28 Apr 2023

Year Up Leads to Media Services Careers: Four Staff Stories


by Shona Simkin

Jamil Francisco, Bryce Allen, Edgardo Rodriquez, and Rich Torres. Photo courtesy Susan Young. 

Ben Frey, Harvard Business School’s (HBS) director of Media Services, breaks into a wide smile when he talks about how he and Rich Torres, associate director of AV services and events, started out together 12 years ago. Torres was an intern from the Year Up program, and Frey was AV operations manager. Since then, they’ve seen media technology come and go, opened Klarman Hall, adapted classrooms in the pandemic, and built a team dedicated to ensuring the success of classroom and events media.

Frey says that working with Year Up interns over the years has been a privilege—the interns are consistently well prepared and positioned to learn and develop. “It is inspiring to see the amount of growth and knowledge gained from the beginning of the placement to the conclusion at the end of the semester,” he said. “While the internship is intended to expose interns to a variety of experiences, it feels mutually beneficial, as we have been fortunate to work with some really talented young people who have turned an internship opportunity into a career path.”

Since 2008, Harvard Business School (HBS) has hosted nearly 100 interns from Year Up, an organization dedicated to providing underserved young adults with job training, internship placement, and job search and placement support.

Founded by Gerald Chertavian (MBA 1992) in 2000, more than 40,000 students have gone through the one-year program (six months of training, six months interning), 80 percent of whom are either employed or enrolled in post-secondary education within four months of graduating. This academic year there have been 14 Year Up interns here at HBS, three of whom are now full-time employees. Below, we take a look at the four full time staff members in Media Services who went through the Year Up program: Bryce Allen, Jamil Francisco, Edgardo Rodriguez, and Rich Torres.

Bryce Allen

In 2010, Bryce’s Allen turned down a job opportunity—a risky move that paid off for both him and HBS. The large financial firm he was paired with for his Year Up internship offered him a role at their office in New Hampshire. Without a car, that commute was unworkable. He talked with Year Up counselors about different options and started a contract position supporting the i-lab and Batten Hall classrooms in 2011. Ten years and two promotions later, he’s the lead media technology specialist and a newlywed looking forward to his and his wife’s next international trip.

The summer after his sophomore year in college, Bryce wanted a different path—one away from expensive tuition and towards practical job training. Bryce’s mom mentioned Year Up—a colleague’s son had gone through the program with great success. After a tour and an interview, Bryce saw its alignment with his interests and role as the family computer tutor, and joined the program.

Now, Bryce says he’s motivated by working with colleagues who hold the same values of hard work and a positive mindset, and finds satisfaction in ensuring that by 8:30am, the hybrid classroom technology and computers in all of the MBA and Executive Education classrooms have been checked and Zoom participants have joined without glitches. When new Year Up interns and employees come through Media Services, he’s excited to share his experience and expertise, and assures them that Harvard’s elite reputation is not something to be intimidated by.

“When I heard that I was coming here I thought it might not be a good fit, but when I got here everyone was just like me—just people. The stereotype went out the window,” said Bryce. “I know now that I can go anywhere, and I’m bringing that to the folks I oversee now, telling them to not worry, that they’ll be great—to not be nervous, to be themselves, and to bring the skills they learned—we’ll teach them everything they need on the job. I find myself looking out for them a little bit more, and know that the opportunity is beneficial for the department and the person.”

Jamil Francisco

Jamil Francisco still has the screenshot he took in 2019, a list titled “Why I Want to Go to Year Up,” which he turned into his phone’s wallpaper after interviewing for and being accepted to the program. A regular reminder of why he had committed to the work, it’s something he still calls up frequently—but now it’s a validation of the decision and efforts that brought him to where he is today: a full-time media support technician with plans to get his own apartment this summer.

After graduating high school, Jamil enrolled in electrical engineering classes at Bunker Hill Community College and found a retail job at BestBuy. But the schedule demands, coupled with new independence following his mom’s move to Florida, proved more daunting than he had anticipated, and his grades suffered. His sister, a 2014 graduate of Year Up’s business track program, suggested he contact her Year Up coach to discuss whether it might be a good next step.

