The Future is Bright – An Interview with CBT Intern, Thulasi Ramesh
Today I had the great pleasure of speaking with Thulasi Ramesh, an ambitious, optimistic and hard-working CBT intern and full-time college student. While it is hard to believe how much life a sophomore in college has already lived, it is inspiring to realize how much life is still in front of her. Humble beginnings, rooted in an impoverished part of India, Thulasi has seized every opportunity presented to her and has made a positive impact throughout her life. How much she has already accomplished is beyond impressive, and yet she has grand visions and goals for the future, with a common theme of giving back and being a positive change agent. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I have. Here is what we talked about:
Question: What are your interests and hobbies?
Thulasi: I appreciate the outdoors and enjoy hiking and rock climbing with my friends, but I also enjoy solitude and so I often spend my time reading and watching my favorite shows. I love to travel and believe that it is never a waste of money to experience new places, meet new people, and try new things.
Question: Tell me about Shanti Bhavan. What is that program and how did it impact your life?
Thulasi: I am my mother’s only child. She was raising me on her own which was very difficult, as there was a lot of abuse surrounding us, and being a girl, I was especially vulnerable. There was always yelling, fighting, and emotional abuse. My mom spoke to a local doctor about our situation and learned about Shanti Bhavan, a boarding school outside of Bangalore that helps kids like me to get out of these situations. At the age of 4, my mom made the incredible sacrifice of letting me go there so I could be in a safe environment, where I could grow and challenge myself and my thoughts. Shanti Bhavan not only provided me with formal education but also instilled values in me, like patience, courage, and honesty. I would not have been able to learn this way at home. It was truly a miracle in my life.
Question: What are your goals?
Thulasi: My goal is to start my own organization to give back to society by educating and supporting children with underprivileged backgrounds.
When I was in high school I volunteered for an education project that focused on sustainability. I was in Japan at the time, studying abroad, and we were tasked with developing a sustainable model for educating migrant children. I was able to work with the school administration to create a more child-friendly environment. We conducted workshops with the teachers to help them understand the importance of creating an emotionally and physically safe environment to support mental health. My goal is to be in a position to give back in this way, by providing shelter for students, getting them Christmas presents, exposing them to the arts and organizing opportunities for them to interact with a diverse group of college students. I am incredibly grateful for what I have learned and the people I have met, and my goal is to give that opportunity to others.
Question: Can you tell me about how you got this CBT Internship?
Thulasi: I had been looking at internship opportunities with Facebook, Microsoft, and other big companies and realized it was a long shot. Apparently Jocelyn DeGance Graham, CBT’s Strategic Marketing Lead, had seen the Netflix documentary about Shanti Bhavan, “Daughters of Destiny”, and so she told CBT’s founder and CEO, Kelly Ireland, about it. Kelly visited our school and decided to offer an internship opportunity for our students. While at a board meeting for Shanti Bhavan the opportunity was brought to my attention. I wanted to learn about business, and CBT’s internship was appealing for that reason. I interviewed for the internship and was so full of pride and gratitude when I learned I got it. When the Coronavirus caused lockdowns I wasn’t sure if I’d get to participate or not, but CBT allowed me to intern from Idaho, even though I was supposed to be in the Bay Area. I am very glad I was able to do it remotely.
Question: Is it true you received a scholarship to attend college in the US?
Thulasi: Yes, it is. The high school I attended in Japan was a part of a huge network called the UWC (United World College) Movement. The values of this school were similar to mine, specifically those around diversity and inclusion. The UWC Movement was actually adopted while I was attending that school, and I met other students from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other parts of the world. An American, Shelby Davis, has a program called the Davis Foundation where UWC scholars can receive up to $20K scholarships to attend undergraduate universities in the US. I applied to the schools that were associated with the program and were awarded a full-tuition scholarship to attend the College of Idaho. It was incredible and life-changing and I’ve met so many people who just want to do good.
Question: What has your internship been like at CBT?
Thulasi: It has been such a unique experience. Jocelyn and the CBT team went out of their way to create an environment that was thoughtful and purposeful for me. The truth is that CBT values its employees just as much as customers. I look back on how when I first started nobody knew me, and so CBT introduced me to teammates who were there to show me how they work and always made sure I was comfortable.
