as well as preparing client meetings,” in addition to creating and designing the team’s website.

Schmitt was also able to take her knowledge out of boardrooms and meetings when she got the opportunity to plan an event for a Stanford University’s School of Medicine professor.

“I planned the entire event — from looking at rooms, ordering food, creating invitations, booking the speaker and making sure the event flowed well,” she said.

This event’s success is a moment that stands out for Schmitt as one of the most gratifying.

“Seeing all the big smiles on our clients’ faces, the speaker’s face and on my colleagues’ faces… everyone was so happy and loved the event; this was the best reward for me,” she said.

For Schmitt, being an international student has provided her with knowledge she would not have received otherwise.

“In California, they are so open to someone they don’t know; they greet you on the street and even sometimes talk to you,” she said. “Just greeting someone on the street that you don’t know would never happen in Germany.”

Through some of the friendly California residents she met, Schmitt was able to connect with a Facebook employee and visit the site’s headquarters, something she describes as an “amazing” experience.

“This is so special to me,” she said. “In Germany, that would have never happened. Connections and networking are not as big there as they are here.”

Building connections was a main priority to Schmitt, especially from her start at Rider. Inspired by her mentor and Rider’s associate director of major gifts, Pamela Mingle, Schmitt joined the Leadership Program, where she was given the opportunity to connect with Rider alumnae.

Schmitt is also a mentor herself, as she is the president of protégées for Rider’s Women Leadership Council’s Mentoring Program.

“[Mingle] always encouraged me to believe in myself,” Schmitt said. “Further, she helped me with finding my values and realizing what I really want.”

Schmitt’s work ethic and professionalism are just a few of the characteristics that Mingle was impressed by.

“[Schmitt] is a true leader and self starter,” Mingle said. “She is the most pro-active intern I have ever known; she is intelligent and thoughtful, open to feedback and has the confidence to offer suggestions to others.”

Although Schmitt loved her time in Silicon Valley, she will return home to Germany this month for a one-week trade show in Düsseldorf, where she will help Kemgo’s CEOs connect with potential clients such as buyers and sellers of petrochemicals.

“It is an amazing opportunity and I am very excited,” she said. “This is the first time where I will meet the industry and its people face-to-face. I am sure that this experience will help me to prepare Kemgo’s communication and marketing. Also, I believe being bilingual helps me a lot during the trade show; it feels like coming home, even though the city I will stay in is four hours away from my hometown.”

Although Schmitt feels comfortable now juggling multiple languages, she cites the language barrier as one of her early challenges.

“At the beginning, I had to translate some new finance vocabularies, but after working in the office for a couple of weeks, it was all clear,” she said.

Looking ahead, Schmitt is hopeful that the experience she has received through her internships and traveling will help her succeed wherever she may end up in her field.

“I don’t only want to limit myself for working in communications and marketing at a bank,” she said.  “In the future, I want to obtain a leadership position in the field of marketing and communications. I am interested in pursuing a Ph.D in communications and would love to do consulting in my area while studying for the Ph.D.”


Printed in the 10/12/16 edition.

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