Empowering Young Individuals

By Sophie Maguy


I am a recent graduate from Stanford University, and this is my sixth internship. I have done them in-person and remote, international and domestic, in the public and private sectors, and it’s easier said than done to cultivate a culture which empowers youth.


This internship is part of the Stanford SEED program, offered through my School of Business’ Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies. Stanford SEED partners with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to help scale organizations by sponsoring selected undergraduate, graduate, and masters Stanford students to work for them.


I have searched for meaningful work in both my academic and professional experience which centres around sustainable and impact-oriented investing, blending qualitative, quantitative, and interpersonal skills. I was eager at the opportunity to advance my own design-thinking skills through Stanford SEED. Across my experiences and courses, I have become versed in economic, currency, and political analysis, financial strategy, operations and analytics, organizational behaviour, and various coding languages. I have always wanted to travel to and experience South Africa – working at Mahlako presents an incredible opportunity to simultaneously advance both my technical and interpersonal skills as I gain the essential understanding of operating in a cultural environment that is foreign to me. To develop creative financial solutions to major problems such as climate change, educational inequity, and energy deficiency, I am learning to have a better understanding of non-American markets, as that is the space I ultimately hope to engage with. Moreover, grasping the economy in all its depth and complexities is a challenge which excites me, as I enjoy problem-solving and the ever-changing nature of financial markets.


To date, I can testify to the depth that I am learning about the energy market in South Africa. Beyond market research and a growing familiarity with the space, I have been fortunate enough to conduct deal screenings and aid in the transactional and valuation elements of the Mahlako deal pipeline. Being trusted with these impromptu responsibilities has resulted in the most enriching understanding of the work being done both at Mahlako and at project companies. All parts of South Africa are touched by the energy crisis to a certain degree; energy operates at the cornerstone of other prevalent challenge areas such as climate change, economic empowerment, and infrastructure, among others. It is exciting to contribute to the work of the Mahlako Energy Fund as we seek to shape the future of renewable energy development in South Africa, which will ideally incorporate creative solutions in all these sectors.


More candidly, when my family asks me how work is going, I speak to the incredibly welcoming environment at Mahlako. Before coming, I wrote that the most ideal internship would “place getting to know the community I am working with at the core of my experience.” The highly inclusive culture at Mahlako – both socially and professionally – organically facilitates this goal. By learning from people’s lived experience in Johannesburg and, more broadly, South Africa, I hope to contribute the most informed work possible while experiencing the unique and rich culture here. As a SEED intern, I have the immense privilege of working at a high level with a company of staff spanning diverse backgrounds; feeling autonomy over my experience and the ability to take advantage of this opportunity is wholly empowering.


What does it mean to empower a young individual? I have found that it lies in the balance of many extremities: Balancing work which is informational with that which is tangible; Showing equal respect in the office in tandem with patience; Encouraging creativity alongside the structures of company practices; And above all (for me, at least), acknowledging unique experiences while practicing very conscious inclusion.


As an intern at an organization as influential and innovative as Mahlako, I believe that it is a great privilege to be an actor in the Fund’s growth and future, as today’s decision about where and to whom we distribute capital builds the foundation for a sustainable world for future generations.