In September 2021, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post from Student Career Studio — a platform that bridges the gap between opportunities and minority students — that caught my eye:
“Figma — Internship Opportunity, Early Career Program Manager Intern. Help develop on-campus engagement for HBCUs and HSI’s.”
It was as if the opportunity was custom made for me. I had always been interested in the mechanics of recruiting, and as a student at Howard University I knew the ins and outs of what students from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) look for in companies they’re applying to. I applied immediately.
Even though I had worked with organizations on- and off-campus at Howard, this would be the first time I would go through the internship application and interview process. I was a little bit nervous, but thankfully the Figma Recruiting team made the whole exercise a breeze.
A little while after applying, I received a note from Kristen Dauler, Figma’s early career recruiting manager and the hiring manager for this internship. We scheduled time to discuss the role to see if it would be the right fit. Kristen walked me through all things Early Career at Figma, as well as what to expect in the interview process and Figma’s company culture. What stood out to me was how clearly Figma invests in its employees, from interns to executives. One of my top priorities in joining a company is being a part of a team where I feel valued, and from my very first conversation with Kristen I knew I had found the place for me.
After speaking with Kristen, I was scheduled for my virtual onsite to meet with the rest of the Early Career Recruiting team. I was both excited and nervous. I had four interviews in one day with everyone on the team and was anxious to get them started. As soon as the camera came on and my first interview started I realized something: I was totally overdressed! I had come ready for a very formal, rigid interview and instead the team wanted to know about my interests, passions, and how I wanted to grow as an individual. It was a breath of fresh air; I eased up and relaxed. I felt like I could authentically bring my entire self to the interview sessions and talk about why this role was perfect for me.
After we said our goodbyes and I thanked the team for their time, Kristen gave me a call with some exciting news: An offer to join the Early Career Recruiting team as a program manager intern!
In the spring of 2022, I packed all of my belongings and flew from North Carolina to San Francisco with my mom and grandma right beside me. My first day was May 23rd, and the first few days of my internship were full of virtual onboarding and getting to meet my “Figtern” cohort.
I worked both from home and the San Francisco hub office during my internship, and I loved the flexibility that hybrid work gave me. Going into the office a couple of days out of the week allowed me to communicate frequently and effectively with my mentor and manager as well as bond with other interns.
The Early Career team did a great job of making the intern class feel like we were part of the company. All of the interns were invited to participate in an intern-specific AMA with Figma co-founder Dylan Field where we talked to him about everything from the future of the company to his personal interests outside of work. I love how approachable and accessible Figma’s leadership was to interns; we felt like a priority.
The Early Career Recruiting team owns strategy and hiring for all interns and early career hires with up to 12-months of industry experience. It's a small but mighty dream team and they welcomed me with open arms even before I started my internship. The team’s size meant that I was able to connect with all of them and build real bonds.
I had a lot to learn working on the program management side of recruiting, but it was clear that the team was invested in my growth. I had biweekly one-on-ones with everyone on the team and they helped me to understand everything from interview processes, our fall recruiting strategy, and how we collaborate with our external partners. One thing that I love about working on the Early Career team is that we engage with a lot of other teams within Figma like Engineering, Design, and Marketing which helps us create a more holistic applicant experience for potential new Figmates.
I was placed on the programs team and assigned to work on numerous projects with my mentor Ashley Nair, Figma’s Early Career program manager. Some highlights were being able to collaborate with Ashley and my fellow interns on different Maker Week projects as well as helping out with Fignite, an annual week-long program geared towards providing interview prep for underserved communities interested in software engineering internship and early career roles. My experience with Fignite was the inspiration for the project at the center of my internship: Helping Figma develop a strategy for recruiting HBCU students like my classmates at Howard.
