Kimani Hewitt Shows Up and Knows His Worth

Transitioning to distance learning last spring was both a challenge and a blessing in disguise for Kimani Hewitt ’21. The virtual environment afforded him more time to focus on classwork, resulting in good grades and preparing him for another unexpected positive: a remote internship.

The management major, who's pursuing the concentration in human resource management, spent six weeks this summer — shortened from three months due to the pandemic — working for Equity Residential, a real estate investment trust that owns apartments and condominiums across the U.S. Despite never stepping foot in the company's office, Hewitt completed a full rotation in their HR department, covering recruitment, talent and development, and benefits.  

Although he wasn’t a full-time employee, Hewitt said he felt like part of a collaborative team — convening online with colleagues at least twice daily, shadowing job interviews, drafting communications and even leading some meetings. He believes the virtual environment enhanced his experience by allowing opportunities that he may not have had in a traditional internship. 

“I got to connect with managers across different levels, developing business relationships with them, receiving advice and seeing how the company has been able to stay afloat with the current pandemic,” he said. “You could pretty much talk to anybody, even if they’re not in your department, even if you don’t interact with them on a daily basis. Not being in an office setting allowed for that to happen.”

Hewitt was also able to focus on an area he considers extremely important: diversity and inclusion. 

“My passion stems from being a minority. I've had various jobs since I started working in high school, and it's not every day I see people like myself in leadership positions,” he said. “How can you implement inclusivity into a corporate space? That is my main focus and goal.”

As part of his diversity and inclusion rotation, the Evanston, Ill., native researched various companies and analyzed their transparency in reporting workforce demographics. He also studied the initiatives companies implemented in response to the civil unrest following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. Equity Residential stressed the importance of mental well-being and addressed current events by organizing listening sessions with employees.

“There wasn’t really an agenda. You could talk about anything and voice your concerns or opinions related to the company or personal life, especially the focus on the racial tension. We had the chance to sit and have open dialogue, and I feel like that’s the only way we’ll move forward if we sit and listen to each other, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.” 

The 21-year-old is now focused on finishing his Bradley career and landing an HR position where he can help provide leadership-building opportunities to underrepresented individuals. He takes with him the most significant lessons he learned over the summer — show up and know your worth.

“I felt a little intimidated, especially when I was speaking with senior leaders, but I tried to remain present in that situation ... If they didn’t want me there, they wouldn’t have hired me.” 

- Wendy Vinglinsky