A note from Dr. Clarke

Like we do every year, our team spent the last few months of 2021 working with EDC’s executive committee, board, and investors to establish annual goals that are informed by current economic realities, led by employers, and have measurable outcomes that contribute to prosperity and competitiveness across the binational region. As San Diego emerges from a global pandemic to an economy full of contradictions—strong job growth, eye-watering VC numbers, and massive capital investment as well as widespread labor shortages, small business closures, and housing prices almost 30 percent higher than 2019—it is abundantly clear that smart economic development is inclusive economic development.

In 2021, EDC reframed our organizational goals around these fundamental building blocks of a strong economy—quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households—and committed to working with and through our investors to accelerate progress towards these Inclusive Growth goals. In 2022, resilience means connecting more people to innovation industries; competitiveness means more San Diegans have the skills the economy needs; and prosperity means that working families can afford to live here. Please find EDC’s 2022 goals outlined below.

JOBS

Goal: The region needs to create 50K quality small business jobs by 2030.

EDC will contribute to this goal in 2022 through:

  • Industry Insight: Track regional business sentiment and economic resilience via regular research publications, and complete AI industry series.
  • Business Services: Execute 250+ business expansion, attraction, and retention projects and support major mixed-use projects, leading to 5,000 quality jobs. Leverage the Life Sciences Task Force to establish a “one-stop-shop” framework for expansion support for Life Sciences industry and major development projects.
  • World Trade Center San Diego: Execute MetroConnect VI export accelerator program and expand the export Small Business Development Center to support 35+ export-ready companies, leading to $5M+ in new international sales. Enhance binational project support in priority industries.

TALENT

Goal: The region must create 20K degreed and credentialed workers per year by 2030.

EDC will contribute to this goal in 2022 through:

  • San Diego: Life. Changing.: Communicate opportunities for diverse, skilled talent in San Diego—especially to strategic competitive markets by enhancing Life Sciences recruiting tools.
  • Advancing San Diego: Maintain employer working groups and network of 40+ Preferred Providers for high-demand occupations, update and release regular talent demand reports, and place 80+ Healthcare and Life Sciences interns.

HOUSEHOLDS

Goal: The region must create 75K newly thriving households by 2030.

EDC will contribute to this goal in 2022 through:

  • Anchor Collaborative: Set shared regional procurement goals for region’s largest purchasers, identify $100 million in new small business spend, and create supplier navigation map.
  • Global Identity: Advance San Diego’s global agenda, support investments in critical infrastructure, and lead Mayoral Thriving Cities trade mission to international market.
  • Inclusive Growth: Create regional alignment on Inclusive Growth goals, launch downtown research and policy collaboration at UCSD’s Park & Market, and execute demonstration project on infrastructure needs.

EDC programs have real, measurable outcomes—supporting thousands of quality jobs, placing hundreds of interns and job seekers, and creating opportunities for millions of dollars of new contracts for small businesses. But ultimately, even the most driven and passionate team won’t substantially move the needle on these ambitious regional goals; we do not ourselves create jobs, train workers, draft policy, or build roads, high-rises, or housing. You do.

EDC can draft the roadmap, but you all—our region’s largest employers—are the only ones who will get us there, through working collaboratively and creatively to accelerate progress towards our regional 2030 goals. That is what “with and through” our investors means, and we at EDC can’t wait to get started.

– Nikia

READ EDC’S MONTHLY REPORT

READ EDC’S 2021 ANNUAL REPORT

SEE SAN DIEGO’S GOOD NEWS OF THE YEAR

Advancing San Diego, employers identify highest regional talent needs

Now in its sixth round, Advancing San Diego (ASD) addresses skilled talent shortages and increases diversity in high-growth, high-demand jobs. A program of EDC and key community partners, ASD leads employer collaboratives that recognize local training programs most effectively preparing San Diegans for quality jobs; pairing students of those programs with local employers for paid internships; and strengthening community partnerships to power San Diego’s talent pipeline of tomorrow. 