Developing an HBCU strategy at Figma was a big undertaking, but I felt empowered by the rest of the Early Career team to make the project my own. I conducted various team and cross-functional 1:1s as well as led team brainstorming sessions to collaboratively create a strategy for Figma to interact with HBCUs on-campus and virtually this season. The ownership and impact of leading such an important strategy is one I don't take lightly. Both my grandmother and I attended HBCUs, and the passion for supporting HBCUs is embedded within me.
The work I did felt vital: We were laying the foundation for building important and lasting relationships with HBCU communities, something I felt was lacking in the tech world at large. Before coming to Figma, I thought that the tech industry was this exclusive space where I wouldn’t fit in because I’m not an engineer. But what I’ve come to realize is that you can have a non-technical role in the tech industry. I can work as an Early Career Recruiter without having had experience in coding and still be fully supported by a company and team which I feel like most students don’t know.
Still, there's always more tech companies can do to bring more representation through the door. Many Black and Brown students shy away from the industry because they feel like they won’t belong, and those in tech can often feel like they’re isolated. That’s part of what made my project feel so important; by helping build a bridge between HBCUs and a company like Figma, we can help address challenging areas and ensure all students feel a sense of inclusion, equity, and belonging.
There was a lot to consider when approaching this project, including selecting specific schools or utilizing an external partnership. My typical schedule involved biweekly 1:1s with my mentor Ashley Nair. She has been there to guide me through my entire internship experience and to advise me on the different projects that I've worked on. I am very lucky to have been paired up with her as she’s someone that I look up to and has given me great insight into my HBCU project.
One of the first days that I came into the office I was greeted with a warm welcome from Dylan Field, the CEO of Figma. The fact that I ran into him in the office on day one surprised me because I didn’t think that he would be as easy to run into as he was. Most of the time when you think of a CEO you think that they’re too busy to interact with anyone. The leadership at Figma are all proud supporters of the interns and are always available to chat one on one with us.
As an intern, you’re given a buddy who is a fellow Figmate that helps Figterns with transitioning into Figma. My buddy Vamsita Venna, a recruiting coordinator, noticed my interest in DEIB and brought me in to help plan a Pride happy hour for the Figma SF office.
Before even coming into the office I knew I wanted to be involved in Figma’s company culture and ERGs. Figma has many ERG options to choose from whether you identify with them or support them as an ally. BLX and Pride were two ERGs that stuck out to me the most with me being a part of the Black community and being a proud ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. (Figma is growing so much that BLX recently split into two different ERGs: Black@Figma and Latinx/Latine Figmates.) Joining an ERG during my internship was important to me because it’s at the heart of Figma’s mission and values. The minute I joined the BLX ERG slack channel my messages were flooded with welcome notes and many people put some time on my calendar to have a 1:1 with me and introduce themselves as a support system as well. I appreciate how the ERGs at Figma are all about building community and that throughout my internship I’ve been able to build relationships with people outside of my team.
During my time at Figma I’ve learned many personal and professional lessons from the people I’ve interacted with and situations I’ve been exposed to. One of the main lessons that I’ve learned is to challenge myself. Challenge myself to think bigger and to not limit myself. Oftentimes we find it easy to just do what we’re told and to not do more. Through challenging myself I’ve tapped into my creativity and even took the lead on projects that I felt compelled to take on.
I have also realized the importance of knowing that I belong in the tech space and that I am here for a reason. Being as though I’m the only non tech intern in this summer’s 2022 cohort and I don't attend a traditional ivy league school I had doubts of if I am just as smart as my peers around me. Through this internship I’ve discovered that I do have a seat at the table and that my opinions matter. My role as an Early Career intern is just as important as anyone else’s. Tech isn’t so scary after all!
I’d like to express gratitude to my manager Kristen Dauler, mentor Ashley Nair, the rest of the Early Career team (Hannah O’Toole, Isaac Hanson, Angie Calderon, Carolynn Choi), my fellow Figterns and all Figmates for making me feel like family this summer. I look forward to seeing how my HBCU strategy comes to fruition this fall and its impact on Figma for years to come.