After training in the IT track, Jamil landed his HBS internship, starting with Media Services in person in July 2020. His Year Up classes on Zoom, he said, gave him just the perspective and experience he needed to assist with outfitting and maintaining the new hybrid classrooms in Aldrich. In January 2023, Jamil went from his contract position to a full-time HBS staff member.

“In the beginning of my internship I was definitely shy and didn’t know how to talk to people, especially faculty,” said Jamil. “But as time went by and I talked more with faculty, I realized that they’re just people as well. I would say that working here has brought my shyness and anxiety levels down and now I’m more of a people person. I love talking with faculty and with their FSSs and the coordinators in ExEd. It's exciting seeing the different types of people I get to have conversations with. And on the technical side of things, I learned a lot more about audio and AV—the internship and contracting taught me so much and it’s been an amazing learning experience.”

Jamil is excited to continue advancing and learning in his role, while pursuing his other interests—building gaming computers for friends and family, hiking, canoeing, and planning a move to his own apartment in July.

Photo courtesy Susan Young.

Edgardo Rodriguez

Edgardo Rodriguez credits an old Little League friend as his inspiration for participating in Year Up. When he lost his job in a mass layoff, Edgardo thought about his friend’s path—from Year Up to MIT and sitting on the Year Up board of directors. Eleven years later and 10 years into his HBS career, Edgardo is a senior media technology specialist intent on paying that inspiration forward.

When his layoff hit, Edgardo was forced to sell his car and move back in with his parents, bringing his wife and daughter along. Building a career in Media Services gives him both security and an immense sense of pride in providing for his family, which has since grown to include another daughter.

“Year Up helped me understand that there would always be challenges, but that they could be taken head-on,” said Edgardo. “I never missed a day of my internship. I put everything into my work and tried to learn something new every day, even if it was something small. That helped me get to where I am today.”

It’s the people who make the difference for him here at work, says Edgardo with a laugh, acknowledging that it might sound cheesy. But he says that helping and engaging with staff, professors, Executive Education participants (LL Cool J is his most memorable participant interaction), and MBA students—from ensuring a simulcast starts without a hitch to giving someone directions on campus—is rewarding.

Edgardo feels safe as part of a diverse department, and loves the potential for growth within the institution. What brings him joy? Sports activities, exposing his daughters to opportunities he never had as a child—trips to museums and Disney—and seeing how he has in turn inspired others—his younger brother is a 2017 Year Up graduate.

Rich Torres

Sitting in a circle on his first day at Year Up, Rich Torres says he was petrified when the coach asked each person to introduce themselves and do a little dance as an icebreaker. “As they got closer to me, I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here, this is so out of character for me!’ but it set the stage for what my experience was going to be. It allowed me to loosen up and get to know people and myself and not take myself so seriously—to let go of all the things I was carrying at that time.”

After high school, Rich decided to pursue his passion for design and opened a clothing business with a close childhood friend. But several years later, that friend and business partner tragically passed away. Grieving and unmoored, Rich closed the business. He recalled another friend mentioning the Year Up program a few months back and reached out to him for more details. It was the right challenge at the right time. After his training, he arrived at HBS for his internship—one of the first Year Up interns to work in Media Services—and now, 12 years later, he’s the associate director of AV events and productions.

Rich says that his lifelong love for art and new challenges are the foundation of his success in Media Services.

“With art, I try different things and different media, whether it’s sketching with pencil or painting with acrylic,” said Rich. “I always try to push myself and I saw that at HBS, there were opportunities to be creative in the way we do things—how we think about the work and the services we’re providing to our customers, and identifying inefficiencies in our workflow—I really wanted to dive into it.”

Rich was promoted to lead the new dedicated events team when Klarman Hall opened in 2018, running all the new technology for multiple events a day. When the pandemic hit, Rich took the chance to slow down, evaluate processes, invest in team building exercises, and create new routines. Now, he says, the team is more efficient and stronger.

“I emphasize teamwork so much because everyone is important, everyone adds value to what we do,” said Rich. “Seeing my team members grow and knowing that I’ve been a part of that is super gratifying. That’s what I truly enjoy—seeing them achieve great things.”

Post a Comment

Comments must be on-topic and civil in tone (with no name calling or personal attacks). Any promotional language or urls will be removed immediately. Your comment may be edited for clarity and length.