To help students build meaningful careers in local, high-demand jobs in key industries, ASD welcomed its Business and Manufacturing cohorts this year, pairing 48 student interns with 25 small companies, of which 19 were woman-, person of color-, veteran-, or disabled-owned. All of the 48 student interns were considered priority students, meaning they identified with a historically under-resourced population, are a first generation or community college student, or currently live or went to high school in a low income neighborhood of San Diego. 

ASD is currently convening employers from the Healthcare industry and has recognized seven programs as Preferred Providers for their work in training Medical Assistants. Students from those programs will be placed in internships beginning in early 2022. See the full network of Preferred Providers here

Advancing San Diego by the numbers, 2021

48

student interns placed

25

small companies paired with high-demand talent

99

job applications submitted on Career Exploration Day

A core part of this work includes direct collaboration with industry. ASD convened six working groups made up of industry leaders from San Diego companies including Northrop Grumman, Rady Children’s Hospital, and Takeda, among others, who together shared the most-needed roles in their firms by sector. Each of their findings were summarized in the talent demand reports below:

These reports serve to inform curriculum for universities and education programs to develop our regional talent pipeline.

Learn more and get involved here, or contact us!

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Manager, Talent Initiatives


What we learned at Career Exploration Day 2021

San Diego’s economy, made up of innovative companies doing life-changing work, is fueled by skilled talent. Each job in the innovation economy supports another two jobs in the region, allowing for San Diego’s rapid economic growth despite a global pandemic. However, future growth is threatened by barriers to quality employment that many San Diegans face. Changing skill requirements, existing demographic gaps in educational attainment, and a nationwide battle for talent, coupled with a soaring cost of living, continue to threaten San Diego’s competitiveness as a region.

As we work to get San Diego’s recovery right and build a more equitable, inclusive region, EDC’s Advancing San Diego (ASD) program aims to better prepare San Diegans for quality jobs, and expand access to diverse, qualified talent for San Diego companies. As part of this work, ASD hosted its second annual Career Exploration Day and Virtual Career Fair. Sponsored by Qualcomm Incorporated, the virtual event served to connect students from all over San Diego County, who are enrolled in employer-verified training programs, with opportunities across a diverse range of industries and professions. Via an online platform, ASD connected nearly 100 local students with 22 companies including startups Smartville and Flock Freight, established firms Booz Allen Hamilton and San Diego Gas & Electric, and many more. In the day-long event, students and employers had the opportunity to network and interview, share job opportunities, and listen in on career exploration panels with professionals in high-demand roles and industries.

“At Qualcomm, we’re looking to expand our recruitment of diverse talent while cultivating new opportunities to hire locally”, said Heather Ace, Chief Human Resources Officer at Qualcomm Incorporated. “Career Exploration Day offers us the opportunity to both connect with potential local candidates and support the broader talent development efforts being driven by the EDC here in San Diego.”

ICYMI, here’s what we learned from the event

1. Be a chameleon; learn to adapt:

COVID-19 has made one thing clear: Your plans may change. Different externalities will force you to change your strategies and the way you work. Take this opportunity to learn to be adaptable; this will help you be successful into the future.

As Sharp Healthcare’s Talent Acquisition Specialist Jason Pijapaert shared in the Healthcare and Life Sciences panel, “Being able to roll with the punches and having the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse group of people that have different mindsets, expertise, and opinions is vital in any workplace. Being adaptable to your environment and the different challenges that you will inevitably be presented with will allow you to grow and be better at what you do.”

2. Consider opportunities to say “Yes”:

Now, we’re not talking about taking on unimaginable workloads or saying yes beyond your boundaries. Instead, we mean saying yes to new opportunities, yes to learning new things, yes to working with a different team, yes to taking risks.

Lalitta Ghandikota, Senior Director of Talent at Element Biosciences, shared in the Healthcare and Life Sciences panel the key to her success has been saying yes to every opportunity. In the beginning, it may seem like you know nothing about what you just got yourself into, but those will be the times when you will have the most fun growing and learning. “I always say that the time in your career where you are having the most fun is also probably when you are most terrified,” she said.

