Philosophy, Politics & Economics Major August Modiga Finds Co-op Success
By Gina Myers
September 30, 2021
Working for a software company is not what August Modiga expected to do for her co-op. The philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) major was hoping to work in the financial industry, but the coronavirus pandemic changed her plans as fewer co-op opportunities were available. Despite this shift, Modiga found a valuable experience and developed skills that she will continue to use in her future work.
As a global alliances intern at SAP, Modiga was part of a team that presented SAP’s business solutions and products to potential customers. Her role focused on business analytics. “My day would involve understanding how to manage different data that we’re using, making that data make sense for the business, and analyzing it and thinking about how we can improve on it,” she explains. “Your Excel skills have to be on point.”
Though Modiga was unfamiliar with software engineering, she says her manager provided good advice: “Be a sponge. Just absorb everything you can learn.” Modiga adds, “You don’t have to worry about coming in with all of the skills you will need. If you come in with that spirit of wanting to learn, you will learn, and that’s really what they’re looking for.”
Modiga was surprised by the level of responsibility given to her as a co-op student. She was initially nervous to make sales pitches to potential clients, but she found it rewarding when she was successful as well as when she received positive feedback on her presentations.
She had to learn at a fast pace and pull an occasional all-nighter to meet deadlines, but overall she found the experience invaluable. She discovered how important it is to pay attention to details and how necessary it is to be a good communicator. The experience also gave her a look into corporate America, something she had previously only really seen portrayed on TV.
Modiga also learned about corporate social responsibility initiatives. “You’re not just working with the product and the business. You’re also thinking about the larger scale like how to fix the economy and how to improve the community, and thinking about equality,” she says.
“SAP has strong ties with UN Women and Women’s Lounge. They focus on education, women’s rights and ending poverty. In our downtime, we would plan on advocating for equality in the workspace since technology is a very male-dominant industry. Our priorities were to bring in women and make sure women are paid equally in the workplace.”
While it seems increasingly popular for corporations to make statements around social justice, Modiga was happy to see SAP back theirs up with action.
“The co-op experience really allows you to get a feel for the industry you want to go into and for the type of environment you might want to work in,” says Modiga. “And the networking experience is important. [Though the co-op was mostly virtual], I was emailing people, I was adding people on LinkedIn, and I even got to meet with one of our leaders who happens to live in Philadelphia. You can meet people who can give you different perspectives on the workplace and really mentor and coach you as you move into your career.”
This experience added to an already impressive resume, as Modiga was invited to speak at the UN about The Presidential Foundation, a nonprofit she founded with friends as a high school student in her native South Africa. The organization works to address inequality in South Africa by mentoring girls and giving them access to leaders across fields.
Modiga hopes to work in government, and it is that aspiration that drew her to Drexel. She had been studying international relations at another institution, but felt like she was missing out on what she really wanted to learn, so she transferred to Drexel as a pre-junior.
“I wanted to do economics and I wanted to do philosophy,” she explains. “My long-term goal is to go back to my home country and work in the government, so I want to understand how economics works, especially in an evolving global economy.” Modiga says many people who work in government study politics or international relations, but the PPE major allows for the additional focus on economics.
Since transferring, Modiga has enjoyed the challenging coursework and her professors. She has also gotten involved with the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA), where she serves as the buildings and properties chairperson.
"My role is to lead and work with student USGA senators towards creating and enhancing initiatives that essentially improve the quality of the college experience for Drexel Students here on campus. The Buildings and Properties committee focuses on three major sects: The Business Services, Sustainability as well as Campus Safety,” Modiga explains.
“In the Business Services Sub-committee, we collaborate with and give the student perspective to Drexel Administration with all matters relating to our corporate partners here at Drexel, this includes working with the Residential Life Office, the ACC, and on building renovations on campus. One of our most recent success has been the establishment of the Gateway Garden on 32nd Street which was a result of the collaboration with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
“With the Sustainability Sub-Committee, which by the way is very new—our previous USGA president Tim Hanlon did a fabulous job establishing that on campus—we’re working on initiatives such as eco-friendly packaging as well as awareness of the dangers of spotted lanternflies to the environment in Philadelphia.
“Lastly, with the Campus Safety Sub-committee, we essentially work on mitigating efforts to improve the relations of Drexel Campus Security and the Philadelphia Police Department with Students on Campus, this includes hosting campaigns as well as events with officers on safety matters that arise."
Modiga summarizes, “We’re working on developing and improving different infrastructures on campus.”
The communication skills, attention to detail, and analytical skills that Modiga sharpened over her co-op are sure to continue to benefit her in her role with USGA and in her future endeavors.