In the beginning, I started a project that was focused on CBT’s Connected Worker platform. We developed a project plan and presented it to the marketing manager and Kelly Ireland. I was surprised to receive real-time feedback, constructive feedback. I am used to doing school projects where you turn it in and wait to get your grade. I was not expecting to have comments so quickly that helped me understand what needed to be done differently. So we took it back and now we are making some changes and presenting them to other teams within CBT. It was a new experience for me to have the timeline extended on a project, but I’m learning now that is common in business.
I have since started a new project, focused on CBT’s slogan: “Technology with a Human Touch”. We are featuring the individual employees, their talents, and the breadth and depth of the team at CBT. One aspect is highlighting diversity and inclusion and I’ve had a chance to help publish some of their D&I content. This project has allowed me to talk to many employees and get to know each of their individual roles. I have been immersed in the company culture, in CBT’s core values. I’ve witnessed how every day each individual plays an important role in the company’s success.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn new technical skills, like writing and publishing blogs, editing videos, partnering with external editors, social media management, and other bits of marketing. I have gained a tremendous amount of unexpected experience and knowledge. The team has included me in the process and have demonstrated how they value me as an intern.
Question: Who/what inspires you?
Thulasi: I am inspired by all the conversations I’ve had. In particular, I’ve learned a lot from Jocelyn and explored the opportunities to give back through organizations like GenYES. I draw a lot of inspiration from the founder of Shanti Bhavin, Abraham George. The amount of humility, genuinity, and everyday courage and brilliance it requires to start and run a school like Shanti Bhavin is amazing. The impact the school has had on so many lives makes me inspired to be more like him every day. I’ve met and learned from a lot of incredible women, too. While my mom and I do not have a very close relationship since I am not living at home, I have learned so much through her life and her sacrifices. I’ve also found Whitney Beltrán, narrative director of AAA games and my former English teacher, to be inspirational. She is brave and courageous and does things like mountain biking which is not something girls can do back home. She is also a director at a gaming company and so I find that very inspiring.
In general, I am inspired by women who are independent and pursue their dreams and desires. When I consider my home and how my male cousins got to go to the ocean and visit cool places, the females were stuck at home cooking and cleaning. Girls are not allowed to participate in the same activities as the boys. One summer I was a leader for an outdoor education program in high school. My friends and I led hikes, planned trips, and trained others to do what we did over the summer. One time we hiked this mountain in the Northern Alps of Japan, a 9,620-foot climb. We started at 4:00 A.M. and when we got to the top we felt like we were on top of the world. It was a vulnerable, yet powerful experience, where I had to rely on my physical and mental strength.
Question: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
Thulasi: I need to start working and saving money. In order to give back in the way I want to, I cannot do it right away. Something like Shanti Bhavin requires you to work and earn money first. Then you give back to your families, your personal community to uplift them and provide new opportunities. I need to start in a smaller way so I can afford it and be successful in my career. Gaining that experience first, maybe in advertising or marketing, will allow me to be more charitable in the future. I like working in marketing because every day looks different, and I feel like I can bring value to companies looking to grow and expand.
Question: What advice would you give to others considering applying to an internship?
Thulasi: A lot of people my age feel they do not have enough experience to apply for the opportunities they want. I got this opportunity because of the connections I established and so I’d encourage others to focus on growing their network. Yes, the competition is out there. Many talented and incredible people are looking for similar opportunities. Believe in yourself. Even if you fail, every experience has value. Take that chance, don’t stop yourself because you’re nervous about not having the experience. Consider the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and how she may have felt as she went through the same process. If she can do it, so can you.
Question: What advice would you give to companies offering internships?:
Thulasi: Don’t just go mainstream. Consider the diversity & inclusion aspect- an important topic for me. It was awesome on CBT’s part to intentionally seek interns from different backgrounds. It’s best to capture diversity in thought, age, experience, and background/color. I believe that my age, experience, gender, and ethnicity offer unique value. So keep your options open and expect to benefit from all kinds of people.