3. Take time to learn: 

With millions of websites and video tutorials available, taking the time to learn a new skill or improve an existing one will give you an important advantage when looking for a job or an internship.

Dr. Michael Alston, Senior Staff Engineer at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., says our most valuable employees innovate in ways that increase the productivity of other employees or create new products or services. On the Engineering and Manufacturing panel, he shared, “for students, websites like code.org (which teaches computational thinking), and Python.org (a versatile, widely-used coding language) are great platforms for building skills useful for innovation.”

4. Don’t forget about soft skills:

While hard skills like coding or data mining are crucial for certain roles, leveraging your soft skills can help you stand out. The ability to manage your time effectively, think critically about a problem, absorb constructive criticism, communicate effectively both internally and externally, and collaborate across teams is just as valuable as knowing a particular programming language.

Regardless of your industry or position, you’ll always need to work effectively with people of different backgrounds and skills to get a project done well. Leverage these skills when you’re speaking with recruiters to showcase a different facet of professional strength.

What now?

  • Interested in careers in key industry sectors? Visit ASD’s Preferred Provider Map where you can find leading training programs that have been certified by employers.
    • Looking to join our network of Preferred Providers? Sign up to get updates on ASD’s future talent pipeline management work.
  • Looking for skilled local talent? Contact Taylor Dunne, Talent Initiatives Manager, and we will help you get in touch with San Diego’s skilled talent pool.
  • Check out jobs at Qualcomm and many other local firms hiring across San Diego.
  • Learn more at AdvancingSD.org

Release: Life Sciences Talent Demand Report and Preferred Provider Application

Advancing San Diego has released its sixth Talent Demand Report, this time focusing on the Life Sciences industry. Advancing San Diego joined forces with Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) to collaborate on a first-of-its-kind cross-regional workforce development study between two California metros using the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management framework. The two organizations worked together to identify:

  • A high-demand occupation in need of a strengthened and diversified talent pipeline
  • The skills needed to fill that occupation in an industry that fuels the economies of both regions.

By engaging employers from both San Diego and Los Angeles, some of which have locations in both regions, Advancing San Diego and LAEDC are working to create a common language and understanding of employer need throughout Southern California.

VIEW THE FULL REPORT

APPLY TO BE A PREFERRED PROVIDER OF LIFE SCIENCES TALENT

 

Resources

  • Watch the Talent Demand Webinar where we release the report and walk through the application process HERE.
  • View and download the full list of skills criteria HERE.
  • Download a Google Doc version of the Preferred Provider application to prepare responses HERE.

About Advancing San Diego:

Advancing San Diego is a collaborative effort to better prepare San Diegans for quality jobs via locally-serving education institutions and expand access to diverse, qualified talent for San Diego companies. The program works to help the region meet its inclusive growth goals by strengthening relationships between local industry and education systems. Better alignment between these systems will mean that the region can collectively prepare San Diegans for high-demand jobs, and local employers – many of which are small companies – can establish or expand recruitment relationships with locally-serving institutions. Learn more about the program here.

How we do it:

  • Gather job skills requirements through employer working groups
  • Share insights with education partners and publicly recognize programs as industry-approved Preferred Providers of talent
  • Build a network of locally-serving Preferred Provider programs and connect companies to students of those programs, including fully-subsidized internships for small companies

 

The collaboration between Advancing San Diego and LAEDC was made possible by:

Advancing San Diego is made possible by JP Morgan Chase, and is a collaborative effort by the following organizations:

Other resources you may be interested in:

Questions? Contact us:

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Manager, Talent Initiatives

Meet our Advancing San Diego Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent

Meet the Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent.

