This year, Americans everywhere have been undergoing a period of tremendous uncertainty. We not only witness an unprecedented global pandemic putting the lives of millions at risk, but also grapple with a nationwide surge in civil uprising in response to social injustices both recent and historic. Businesses have struggled, jobs have been lost, and economies have fallen, leaving everyone in search of some light of hope during these desperate times.
During this time, we at OjaExpress have been fortunate enough to continue to be able to serve our communities by bringing the tastes of home right to their doors. Providing people a sense of continuity is more important now than ever before, and we provide that comfort through the universal language of food.
Another way in which OjaExpress has stood by its communities is through the offering of opportunities for its young, rising professionals. Thousands of college & graduate students have watched their internships be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hardest hit were students who are already overlooked and underserved, such as immigrants and people of color, who found themselves in an even larger detriment than ever before. With OjaExpress being a growing technology company that mostly operates remotely and, for all intents and purpose, provides an essential service, we have been up and running throughout the entire year, as has our internship program.
The OjaExpress Internship Program is a unique opportunity for top college and graduate students in the country to have a hand in the growth and development of an emerging Techstars startup. Our interns have a multitude of learning opportunities, the autonomy to take risks in figuring out what is best for the company, and the ability work on multiple facets of the business in a manner that would not be possible working at a larger firm or corporation. We look specifically for interns from underrepresented groups, offering them a professional space that is built on diversity, inclusion and fairness.
Our interns have been weathering the storm that is 2020 and hard at work with us here at OjaExpress, a testament to how special they are and how bright their futures will be. Without further ado, meet the OjaExpress Intern Class of 2020!
Meet the Interns:
OjaExpress is a voice for cultures that are not typically represented in America, making sure that immigrants are not ignored and that they have a place to access foods that make them feel at home.
Basmala has been working with us as a Software Development intern since February. As a fourth-year student studying Computer Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology, she programmed all of the features for the launch of the new OjaExpress website. Having moved to Chicago from Palestine to pursue her collegiate studies and professional career, she finds it difficult to access the groceries and ingredients that she needs. Naturally, the OjaExpress mission resonates with her and is what initially brought her on to work with us.
Favorite Food: Grilled Chicken Shawarma
Livia Del Giudice Garofalo
Being away from home, I can totally relate with OjaExpress’s purpose of bringing people a taste of home in a convenient manner. It focuses on the immigrant population that is, lots of times, overlooked. Also, the partner stores are usually family-owned grocers in the community, so OjaExpress is able to support both sides, the stores and the customers, having a wide reach in the immigrant community.
Livia is a Marketing Intern at OjaExpress. She joined us this summer after completing her first year of business school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Originally from Brazil, Livia completed her undergrad studying Business Administration at the University of Brazil in Sao Paulo before working in Procurement for three years at Anheiser-Busch. One of her most exciting projects has been a series of influencer marketing campaigns, in which she has collaborated with big names in the digital food & wellness world to uplift the OjaExpress brand.
Favorite Food: Sushi
Dream Job: Marketing Director
Arthi Abilasha Balasubramaniyam
Teaming up with Techstars has opened a lot of doors for me to connect with top designers in the industry. As an international, designing for OjaExpress gives me an edge because I am someone the platform is designed for, which makes me really enjoy what I’m working on. OjaExpress is all about cultural inclusivity, embracing all cultures and bringing them together into one singular entity.
Arthi is our Product Design Intern, responsible for coming up with the front-end blueprint for our website and mobile application. A native South Indian, she completed her bachelors at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology in Tamil Nadu before making the move to Chicago to pursue a masters degree in Information Technology with a concentration in Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Chicago. Arthi joined us in March during her final semester at IIT. She has worked on a number of projects, including creating the design for our upcoming Shared Cart feature, a group checkout experience for the web and mobile that allows customers to shop together and split the bill easily.
Favorite Food: Idli with Sambhar & Chutney
Dream Job: Product Designer at Apple, Instagram or Vogue
OjaExpress truly looks out for their clientele and customers, reaching a wide population of people, particularly the ethnic groups and communities that others may not notice. They genuinely care about their customers, interns, staff, and all the people that they work with.
