Advancing San Diego Intern Spotlight: Emma Plum, Traits AI

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched this Spring in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students close out their Summer internship experiences, EDC has launched this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the first cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Traits AI, Inc. intern and Mesa College student Emma Plum. A part of the inaugural cohort of host companies, Traits AI is a San Diego-based software company that creates animated artificial intelligence (AI) avatars that you can talk to, like you talk to Siri or Alexa. The company develops Alexa Skills, Google Assistant Actions, and chatbots for clients to help them better serve their customers; but its particular area of focus is on AI avatars that put a face to the voice using an animated avatar that looks like and sounds like the person they represent to help them extend their reach.

People are busy, especially those in in-demand professions like law, healthcare, consulting, and more. In these fields, there’s often only one point-person, but thousands of people who want a little bit of their time. While we cannot duplicate or replace those professionals, Traits AI can extend their reach by automating some of the repetitive parts of what they do on a daily basis. This frees them up to spend more time on things that require their unique skill set and expertise.

Read on for more from Emma.

How has your experience in the ASD Internship Program been, and what projects have been the most meaningful?

I enjoyed my time in the internship at Traits AI. My supervisor Brandon was very understanding and flexible with work schedules. My primary projects were working on Facebook Messenger bots/marketing campaigns and email marketing/automation. These helped my understanding of design in marketing greatly, as well as improved my time management skills.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day-to-day, and what challenges have you faced as a student?

Online learning and the transfer to the online structure has been particularly challenging during this time. Online school is an entirely different beast. Scheduling seems more flexible but between keeping up with everything at home (work, school, clubs, social life), Zoom fatigue hits hard and you have to keep a strict schedule to keep up.

What advice would you give to high school students looking for a successful career in the local software industry?

Be assertive! You don’t know what you don’t know, so reach out to the people who do. Talk to a high school counselor or someone knowledgeable about job opportunities, interview skills, resume reviews, and industry knowledge. Networking can be a gamechanger; go out and email or connect on LinkedIn/social media with industry professionals as you look for advice or job openings. Chase after job opportunities, even the ones you think you won’t get because you never know where you’ll get your foot in the door. Even if you don’t get the job after the interview, that’s a great practice. And don’t be afraid to leave a job if the work environment is toxic.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

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