After attending the National Association for Black Accountants (NABA) conference last September, Mariah Adams earned an internship as a corporate audit analyst at Bank of America.
“I consider myself to be so lucky because Bank of America actually reached out to me after they reviewed my resume on the NABA website,” says Adams.
The 21-year-old says her internship experience was “challenging, sometimes uncomfortable yet very informative on every level.” She further explains, “This opportunity has allowed me to grow in various ways and also to realize what I do and do not want to pursue in the area of accounting.”
After Adams began her internship, she reached out to her mentor, JSU alumnae, Ashley Varnado, requesting to be connected to key leaders within the bank. Varnado, who also interned at Bank of America, is currently working within the private bank’s National Philanthropic Strategy Group as the COO.
“Mariah is extremely bright with a strong propensity to excel in corporate America,” says Varnado. “She has an amazing introduction to the banking industry by way of audit, and I know that she has gained key enterprise and industry knowledge, along with the power of ‘owning her brand’ and building a strong network.”
Varnado continued, “She has more than proven that she deserved this opportunity, as she’s learned to compete with talent from both national and international universities. As a proud Jacksonian, I know she gained the real-world experience needed in order to compete and win in this sector.”
The Texas native considers herself “fortunate”, and is “astounded by the opportunities afforded to her since deciding to attend Jackson State.” Adams admits that upon completion of high school, she had no plans to attend college.
“A family mentor took time to expose me to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and from there, I applied to Jackson State, Clark Atlanta, Howard, and Texas Southern.” She continues, “Once I received my acceptance letter and full scholarship details from Jackson State, there was no other decision for me to make.”
After attending a predominantly Caucasian high school, Adams reveals, “The best part about Jackson State, is being in an environment with people that look like me. It is also very encouraging that my professors are not only passionate about me graduating, but also about me having a career.”
Reverting back to her internship experience, the accounting major describes her 10-week opportunity at Bank of America as “fulfilling.”
“I had no expectations going into this opportunity because I just really wanted to get a feel for the field of accounting, and get the experience, ” says Adams. “I was really excited when I received this internship because I was nervous about graduating with no experience. So now, I’m just really thankful that I have experience.”
Confirming the importance of pre-graduation career experience, Varnado says, “It was extremely important to me to ensure Mariah had everything she needed to excel and that she also understood that she truly had family at the company.”
She continues, “The truth is that I’ve seen so many students who excelled academically, secured job offers, but struggled greatly once beginning their jobs. The differentiator was experience. Though some suggest that internships don’t always guarantee success in any given field, they most definitely ensure readiness. Having this experience removes the “shock factor” for most students walking in the door on day one, providing the confidence needed to compete effectively in any industry, and help to level-set expectations.”
When asked what advice she had for her peers, Adams replies, “Network and interview as much as possible and most importantly, find a mentor that will give you adequate advice in your area of study.”