Fueled by Tech, Defense, and Life Science industries, San Diego’s innovation economy relies on a pipeline of diverse talent. However, local companies continue to cite access to quality talent as a persistent challenge–98 percent of firms in San Diego are small companies (<100 employees) that often lack time and resources to effectively compete for talent with their larger counterparts. Meanwhile, many San Diegans are disconnected from high-demand job opportunities in Healthcare, largely due to education requirements.

Made possible by JPMorgan Chase, Advancing San Diego is a demand-driven strategy to address talent shortages and remove barriers for small companies to access qualified workers. It is a collaborative effort between EDC, San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association, San Diego Workforce Partnership, City of San Diego, and United Way of San Diego.

Over the last six months, Advancing San Diego partners worked with a group of seven employers to develop a skills-based criteria for medical assistants. We asked that any education provider meeting that criteria apply for the Preferred Provider designation. An employer-led review panel then evaluated these applicants against the skills criteria to determine which programs should be designated as ‘Preferred Providers,’ recognized as those most effectively preparing individuals for jobs and internships as medical assistants.

EDC is excited to announce Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent:

How small companies can get involved:

Advancing San Diego will cover the cost of internships for 30 students, sourced from the above Preferred Provider, at small clinics, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities in the region. Selected interns will be paid and have access to additional funds to support their success in the workplace. All students from Preferred Provider programs will be invited to participate in industry engagement opportunities such as career fairs and networking events. Healthcare internships will begin in early 2022.

How education programs can get involved:

Advancing San Diego will continue to designate Preferred Providers in a variety of high-demand fields. Preferred Provider criteria and applications are updated and reviewed on an annual basis. The Preferred Provider application schedule is as follows:

  • SOFTWARE: Revisited Spring 2021
  • ENGINEERING: Closed Summer 2020
  • BUSINESS: Closed Winter 2020
  • MANUFACTURING: Closed Spring 2021
  • HEALTHCARE: Closed Summer 2021 (announcement above)
  • LIFE SCIENCES: Upcoming Winter 2021

For more information, visit AdvancingSD.org.

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Misadventure & Co.

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based employers with fully subsidized interns. This program targets small employers 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 Spring business internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the third cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted. To date, ASD has placed 93 student-interns in local businesses, with $455,000 in total wages and support services paid. 

In this edition, we sat down with Romi Rossel, Content Marketing Manager at Misadventure & Co., a leading provider of vodka production and sustainability.

Read on for more about ASD intern host Misadventure & Co.

Romi Rossel, with Advancing San Diego interns, Andreapaola Loda (right) and Michelle Bodi (left).

Tell us about your company.

Misadventure & Co. is the world’s first carbon negative distillery, and the first and only to upcycle excess baked goods into an award winning spirit. Our vodka is smooth and upcycled certified. The best part? Consumers get to help save the world just by having a drink! Our tasting room and production facility are located in Vista, and we are known for our delicious craft cocktails, sustainable vodka, and wonderful atmosphere.

Why was your company founded?  

It all started in 2013 with a chance meeting at a North County San Diego bar between the two founders. Whit Rigali, the bartender, wanted to create local craft spirits as tools for other bartenders. Sam Chereskin, the Agricultural Economist, wanted to find ways to improve food systems and show that doing good can also be viable. Their conversation over a glass of whiskey led to the creation of Misadventure & Co. Our vodka is not just a product of four years of R&D, but lessons learned through the San Diego brewing and distilling communities, and our wonderful friends and family. We desire to make quality spirits and create them sustainably. With food waste prevention being the number one solution to climate change, we are focusing on educating our community on finding creative ways to help the environment, and choosing products that can help make the world a better place.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

We are excited to further develop both our hospitality and distribution channels. Increasing our production would allow us to make a bigger positive impact on the environment.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

As a result of the pandemic, we expanded our forecasting capabilities beyond traditional weather variables like temperature and relative humidity, as we were involved in a project in collaboration with NASA scientists to understand the effects of COVID-19 in the upcoming forest fire season. Further, Misadventure pivoted into producing hand sanitizer to support the uptick in sanitation needs amid pandemic. That experience not only allowed us to stay in business through 2020, but also opened up a whole different set of possibilities for us. We realized that we are not only a distillery producing high quality spirits, but also a sustainable ethanol manufacturer that can be used in many other industries from food production to cosmetics.

