Honors Cohort students in Chicago the fall of 2021

Although the pandemic has impeded learning, collaboration and mentorship, individuals who have embraced the added complexity have produced immense results and acquired new skills along the way.

Students in Fisher's Honors Cohort program, such as Sami Hidmi and Saba Setegn, are no exception. The fourth-year students and members of the 24th Cohort displayed the grit and adaptability required by the pandemic to generate quality experiential learning opportunities for themselves.

Sami Hidmi
Sami Hidmi

Hidmi, an information systems major from Columbus, Ohio, began engaging with technology at a young age. When he was 13, he leveraged an interest in sneakers and an urge to invent by developing sneaker resale software.

Upon arriving at Ohio State, Hidmi elected to dedicate his studies to computer science and secured an internship as a lead generation specialist at Beam Dental during his freshman year. There, he utilized data to analyze insurance brokers and assign leads to territories.

As a member of the first Cohort class to grapple with virtual internships, Hidmi discovered new ways in which technology could be utilized and how he would have to adjust to reap the benefits.

Those adjustments were mirrored throughout the Cohort program. While Cohort members were able to travel to Chicago and San Francisco (and hopes to travel to Chile this spring), many of its larger events have been held virtually.

"It can be difficult to build relationships virtually, but it has been amazing to see the Cohort adapt," Hidmi said. "The speakers have been phenomenal, providing us with multiple perspectives on career paths and assuring us that the process can look different for everyone. Our class has organized weekly coffee chats, allowing us to develop great chemistry as a group."

The program's curriculum has focused on the skills needed to interview and collaborate more meaningfully virtually. This has bolstered the creativity of the program's impact projects and inspired students to seek out unique opportunities.

Hidmi's impact team created a platform for students to talk about their backgrounds and cultures. He secured an advisory internship with PwC during his second year at Fisher and returned the next year.

Hidmi's first summer with PwC was cut from eight weeks to four. He honed in on what he could control.

"I worked to discover my strengths and provide the best value to my team," he said. "I prioritized learning the company's systems. I focused on looking into the camera and making sure that my workspace best represented who I am."

Onboarding was a challenge virtually, but Hidmi felt that the flexibility of remote work promoted efficiency. By working in ways that best motivated him, he completed two client-facing projects throughout his two summers with PwC, designing dashboards and virtual desktop infrastructure. Upon graduation, he hopes to join the organization in Chicago full-time.

Hidmi's classmate Saba Setegn, a finance major from Mason, Ohio, who is minoring in philosophy, took advantage of digital resources to navigate a more winding career path and discover her passions.

Saba Setegn
Saba Setegn

Setegn spent the summer of her first year as an internal audit intern at Cincinnati Insurance Companies, where she optimized workflow in its commercial audit department. The following summer, she enrolled in JPMorgan Chase’s Leadership Development Program, where she helped launch new Chase branches and helped connect a local business loan provider with minority-owned businesses.

Although her Chase internship was shortened to five virtual weeks, Setegn was able to learn more about herself.

"I was not sure the path I was on was for me. As peers of mine began planning next steps, I had to cope with uncertainty," she said.

Setegn found the answer in one of Cohort’s core courses: Organizational Behavior with Professor Steffanie Wilk.

"Professor Wilk's course was a game-changer for me," Setegn said. "She is an awesome professor. Everything we learned in that class struck up a passion in me. I was fascinated by how companies organize employee data and how their care for employees affects the bottom line. The amount of effort put into Cohort classes motivates me to engage."

Setegn scoured her network for opportunities that aligned with the ideas Wilk presented in class. She discovered an employee experience internship with Salesforce, a company looking to further its investments in human capital. Given today's competitive workforce market, Salesforce's Mulesoft subsidiary was piloting the internship program within its marketing department and hired Setegn as its first intern.

Setegn's analysis work in the role highlighted the department's inflating burnout problem.

"Many employees were tired of working from home," she said. "It was great to hear what solutions they had for making the company a better place to work."

Setegn acknowledged that her remote internship required her to be more proactive in gathering data.

"Instead of using surveys, I pushed to interview employees personally to see what they were experiencing," she said.

Setegn found that regular check-ins with employees and additional clarity on priorities were keys to reenergizing the team. Mulesoft and Setegn's manager rallied around her findings.

"They empowered me to be confident in my decision-making skills. I had never been given that much autonomy before," she said.

Despite her plans to leave the company, Setegn's manager stayed until Setegn's internship concluded, ensuring her projects were implemented and that Setegn could envision her future at Salesforce. Her manager hosted Setegn in San Francisco as well, helping her evaluate more personal decisions.

Setegn will be joining digital consulting firm Publicis Sapient as a product manager post-graduation.

Tyler (Ty) Shepfer Senior Lecturer, Director, Honors Cohort Program, Academic Director, Master of Human Resource Management Program
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