Diana Vicezar is an international student from Paraguay at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA. She is the founder of Mapis, the career platform for international undergraduate and graduate students in the United States. Passionate about making resources and career opportunities available to others, Diana created Mapis as a way to guide her fellow international students to get internships and jobs in the United States. An incoming product design intern at Meta, Diana is also an experienced community organizer, advocate, entrepreneur, and technologist with a passion for building projects and products that solve some of the most pressing issues in underprivileged communities.
I had the opportunity to interview Diana recently. Here are some of the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Can you talk about what inspired you to build Mapis?
Diana Vicezar: 2020 was a difficult year for everyone and my family was no exception. My father got sick and this had a huge impact on my mental health. As a way to stay sane and forget about my situation for a couple of hours, I started connecting with international students in the US on social media and Zoom meetings. My main goal was to ask them about their academic experience and the social life on their campuses. From May 2020 to January 2021, I had conversations with more than 100 students from more than 30 different universities. One thing that came up in all of these meetings was the difficulties these students faced when trying to get an internship or a job in the US. I remember one specific student who had to come back to her country because she could not get a job at a company that accepts Optional Practical Training (OPT) (work authorization program for international students). She said that this situation could have been avoided if she had had access to proper career guidance during college. We international students in the United States face unique challenges during job and internship search processes due to our visa restrictions and the lack of career development resources specifically tailored to our needs. It was then that I realized that there was a desperate need for an effective platform that could centralize all the professional opportunities available to international students and provide us with more support throughout our career exploration.
Griffin: How does Mapis help international students in their career exploration?
Vicezar: Mapis helps international students get access to the career guidance they need during their internship and job search in the United States. We provide access to professional and academic opportunities open to international students on our “opportunity board” with over 100 opportunities updated every week. We also host exclusive weekly webinars on career development topics led by recruiters and experienced international students working at top US companies. In addition, we coach students in their career exploration and opportunity search processes through 1-1 advising sessions. We have more features on the platform, but these three are the main ones in our closed beta version.
Griffin: What makes Mapis different from other professional platforms?
Vicezar: While there are many career platforms used by students in the United States, none of them are focused on providing resources to international students. What makes Mapis different is that it is the first career platform designed to help international students in the United States find all the resources and career guidance they need.
Griffin: What has Mapis achieved so far? How many users do you currently have?
Vicezar: We launched our closed beta version on February 22nd to international undergraduate and graduate students in the US. We currently have 100 active users in our closed beta (students coming from colleges and universities in 30 states). In addition, we have international students from 100+ colleges and universities on our waitlist for the upcoming version of the platform.
We have shared 1000+ professional opportunities (internships, fellowships, entry-level jobs, exploratory programs, and conferences) in our opportunities board, helped 70+ students apply to their dream jobs and internships through our 1-1 advising sessions, and hosted virtual events with speakers from top US companies.
Griffin: What is the most exciting part of building Mapis?
Vicezar: Meeting with international students and getting their feedback on how to improve the platform. I reach out to some of our current users every week and schedule informational interviews to learn about their experience with Mapis, what features they need and want to see in the future. So far, I have had great conversations with our users and have come up with great ideas for features we will launch in our upcoming version.
Griffin: How do you balance your work at Mapis and college?
Vicezar: It is definitely a challenge, but I am very lucky to have people from my college supporting me. My professors are very understanding and know how much Mapis means to me. They are always open to working with me on potential extensions or connecting during office hours. I try to keep a consistent schedule that allows me to prioritize my schoolwork and Mapis, while also having enough free time to hang out with friends and take care of myself. Being a student entrepreneur has its pros and cons, but I enjoy every second of it.
Griffin: Well, I am sure they are very impressed and proud of you! So, what is your vision for Mapis? Where do you see yourself in the future?
Vicezar: I would love for Mapis to become the first platform that international students think of when they need help in their career exploration. With all the support and feedback we receive from the international community, I hope we can continue to help students across the United States and be the go-to platform when searching for career opportunities and resources. International students bring a lot of value to companies and organizations to this country, and I truly believe that by helping international students, we are also helping the US workforce.
There is nothing that would make me happier than advocating for the community and building products that support students in their career journey in the US.
Griffin: What advice would you give international students trying to get internships and jobs in the United States?
Vicezar: First of all, I would like to say that the process is challenging and it is normal to feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. There are a few things that can help you in this process. First, stay strong and remember why you want to get an internship or job in the US. What is your vision? What is your ultimate goal? Keep those in mind.
Second, talk to other international students who have already gone through this process and try to get their mentorship. Ask all your questions and do not be afraid to be very honest about your concerns.
Third, do your research on the companies and organizations that interest you. See if their values align with yours and if they are trying to create a more inclusive environment through their work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Do they usually hire international students? Think about the value this company can have on your career path and the value you can bring to the company.
Finally, I believe that we all international students need to support each other, so I encourage you to find others who are in a similar position and work together. Hold each other accountable in this process and help each other succeed. We are definitely stronger together!
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