Tell us about your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego. 

We have been extremely lucky to work with other amazing organizations and companies that support what we do. San Diego has a very tight sustainable community as well as a great distilling and brewing community that encourages collaboration and assistance. CAL Recycle has been extremely helpful in providing grants to fund pieces of equipment that have helped us increase and improve our production. We also love working with other anti-food waste organizations such as Kitchens for Good and Oceanside Kitchen Collaborative, and we are proud to say we are founding members of the new nonprofit organization Sustainability is Sexy.

The most special thing about the San Diego business community is that is a very collaborative community. There is always a genuine interest from people to help each other and grow together, especially when it comes to making positive changes in the world.

How did you find out ASD and how has your experience been? Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

We found out about ASD through a contact at California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) who shared the internship opportunity with us. Our interns provided strong support for our marketing campaigns by doing market research that allowed us to grow our social media presence and bring more foot traffic to our tasting room.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

  • Website: misadventure.co
  • Social Media: @misadventureco
  • Email: info@misadventure.co

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A note from Mark…

San Diego’s healthcare workforce accounts for 13 percent of all jobs within the local economy. And these more than 186,000 jobs touch the lives of every San Diegan, every day. This has never been more evident than over the last 18 months.

Pressure mounting

When the pandemic started, I remember hearing my neighbors out in the streets cheering nightly for our healthcare workers. San Diegans jumped into motion to drop off food and other gifts for personnel putting their lives on the line to treat patients across the region’s hospitals. Yet over the last several months, finding anyone acknowledging the contributions and commitments of our healthcare workforce has been much harder to come by. The conversations in the streets outside my home and on my social media feeds have moved on to other issues and topics. Yet the stresses, challenges, frustrations, and weight that we have placed on the shoulders of our healthcare workforce have only grown.

For decades, higher education, workforce development, and healthcare systems have worked together to address workforce shortages in this industry and others. New programs have been developed and creative ideas and solutions have (just barely) helped ensure that healthcare systems keep pace with the increasing demand and changing needs. These partnerships, programs, ideas, and solutions will be needed more than ever as we work to deal with increasing staffing shortages, as well as the exhaustion, fatigue, and strains that the circumstances of the pandemic have caused.

Advancing San Diego to host healthcare round

In the weeks ahead, our team at EDC is kicking off Advancing San Diego’s healthcare cohort. Now in its fifth round, Advancing San Diego is focused on addressing skilled talent shortages and increasing diversity in high-growth, high-demand jobs. Sourced from our Preferred Providers of Healthcare Talent (TBA), we will place up to 30 Medical Assistant (MA) students in 240-hour paid work experiences at local health offices, at no cost to the business. Learn more on MA demand here. Applications open late September.

On top of this, we will be reaching out to existing networks and consortiums already engaged in this work to see what additional resources we can bring to the table—and we welcome the involvement and support of any EDC investors in this critical work.

We know that nurses and advanced healthcare professionals cannot be created overnight. So, as we think of ways to ensure that the pipeline of future healthcare workers remains strong, it is increasingly important to recognize, incentivize, and reward those who have spent the last year and a half in the thick of a battle that still does not have an end in sight. We all owe them more than I can possibly put into words.

Additional information on EDC’s work is featured and linked below, and as always, we know that none of it would be possible without your leadership, investment, and support. Thank you for always putting us in the position to do work that matters for our economy and our community.

With gratitude and optimism,

Mark Cafferty

Read EDC’s Monthly Report

San Diego health systems are hiring:

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Benchmark Labs

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based employers with fully subsidized interns. This program targets small employers 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 are closing out their Spring business internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the third cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted. To date, ASD has placed 93 student-interns in local businesses, with $455,000 in total wages and support services paid. 

