Marla Khishigsuren ’23

AKALA, Beverly Hills, CA

This summer, I worked as an intern at AKALA (Access, Knowledge, and Achievement Leading to Admission). AKALA is a for-profit EdTech startup that takes on the challenge of providing every high school student with affordable access to college admissions guidance. Such accessibility is made possible through AKALA’s smart use of an AI-enabled platform: part technology and part individual consulting. The customized feedback covers all aspects of the college application process—from extracurricular involvement to soft-skill development.

Marla Khishigsuren in a virtual meeting.As a summer intern, I worked directly with Perry Kalmus ’03, AKALA’s CEO, in the expansion process of the platform. My role was unique in the sense that I, along with the other Williams interns, had the opportunity to delve into all aspects of running and working at a startup, whether it be fundraising, sales, marketing or working with the tech team on the product line. Therefore, my responsibilities varied with each project, which made it possible for me to gain a wide range of experiences and explore my career interests further. Throughout the summer, I worked on projects that involved in-depth research, curating different types of age-appropriate content on the AKALA platform, reaching out to Williams alumni about new projects at AKALA and researching funding opportunities. Our advisors, Perry and Barbara, made sure to not only help us with questions or problems with the tasks but also provided us with information and general guidance on startups and career orientation. For example, Perry held a meeting with the Williams interns to discuss networking and utilizing our networks. Due to their enthusiasm in helping us grow not only during but also after our time at AKALA, I have learned valuable career skills such as networking that I know will be helpful in my post-graduate career.

My time at AKALA has provided me with clarity on my career orientation and my personal development goals. Before AKALA, I felt that I lacked the proper insight to make further career decisions since I haven’t had the opportunity to work in different fields. Working on many different aspects of AKALA allowed me to experience firsthand what makes a job most interesting and fulfilling to me. Working at an organization with a mission and purpose I align myself with and collaborating with others on ideas and projects are definitely more important to me now, whereas I didn’t find the fast-paced environment of a startup as rewarding as I thought I would. However, most importantly, my experience at AKALA highlighted both my strengths and weaknesses, which helped me define my career and personal development goals more clearly. Overall, I learned valuable lessons about myself and my career interests, which will definitely guide me in my final year of college and my post-graduation work.

Finally, I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Case, the AKALA team and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for their generosity and support. I believe that my experience this summer will prove to be invaluable to my future endeavors.