As founder and CEO of Port 53 Technologies, Omar Zarabi is on a mission to assist small and medium-sized businesses in quickly and confidently “vetting, trialing and implementing enterprise-grade security technologies that are easy to deploy, plus simple to use and manage.”
But it wasn’t that long ago he was just another college student looking for an internship.
Zarabi was an overachiever in high school, with great grades and a full sports calendar playing varsity soccer and basketball. He also could speak Farsi, Spanish and English. But when he went to college at the University of California Davis, he realized that he was no longer a big fish in a small pond and he would need to find a new way to excel.
It was his freshman intern experience at College Works Painting (www.collegeworks.com), a program that trains high-achieving undergraduate students the basics of managing a business from start to finish, that led him down a path to owning and operating his own business.
“I thought I was going to be an engineering student,” says Zarabi. “But my experience and success at CWP helped me realize that I should focus more on business.”
Instead of engineering, he earned a degree in economics.
Zarabi says his CWP internship experience gave him the confidence to launch his own company. It also allowed him to generate some nice resume builders, such as “marketed, sold and managed six employees at a branch that made $60,000.” He then became a regional CWP district manager helping others achieve their goals. He recruited, hired and managed more than 35 branch managers.
But it all started with the beginning of internship, and Zarabi offers these tips for college students looking for their own internship opportunities:
Don’t go for easy. Some internships may only teach you how to make coffee for the boss. Find an internship that gives you real world experience even if it means you will have to work much harder.
Learn teamwork. An internship should help teach you the values of teamwork.
Learn how business works. Try to find an internship that allows you to see how the entire business works, not just one part of it.
Stay in touch. Make sure you stay in contact with your fellow interns. Some of them will be CEOs one day and you may need to reach them.
Zarabi says that all internships are not created equal, and making the right choice may be one of the biggest career decisions a person will make in their lifetime.
Since starting Port 53 Technologies, he has come across many of his College Works alumni in business, and has hired several of them as sales consultants.
About College Works Painting
College Works Painting (www.collegeworks.com), founded in 1993, provides real-world business experience for thousands of college students each year. The award-winning internship program offers high-quality house-painting services for homeowners. College Works operates in more than 23 states, hires around 2,000 students each year, paints nearly 10,000 homes annually.