In this feature, we sat down with Carlos Gaitan, CEO and Co-Founder at Benchmark Labs. As part of the third cohort of host companies, Benchmark Labs is a leading provider of IoT-based weather forecasting solutions for the agriculture, energy, and insurance sectors.

Read on for more about ASD intern host Benchmark Labs.

Tell us about your company?  

Benchmark Labs provides asset-specific environmental forecasting for the agricultural, energy, and insurance sectors. We do so by incorporating in-situ IoT sensor data, machine learning techniques, and weather information to provide actionable forecasts tailored to specific locations and sensors. We recently moved our headquarters from San Francisco to San Diego with the help of EDC, and our main office is at UTC, courtesy of The BlueTech Incubator.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

We founded Benchmark Labs to improve operational margins of farmers by bringing state of the art environmental forecasting technologies to farmers all over the world. We understood that although microclimates create substantial environmental differences between farms, those differences are not reflected in the weather forecasts available to asset managers, as the current generation of weather models divide the world in grids and everyone inside a grid box receives exactly the same forecast.

How did you find out about Advancing San Diego and how your experience has been? Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.  

We became aware of Advancing San Diego thanks to the great team at The Maritime Alliance and the Bluetech Incubator. ASD’s Internship Program aided us in finding local talent in the areas of software engineering and business research. From the company perspective, we believe in giving back to the community and in providing those first training and work opportunities to local students, and we couldn’t be happier with the human and technical capabilities of our current and past interns. Our interns have made us a better company by bringing new voices and experiences to solve our technical challenges.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

We are excited about future opportunities for Benchmark Labs and for the region. We were recently awarded a highly competitive National Science Foundation Small Business Research Grant to further develop our forecasting technology and to bring it to market. We will soon have job openings in market research, software engineering, data science, marketing and sales.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

As a result of the pandemic, we expanded our forecasting capabilities beyond traditional weather variables like temperature and relative humidity, as we were involved in a project, in collaboration with NASA scientists, to understand the effects of COVID-19 in the upcoming forest fire season.

Tell us about your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego. 

We are very grateful to EDC for their support during our company relocation and with the internship program. Benchmark Labs has been fortunate to find great mentors, organizations, and local resources during the last few years. We want to highlight the support of Cleantech San Diego, the Southern California Energy Innovation Network, The Maritime Alliance and the The Bluetech Incubator, and the services provided by Connect and the San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center.

What is special about San Diego’s business community, and the talent that drives it? 

San Diego’s business community is special as there is substantial collaboration between founders, government, and academia. We strongly believe that San Diego’s workforce can support cutting-edge research in environmental science and that the academic programs offered by local institutions provide skills that are directly transferable to work in the private sector.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

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Advancing San Diego Intern Spotlight: Oderah & Jo Christian, Benchmark Labs

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based employers fully subsidized interns. This program targets small employers 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 are closing out their Spring business internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the third cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted. To date, ASD has placed 93 student-interns in local businesses, with $455,000 in total wages and support services paid. 

Oderah Ahiligwo (above)

This week, we sat down with Oderah Ahiligwo and Jo Christian Arenas, ASD interns at Benchmark Labs, a leading provider of IoT-based weather forecasting solutions for the agriculture, energy, and insurance sectors. The firm’s service helps reduce operating costs using proprietary machine learning software to provide precise asset specific weather forecasting.

Read on for more from Oderah (OA) and Jo Christian (JCA).

Tell us about yourself. 

OA: I am a former student athlete who enjoys swimming, investing, and conversing with many different types of people. I recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in economics and I am returning in the Fall to obtain my master’s in finance. After college, I aspire to have a career in the finance sector and hope to one day open a wealth management firm to help individuals become financially secure. Protecting the environment is something I also am interested in doing, which is why I’d like to focus on investing in companies with a high environmental, social, and governance (ESG) score. Fortunately, this summer I was afforded the opportunity to work at Benchmark Labs, an environmental service company as a market research analyst intern.

