Social Impact Internships: Sarah Wertheimer (’22)
My name is Sarah Wertheimer. I’m a rising senior majoring in Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science. This summer, I interned at a public benefit corporation called NeedsList.
Starting my very first day, I was blown away by the work culture, impact, and thoughtfulness I was seeing. So many things inspired me about the company. I got to work at an organization that was using human-centered design to build a software product that not only increased aid efficiency, but was designed to center the needs of the affected populations on the ground and the services and supplies that local NGOs and businesses were able to offer them.
Important and thought-provoking questions were being discussed and acted on in real time. I got to participate in discussions around demographic reporting, trying to balance documenting and measure your impact as best you can to ensure that you are helping the populations you set out to help and that your organization is grant money well spent, while at the same time not wanting to overburden the local organizations on the ground with long questionnaires or a software platform too unwieldy for the actual users.
I really appreciated being able to work on a meaningful project with the coding skills I had, while broadening and improving my coding skills along the way. I took on a smaller side project and learned HTML and CSS to update a help page. These new skills came in handy during my main project, where I updated the UI test suites to match the new design of the software. This way the tests could be run proactively to check that a new update wouldn’t harm any of the flows that users relied on.
Beyond the technical side, I was inspired by how user-focused the process for adding new features was. The UI/UX lead and the product lead repeatedly lent more weight to the comments coming from regular users of the platform than the ideas they had in their heads of how a feature would best be designed.
Most of all, I was inspired that a small group of people could make such an impact — not by some superpower or by driving themselves into the ground working long hours (on the contrary, I loved seeing the “taking a break to go play soccer because it’s nice out” messages in our team Slack channel) — but rather by being at the nexus of so many other organizations and communities looking to help each other, and connecting them.