Having agency: How a digital marketing student developed her skills – St. Olaf College

Last spring, St. Olaf College student Gaju Aline ’19 traveled to New York City to visit a high school friend from Rwanda who was speaking at the Matrix Award, which honors female leaders in the communications industry.

There, Aline met Shelley Zalis, the CEO of The Female Quotient — a business committed to advancing equality in the workplace. Zalis, one of the women being honored for the impact her work has had on women in the workplace, took an interest in Aline’s experience in digital marketing and career plans.

By the end of the evening, Aline had new plans for the summer: an internship with The Female Quotient.

“Shelley Zalis took a chance on me and decided to add me to her digital marketing team in New York,” says Aline, who is majoring in English at St. Olaf with a concentration in media studies. “My position at The Female Quotient sharpened my technical skills, helped me make more connections in the communications industry, and, most importantly, gave me a chance to use my skills and voice to improve workplace equality and diversity.”

Aline has honed these skills through an impressive number of hands-on internships during her college career. In addition to her work at The Female Quotient, she interned with a digital marketing agency based in Tribeca, New York. She’s also had account management and digital marketing internships in Rwanda and Kenya. She’s received support to pursue these experiences through the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career and the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund.

Even while on campus, Aline balances her coursework with positions in the college’s Marketing and Communications Office and the Digital Scholarship Center at St. Olaf (DiSCO).

Together, all of these experiences have prepared Aline for a career in the marketing industry — and helped her identify her strengths and passions.

“The Female Quotient works with big media companies to change their content to reflect diversity, to accurately portray real people, to close the pay gap, to create diverse teams, and to increase diversity in leadership positions,” Aline says. “That’s exactly the type of work I want to do when I graduate.”

Alongside The Female Quotient, Aline worked as a business development intern at Firstborn, a digital marketing agency based in Tribeca, New York. She landed that internship, too, by striking up a conversation with Firstborn CEO Dan LaCivita at a marketing event.

“He took the time to listen to my voice as a rising professional, and he immediately gave me a chance to interview with his company,” Aline says.

Getting the internship gave Aline the chance to achieve one of her dreams: working in a creative marketing agency in New York City.

He took the time to listen to my voice as a rising professional, and he immediately gave me a chance to interview with his company.Gaju Aline ’19

This January, Aline spent a month in her home country of Rwanda completing an account management internship at Awesomity Lab, one of the country’s leading tech startups. During her internship, she worked directly under the chief marketing officer to improve the company profile, as well as audit the company website and social media.

“I also spent much time working with the business development team, helping to draft business proposals, and brainstorming sale strategies for new tech products,” Aline says.

It is not the first time that Aline has worked in east Africa. She spent January 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya, doing digital marketing for GoodLife Pharmacy, a company dedicated to increasing health care access across the country. In this position, Aline challenged herself to work in a country she had never been to and in an industry — health care — that she had little experience with.

Aline will continue her work in the industry of marketing and advertising after graduation in May 2019, carrying on her experiences at The Female Quotient to help in the mission of creating content that reflects equality, diversity, and the accurate portrayal of people.

“I’ve had the best opportunities to prepare for my journey after college, which makes me very excited for my future,” Aline says. “I’m grateful to people who believed in me throughout college, and who kept challenging me to improve my skills.”

I’ve had the best opportunities to prepare for my journey after college, which makes me very excited for my future. I’m grateful to people who believed in me throughout college, and who kept challenging me to improve my skills.Gaju Aline ’19