Maria worked with us as a User Interface (UI) Intern during the winter and spring months of this year. She created prototypes for the OjaExpress merchant app, a mobile tablet interface for partner grocers to display their items, manage customer orders and facilitate driver deliveries. Maria is a Chicago native and has two masters degrees, one in Forensic Psychology at Adler University and the other in Human-Computer Interaction at DePaul University. Her family is originally from Mexico, and as a Chicana, Maria really enjoys that OjaExpress focuses on ethnic communities, knowing from personal experience that these communities in Chicago could certainly use a grocery platform.
Favorite Food: Chocolate
Dream Job: UX Researcher at a gaming company
Being an Indian in the U.S., I did have problems getting groceries for Indian foods. I was missing food from home, so I naturally connected with the mission behind OjaExpress. This connection influenced my decision to choose to work at OjaExpress, which has been a great experience.
Ritvij is a Software Engineer Intern, mainly responsible for handling each of OjaExpress’s mobile applications – the customer app, the partner store app, and the delivery driver app. He grew up all over India, having completed his bachelors degree in Information Technology at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology before moving to Chicago to pursue a masters degree in Computer Science at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Having joined us this winter during his last semester of grad school, Ritvij has enjoyed being able to develop multiple skill-sets, working on mobile, web, tablet and back-end development projects.
Favorite Food: Mutton Biryani & Seekh Kebabs
Dream Job: Software Engineer at a top tech company
I learned a lot while working here. In addition, as someone from India, it is difficult for me to find food tied to my home culture. OjaExpress is providing a crucial service in helping people find their native foods more easily.
Pushty worked with us this spring as a User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI) Design Intern. During her time with us, Pushty collaborated in the design of mobile interface prototypes for each of the user types (grocery merchants, delivery drivers, and customers). She then performed usability testing of each prototype on their respective targeted audience, gathering feedback from the stakeholders and making adjustments to the interfaces accordingly. Pushty is originally from India, having completed her undergraduate degree at the Babaria Institute of Technology studying Computer Science. She later moved to Chicago to pursue a graduate degree in Human-Computer Interaction at DePaul University. She joined us during her final semester at DePaul and completed her internship upon graduation in May. Pushty is currently based in Baltimore, working as a freelance designer while seeking full-time opportunities.
Favorite Food: Dosa
Dream Job: UX/UI Designer at an inclusive tech company
I still remember my first team meeting and being so starstruck at how diverse the company was. It made me happy to see that the mission of the company fits perfectly with the people behind it. OjaExpress was a wonderful environment to work under.
David worked with us this summer as a Software Engineer Intern. Originally from Ghana, he is part-Ghanaian and part-Nigerian. As a West African, David found that OjaExpress was a perfect fit for him, with both of the co-founders, Boyede and Fola, also being from the region. During his time with us, he helped build the OjaExpress mobile application from scratch, even managing to apply what he learned from the task to a personal summer project. David is currently in Chicago, having just started his final year as an undergraduate at the Illinois Institute of Technology studying Computer Science.
Favorite Food: Waakye
Dream Job: Software Engineer
I don’t think I would be able to say I led a social media campaign or co-authored a brand bible as a summer intern at any place other than OjaExpress. Having struggled alongside my family trying to find Caribbean groceries in a predominantly-white space, it goes without saying that working here was the perfect opportunity. I am eternally grateful to have joined the OjaExpress family and served the company mission.
Kahlil worked with us this summer as a Marketing Intern. During his time with us, he worked on a number of projects, including an OjaExpress sports campaign on social media, a branding strategy guide, and campus outreach to help expand our market reach. Currently based in the Chicago area, Kahlil grew up in Connecticut, with his family originally from Jamaica and Cuba. Upon completion of his internship with OjaExpress, Kahlil began his final year as an undergraduate at Northwestern University studying journalism, business and marketing.
Favorite Food: Jerk Chicken with Cuban Rice & Beans
Dream Job: Creative Strategist at a top digital marketing agency
Diversity and Inclusion are more than just buzzwords at OjaExpress. They are assets at the core of our identity. At OjaExpress, interns and employees are encouraged to share their heritage because we understand that it is crucial to create a culturally competent product in order to serve the communities we are seeking to empower. Our team works collaboratively to ensure all voices and perspectives are heard, both within OjaExpress and across the communities we serve.