The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

OPINION | Purposeful Work Works

Nearly nine years ago, I was a Bates Junior walking home across the quad from my Research Methods for Sociology course wondering why I hadn’t heard back from my dream internship after many months. And there it was — an offer — in my spam, from six weeks ago, now void.

After a failed request for reconsideration, I faced the reality: it was late-March of my junior year and my only internship prospect had fallen through.

At this point in time, Bates had just launched Handshake and was preparing for the first summer of Purposeful Work internships for Summer 2015. Running thin on time and options, I decided to log in to Handshake and give it a try.

I put together some cover letters and applied for most of the 20-or-so posts up at the time. I was fortunate to hear back from one company: Fusemachines, an AI start-up based in NYC founded by Bates 2002 graduate Dr. Sameer Maskey. Later, I would ask Sameer about his internship selection process, and he made it clear that in New York he had thousands of qualified candidates, but preferred to pay-it-forward in the Bates community.

That June, I moved to New York and worked as a Business Analyst Intern for Fusemachines out of their incubator office in the Flatiron neighborhood. Fusemachines is–and was–a fascinating firm. Founder Sameer Maskey, born and raised in Nepal, had followed his Bates math degree with a Computer Science PhD from Columbia and was now in the early stages of building a multi-national AI company based in NYC and Kathmandu. When I joined, there were five folks in New York and 30 in Nepal. Fast forward to today: Fusemachines has offices in eight countries, is pushing 500 employees worldwide, and is now a publicly listed company on the NASDAQ.

I returned to campus for senior year with a job offer in hand, and then stayed on at Fusemachines for two years after graduation, first serving as an account manager and later as Director of Customer Success. Following a career pivot and five years in political campaigns that took me to Texas, Arizona, and back to Maine, I reconnected with Dr. Maskey while completing my Masters at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

My political work had focused on supporting down-ballot, under-resourced campaigns including candidates running for municipal positions like school board, city council, and mayor. However, I had witnessed first-hand the lack of resources to support these critical candidates for our democracy. Believing we could apply technology to solve this problem at-scale, I approached Dr. Maskey with a proposal to build an AI tool dedicated to supporting under-resourced candidates by providing daily guidance and expert advising.

After winning the Columbia Public Policy Challenge Grant last spring, Fusemachines provided the capital to launch this new company and tool, called Campaign Brain. As a Founder who had benefited immensely from the Bates network to get to this point, I, too, wanted to lean into a close relationship with Bates. In particular, generous support from Bates’ Purposeful Work program allowed us to bring on a full-time User Interface/User Experience Intern during summer 2023 to join our team.

After an outstanding pool of applicants (and support from Purposeful Work’s Allen Delong and Beverly Vari), we were fortunate to have Stephanie Dominguez, a rising senior, join our team. Steph worked primarily on product design, prototyping, user-research, and user-centered design principles.

At the end of the internship, Steph shared the following: “It was an absolute pleasure working at Campaign Brain this summer and I’m very proud of all the work I’ve accomplished! Working within the political and A.I. space was intimidating at first, but I was so supported and trusted to make mistakes, manage my time, have questions, and most importantly, lead. I find it very meaningful to work for a company that has a great mission, and the culture of this company reflects that perfectly. I’m leaving this internship feeling like I’ve helped make the digital and physical world a better place by working at CB and that’s thanks to Nate & his team.”

Steph’s work contributed to our ability to execute a pilot program with our AI campaign manager with 8 campaigns in 6 states for the November 2023 elections. Campaign Brain was able to support school board candidates in Pennsylvania, a mayoral candidate in Massachusetts, a county-wide candidate in Virginia, a city council candidate in rural Georgia, and more. Now, for 2024, we are working with Congressional candidates in Massachusetts and California, a State House candidate in Pennsylvania, a progressive sheriff candidate in Texas, and more.

Thanks to Bates and the Purposeful Work program, we’ve now been able to link three generations of Bobcats, spanning graduations from 2002 to 2024, and hopefully more to come. 

Without Purposeful Work, I never would have been exposed to a startup environment, artificial intelligence, and have the opportunity to found a firm. Even better to be able to maintain a close partnership with the Bates Community throughout!

As students think about upcoming summer opportunities and Purposeful Work, take advantage of the options available, explore something new, and follow your passions.

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