My Experience as a BK Intern

The first introduction I had with Berrett-Koehler came from an intergenerational exchange event with the Berrett-Koehler Foundation. This was the first time I was ever doing intentional networking that would hopefully push me into the publishing world.  


A friend told me it was going to be held in the BK publishing house and that several members of the publishing industry would also be attending the event. I was extremely nervous interacting with people from an older generation at this event. It wasn’t until the last minute that I pushed myself to better my future career in the publishing industry.


The event itself, in my opinion, was tense, although that could have been driven by my own nerves and being in an unfamiliar setting. I felt at a disadvantage being amongst emerging leaders.  I am not by any sense an emerging leader, at least I never thought myself as one whose opinion could shape the opinions of others in a way that could be life changing. So, I had the opportunity to observe and discuss what exactly intergenerational interactions with emerging leaders means.


I found there really wasn’t a set answer, and honestly I don’t think bridging intergenerational gap was what I got out of the event. For me, it was the experience that truly impacted how I felt as an individual in this group. I started to notice towards the end of the exchange how tense and self-aware I became and I began to ask myself why? A fellow older attendee acknowledged my presence as more an observer and pushed me to ask myself why that was. It was at this point my shield of invisibility, my safety net as a casual observer had been stripped away. I was shocked by the sudden nakedness I felt and the visibility I was forced to reconcile with.


I started to realize my self-awareness came from being the only Latin American in the room.  Coming from Southern California where Latin Americans were in almost every setting I’ve previously been a part of, I was truly confounded by my lone ethnic identity in this environment. I wondered if this was the reason why I was more of an observer at the event, rather than being more openly opinionated. This is something that has stuck with me since the event, which occurred several months ago.   


Because Berrett-Koehler was my first introduction into the publishing industry, they have always been at the back of my mind. Since the event, I spoke with reps from Berrett-Koehler Foundation about actively reaching out to the Latino community. I also noticed when a BK job opening appeared on Craigslist but I let it slip me by because it wasn’t the best career move at the time. The job opening was for the Chief of First Impressions and I wanted to be more of an editor or PR rep in a publishing house. So I bided my time, working at a coffee shop until I decided to look for internships at different publishing houses and finally I applied to Berrett-Koehler. 


My journey into the publishing world happened within a one-month period. Things moved quickly, and I was offered Sales and Marketing Intern position at Berrett-Koehler and a part time position at a different publishing house. I decided to do both while working at the coffee shop on the weekends. Juggling three jobs has been a challenge but it was one that I knew would help develop my resume and keep me living in the East Bay where I was surrounded with the career I knew I wanted.  As a person of color and a woman, my thought has always been that I needed to validate myself with experience. A huge help to this process has been Berrett-Koehler’s paid internship. It has opened up the door to developing my future career opportunities while keeping me afloat amongst the ever-growing instability of Bay Area living.


Starting out, as a Sales and Marketing intern at BK has been in some ways a tense experience, and finding my stride within the job took some time. I noticed that I was once again being an observer rather than actively looking for projects and sharing my opinion. Thankfully, after a discussion with my advisor I felt enough courage to take the lead on reaching out to authors for the Diversity Research Project.  I also began to inquire about different departments, such as Editorial and Publicity. By actively choosing my assignments rather than waiting to receive them, I was able to discover a way to become comfortably visible at Berrett-Koehler.


There is no easy way to overcome one’s fear of new environments, especially the vastly different environments from the two publishing houses I was working at. But being a Latina at Berrett-Koehler amongst other equally diverse people in the office, both in ethnicity and age, was surprisingly welcoming. My internship has definitely been educational towards my relationships with other people inside and outside industry. I have since acquired the knowledge of interacting and learning with others rather than feeling limited by my own inexperience as a leader.


One of the most frugal components to my learning experience and my overall inclusion at BK has been the conversations with their authors as a part of the Diversity Research project. It has lead me to this strategy of “power with” rather than “power over,” which means power that comes from interconnected relationships. This is something I’ve found to be incredibly empowering for bridging diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, etc and it is something I hope to continue using with my everyday interactions. I’ve also learned that empathic listening encourages allies amongst diverse groups of people. This type of “allyship” can be utilized in so many different ways especially if it’s bonding stereotypically different people (black vs white, males vs females, trans vs cis, poor vs rich, straight vs queer).


We can become allies for one another by sharing our experiences and shifting the forum from “power lost” and “power over” to “power with.”  People are naturally defensive when it comes to topics of diversity, and in the past I have been naturally defensive as a woman and a Latina, but acknowledging that I am empowered by these identities is truly a life-changing thing. I believe that Berrett-Koehler has given me more than a good addition to my resume but also given me a life-changing eye-opening look into diversity and my identity, and for that I am grateful.