A Calvin senior accounting major interned this summer at a company that aims to put private citizens in space.
Senior accounting major Mackenzie Odegaard sealed the deal on a plum summer internship by admitting her greatest weakness. She then found herself with work and a mentor perfectly suited to helping her transform that weakness.
“The final interview was a conference call with five people,” Odegaard remembered. “It was intense. When they asked me, ‘What do you consider your greatest weakness,’ I told them that I’m self-assured but not self-confident. I can know I have the right answer but not be confident enough to say it out loud.”
That honesty, she learned later, won for her the highly-contested internship in the finance and business operations department of Blue Origin, a Seattle-based, private commercial spaceflight company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.
A good mentor
Blue Origin’s director of finance, business operations and business administration is Stephanie Kossen Koster ’80. Last spring she called Calvin’s career development office asking if there were high-performing Calvin accounting students who might like to apply for the intern position. She recused herself from the final choice, however, to avoid seeming biased toward Odegaard, the applicant from her alma mater.
When the two met at Blue Origin, they “clicked,” according to Odegaard.
“Stephanie was a fabulous mentor for me,” she said. “Over the summer I worked on that self-confidence thing plenty!”
Some of it happened through the various projects Odegaard was assigned: writing a new business processes and procedures manual, helping set up a new business documents system, creating a data base for utility usage—all areas that were new to her.
“I could go to Stephanie with any questions I had,” Odegaard said. “She also had me write a report every Friday about what I had done that week. She would give me great feedback and have me revise the report, so I learned a lot about good business writing.”
But a lot of Odegaard’s learning happened less formally.
“I was able to travel with Stephanie to the Texas site where Blue Origin launches its space vehicles,” Odegaard said. “We worked, but at night we would sit at dinner and talk a long time. I heard her story, how she’s made it to where she is today. She gave me advice on how to make the most of my career.”
"Go with your gut and believe in yourself"; "You can admit you’re wrong, but don’t take flack for being wrong"; "Be tough on problems, light on people"; "You can either laugh or cry, but you might as well laugh, because who wants to go through life crying?"
Looking to the future
"Mackenzie was a rock star,” Koster said of her intern. “Her work easily performed against that of the engineering interns from Ivy League schools. She won everyone’s respect.”
Back at Calvin, Odegaard reflects that her summer job changed the way she envisions her future:
“My life-long dream is to open my own dance studio. Stephanie showed me a lot of different directions I could go to reach my goals. And she changed my picture of a woman executive. She’s not aggressive and demanding, but very gracious, leading by example and suggestion, so people come to their own conclusions. I can imagine myself being that kind of leader.”