At Ally, we’re always looking for a better way: a better way to bank, a better way to buy a car, a better way to support the community. With this in mind, we decided to launch a new program called Moguls in the Making with the hope of offering better opportunities and business experiences to students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
We were lucky enough to collaborate with two incredible organizations: the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Sean Anderson Foundation, both committed to fostering the talents of young people. Through Moguls in the Making, our goal is to offer opportunities to students who otherwise may not have access to the tools and resources that help pave a fruitful path. This past spring, we saw the program come to life during an exciting “Shark Tank” style entrepreneurship competition where HBCU students came together to pitch business ideas to a panel of executives and influencers.
Among the prizes awarded at the competition was an internship opportunity with Ally — what a treat … for us, that is! We loved having fresh faces in the office for the summer. We interviewed three of the contestants to hear about their experiences as Moguls in the Making participants and Ally interns.
What was it like presenting your pitch to a panel of judges at Moguls in the Making?
Cheldrick Wooding (Tennessee State University, Mass Communications): It was really cool presenting to [Big Sean]. Because we knew who was on the panel, it made us want to work harder and pitch this idea to the best of our ability. We took our time with it, making everything meaningful, heartfelt, and personal. I believe [the app we created] was a special thing — possibly even something we could finish down the road.
Jay-Juan Jones (Howard University, Journalism): It was my first time ever doing something like that, in terms of coming up with the business model, business plan, and pitching the business idea to the panel of judges. During the rehearsal, I was a nervous wreck, but eventually, after the critiques, it went really well. Although I’m not a business major, it really pushed me to think more about business and about innovating in that type of space.
Keishon Smith (Florida A&M University, Electrical Engineering): I’ve been in over 26 hackathons, so I knew what the structure was … One thing I had the team do before we got [to the competition] was practice pitching, because that’s really what the whole competition came down to — how well you pitch. Our mentor gave us great advice on [the details], like how much it would cost for a developer, the financials of it and breaking those down. His experience was a big plus to the whole environment.
What have you enjoyed about working at Ally?
Cheldrick: I’ve been a really big help, [as a film major]. Since I’ve been here, I’ve worked with video, and that’s one thing I didn’t think I was going to be doing … My manager’s been a really big help, introducing me to different people who actually need my help, who need my skillset. And that’s been a really cool thing to me. I didn’t think I was going to be doing what I love, but since I’ve been here, that’s what I’ve been doing.
Jay-Juan: I’ve been doing some writing for [the Do It Right blog] and also for Auto Success magazine — given my background and studies in journalism, they’ve assigned me projects like that. I was surprised to see room for creativity here in a corporate setting. What I’ve enjoyed the most is, not only that ability to be creative and take ownership of what you’ve been working on, but the connection with senior leadership, the initiatives that they have taken to connect with us and make this an enjoyable experience, as well as one that we learn a lot from.
Keishon: I read a lot of business books … it was nice to apply what I’ve learned and what I read about to real life. This is my first internship at a corporation, so it was very nice to see what I read actually being applied. TM Studio (one of Ally’s Charlotte offices) has more of a startup feel, so that allows us to think differently and not be constrained to a certain environment. We’re spoiled up here … we get the Coca-Cola machine!
Has anything about Ally or Moguls in the Making surprised you?
Cheldrick: Since I’ve been here, I noticed there’s been a lot of opportunity for growth, and you don’t see that everywhere. You see a lot of people get in one position and stay there for twenty-plus years, but here there’s a lot of room of growth. You don’t have to be stuck in one place or one area, you can move around and be happy where you are and not be stagnant. Personally, I think that’s the best part about Ally.
Jay-Juan: We got to meet [Jeff Brown, Ally’s] CEO, which was an amazing experience. He took his time to talk with us, answered our questions … It actually changed my view of corporate America, just seeing the hands-on presence of the actual CEO of Ally.
Also, Andrea [Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer] flew out the interns to an agency meeting, so that was really fun — to see how that works and see that the executive leadership knew we were here, wanted us there, and wanted us to be a part of things. To allow us to have opportunities to speak and offer our opinions and not just be flies on the wall, but actually participate — that was extremely enjoyable.
Keishon: I was the only non-business student on my [Moguls in the Making] team, and the only one except for one or two that had attended a hackathon before. My whole understanding of business has come from hackathons, so I’m more of a get-things-done-real-quick person, and my team members are more strategic and plan things out long term. It was a nice balance; it allowed me to slow down a little and think more about the things they think about.
How has your experience at Ally helped shaped your goals?
Cheldrick: Since I’ve been here, it’s really been an eye opener … It doesn’t feel like the average corporate America job. It’s not too relaxed, but it’s relaxed enough that you can be yourself; you don’t have to be so uptight every day. You can still be yourself no matter what your position is.
Jay-Juan: Ally has provoked thought and made me understand and see that doing what I want to do — telling the story of a brand — can be done in a journalistic way, and I don’t have to abandon my studies to do that.
Keishon: The experience here, interacting with my mentor and my manager, has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities, such as the Fintech ecosystem here [in Charlotte]. Like I said, TM Studio has a real startup feel to it, and that’s something I never thought was possible in a large company. I could definitely see myself working here.
Our interns have been truly indispensable to our work and a joyful presence in the office — we can’t believe we had to say goodbye at the end of summer. We just hope we’ve been as memorable to them as they have been to us. They’ve made this inaugural year of Moguls in the Making a success. So, look forward to another year of Moguls in the Making — we definitely are!
You can learn more about the program at ally.com/entrepreneur.