My Summer of Impact – Ava Damri, 2017 Farber Intern

Jobs have the power to change lives
I have been passionate about promoting the advancement of women in STEM since I was 18.  I pursued an engineering major as an undergraduate student, followed by a career in technology consulting. My passion fueled my search for a summer internship within the education field where I could utilize my MBA skills and work for a cause I care about. However, my plans changed when I discovered REDF’s Farber Internship Program. Although the focus is not education, the opportunity to apply my MBA skills and work within a large social enterprise tied well into my long-term career goals. After this internship I returned to school as an advocate for workforce advancement because it truly has the power to change lives.

As part of the program, I worked with Goodwill Central Texas (GCT).  Like most people, I was familiar with Goodwill’s retail stores, which primarily resells donated goods to generate funds for their many community programs and services. Did you ever wonder what happens to those goods that do not sell?  Turns out, surplus goods are sent to Goodwill Resource Centers to be sorted and sold in the commodities market. In Austin, Goodwill operates two warehouses, each the size of a football field, with 24×7 logistics operations. In addition, Goodwill manages career advancement courses, a charter high school that provides students from ages 17 to 50 with a second chance to earn their diploma, and several revenue-generating enterprises including Goodwill Staffing Group (GSG).

GSG provides a range of temporary staffing services in both the public (state government) and the private sector. The mission of GSG is to bridge the gap between those seeking employment and companies looking for hardworking employees.

Real projects, with real impact
I was tasked with creating a two-year strategic business plan to grow GSG’s private sector staffing business—a project I knew would not sit on a shelf gathering dust. Austin has a competitive labor market, with unemployment around 3%. It is a booming location for startups and established corporations, but it also has a considerable number of people who face barriers to employment.

I had the opportunity to interview and learn from GCT’s leadership, management, and staff across the organization, as well as GSG’s partner employers some of the current GSG temporary workers. Through my research, I identified areas for growth, evaluated the competition, learned the challenges facing people looking for work in Central Texas and developed strategies to grow the staffing business by 8-10% within the next two years.

The REDF network was crucial to the success of my project. My REDF portfolio manager, REDF staff members, and the eight other Farber Interns provided me with valuable feedback and connected me with staffing organizations across the country.

Prior to my internship, I donated items to Goodwill and received a tax deduction. I now have a new appreciation for all the amazing things Goodwill does to support communities in ways I had never imagined.

Ava Damri is an MBA candidate at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. As an Open Road Fellow, she recently spent one month working with social entrepreneurs across the U.S. Before beginning her MBA, Ava spent six years designing and implementing business technology solutions for public-sector clients at Deloitte Consulting. Throughout college and during her career with Deloitte, Ava put her passion for promoting STEM education into practice by volunteering for organizations dedicated to increasing STEM awareness in young women and minorities. Ava graduated from the Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University with a B.S. in Management Science and an M.S. in Engineering Management and was awarded the 4+1 Leadership and Service Scholarship.

This is part of our Farber Blog Series.