Acumen Blog

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Summer Spotlight: Punching Above One’s Weight

About five weeks into my summer internship at Acumen Fund, I came back to my seat after a meeting to find a financial company’s annual report on my desk topped with a sticky note.  The note was signed by my supervisor – Sasha Dichter – and read: “I really LOVE this.  Can we do something similar?”

One of my main assignments this summer was to craft Acumen’s own annual report. Excited about receiving enthusiasm and direction for this creative and conceptual assignment, I opened the report to the first page.  It was terrible.  There was no information, no insightful commentary on the company’s success in the past year – just arrows.  Schools of arrows, gaggles of arrows, arrows pointing different directions and forming different shapes.  It was the equivalent of doing an interpretive dance at a shareholders meeting.  Not the vision at all I had in mind – and definitely not something I am qualified to create.

I collected my thoughts and walked over to Sasha’s desk with the report in hand to clarify the issue.

“Hey Sasha?” I opened tenuously, trying my best to sound like a competent, clearheaded adult. “Can you help me understand your vision here?  It’s… a little vague…”

Sasha turned in his chair and laughed.  Turns out, the team had conspired to play a joke on me.  Everyone joined in laughing and Sasha explained their plan to see how I’d react to this (almost) totally demoralizing situation.

I tell this story to illuminate a side of Acumen Fund that outsiders don’t normally see.  The extraordinary output of the small Acumen Fund team can lead one (myself included) to believe that everyone here is very nose-to-the-grindstone without time for fun. That, or they’re supported by hundreds of socially-minded elves who left their jobs at the cobbler for a more engaging career at a social venture capital firm.  Turns out, there are no elves, just a great group of incredibly thoughtful, inspired, talented people with a wicked sense of humor to go with their drive for excellence.  And I do mean excellence – this firm punches far above its weight.

I enjoyed working in Communications & Business Development this summer not just because of the great team, but because of the opportunities it afforded me personally and throughout the organization.  As a former communications professional, it was incredibly rewarding to use my professional skill-set for social benefit.  I’ve always been passionate about the power of messages and Acumen Fund’s message makes the job that much easier – and that much more critical.

On another level, the comprehensive nature of my project required me to familiarize myself with Acumen Fund’s internal culture and external personality deeply and quickly.  The breadth of my assignment allowed me to speak with people in every department and geography, which helped me to integrate into the fabric of the organization. Equally important, my team consistently supported my contributions and pushed me to challenge myself to achieve outsized impact.  Although I’m leaving without having seen my project to full completion, I feel a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

It’s been a great summer – and it’s hard to leave.  As a token for my hard work, I’ve been promised an invitation to this year’s Investor Gathering and 10-Year Celebration.  And now it’s in writing – so no backsies.  See you in November.

Marin Kaleya is a MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School.

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