JCA: I am a student at California State University San Marcos and this is my first internship. I am currently a market research analyst intern at Benchmark Labs and I would like to thank both San Diego Regional EDC and Carlos Gaitan, CEO and Co-Founder of Benchmark Labs, for the opportunity they have given me. Carlos is an excellent leader, supporting his staff whenever challenges arise, and ensuring that his interns have a fun and educational experience.

Jo Christian Arenas (above)

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

OA: My experience in the Advancing San Diego Internship Program has been wonderful. Working in a startup environment is fast paced and exciting. Just like any company, there are many moving parts but generally in startups, you get exposure to many different areas of business. One day I will be studying competitor’s pricing strategies and the next day I will be looking over a script for our videographer. The most meaningful work I did at Benchmark Labs was market research, which is a process that every company should engage in because it is often extremely rewarding. The conversations I had with potential customers helped shape the products that Benchmark Labs will offer next year.

JCA: It was a unique experience for me, considering I am an accounting student doing market research for the company. Part of my project is customer discovery, which includes calling companies for short interviews. I have learned to be patient with companies in my conversations with them, especially with the support from my leader, Carlos, since the work can be tough as times. It can also be rewarding when you receive those positive interactions with businesses, which at the end of the day, help inform Benchmark Labs on its product selection. Doing work outside your field brings in perspective, which is why I am very glad I took this internship.

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

OA: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected my day-to-day in many ways. I consider myself an extrovert and this explains why I find joy in creating relationships with new people. A university is usually a great place to do this, however, going to school virtually has made this more difficult. On top of this, I found learning solely through a computer screen is not my forte. A classroom setting is often more engaging and the pandemic required me to adapt to a new way of life.

JCA: I believe I am facing the same predicament as any other student during the pandemic, and that is finding motivation to get up from bed everyday. My internship is work-from-home and there were times where I was experiencing burnout from being being constrained to my room for the workday. What I did find helpful was the mentorship and positive reinforcement from Carlos and the team at Benchmark Labs.

What advice would you give to high school students looking for a successful career? 

OA: My advice to high school students would be to seek out every opportunity you see to learn and gain experience. Throughout your college journey, there will be opportunities to grow in different areas of business; reach out to them so you can develop a diverse set of skills and separate yourself from your peers. This will often lead to more opportunities and enable you to create a larger impact wherever you end up.

JCA: My advice is to network, whether it be on professional online business platforms or in-person business events. Getting your name out there raises the probability of you finding the work you desire. Also, be confident and learn to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and the Internship Program.

Company contact info and additional information:

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Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Meri Consulting Services

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based employers with fully subsidized interns. This program targets small employers 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 are closing out their Spring business internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the third cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Meri Birhane, CEO at Meri Consulting Services. As part of the third cohort of host companies, Meri Consulting Services provides social media management services, LinkedIn coaching, and sales training for sales teams. The team helps businesses book more meetings and generate more revenue without cold calls.

Read on for more about ASD intern host Meri Consulting Services.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

It all began with an idea. In 2017, Meri Consulting Services, a Black-owned and woman-led consulting firm was founded to help businesses book more sales meetings, increase revenue, and reduce sales rep churn and burn. We do this through social media management services, sales coaching, and LinkedIn training. Passionate about giving back, we also host monthly “Empowerment Mastermind” events to provide opportunities for minority founders who have been historically underfunded.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

Meri Consulting’s growth means expanding our social media management services to reach more businesses and creating digital courses to reach more clients.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

Meri Consulting Services focused on fractional VP of sales services but with COVID-19 clients needed new ways to connect with customers. This created more demand for our digital marketing services and LinkedIn coaching services.

Tell us about your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego. 

The CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center was the most valuable accelerator program as I obtained mentoring and a $5,000 grant. This led to a lot of exposure for my business and access to mentors. Furthermore, Advancing San Diego, in partnership with Manpower, helped me get two superstar marketing interns (Chinnery and Michelle) helping me take my business to the next level.

 

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

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