Sophie Ishak: Starting Up

Starting Up is a weekly newsletter for students and young professionals featuring hot internships, cool NYC events and helpful resources to supercharge your resume and get up to date. With just 7 issues starting from May 7th, the Starting Up readership has grown to over 150 students from across the country, and has an open rate of 40%.

Starting Up was born off the back of a project Sophie had taken up within her sorority, DG Columbia. Having been looking for a way to contribute meaningfully to her chapter, Sophie launched the first professional initiative in her chapter’s history, which included a mentorship program matching 150 alumnae with current Columbians as well as a LinkedIn group, both with the orientation of encouraging networking, job-sharing and career-oriented discussion amongst women (to her surprise, many girls did not yet have an account). The initiative was extremely successful and saw several of her peers gain summer internships (and a handful full-time roles), as well as the beginnings of lasting relationships between leading Columbia and Barnard women.

The experience taught her many things - how impressive and eager to help out her alumnae were, how supportive the sorority had been of her initiative - but what struck her the most actually lay in the Google Forms she used to collect interest. Whilst many of her peers were very focused in their career goals, others seemed much more open, and in search of guidance; quickly, the “any other questions?” optional section of the Form became inundated with a kaleidoscope of career questions, from “how do I write a good cover letter?” to “how do I navigate the workplace as a woman?” to “what’s the difference between working for a startup and a corporation?”. The mentorship program was intended to foster relationships… but what of these questions, that extended beyond it and sought guidance of an entirely different nature. It got her thinking.

And then the penny dropped. Sophie realized the huge demand for salient and savvy career advice and resources, and as a student herself, she recognized that her voice held greater weight than a university careers website. And so, Starting Up was born, every day growing in reach and in focus. Each week, Sophie scrapes the Internet for the best internships and fellowships on the market, pulls the coolest events in New York, and articulates the most valuable reads and resources she has come across. Sophie vowed to only include content that she herself would find useful. Ultimately, Sophie does not view this as work; she loves what she does. She says that if only one person finds her newsletter valuable after all is said and done, then that’s plenty for her.
If you’d like to subscribe to Starting Up, you can do so here. Sophie is also actively interviewing students and young professionals to include more voices and tips in her newsletter; if you think you have a passion to share, Sophie would love you to email her at to tell your story.

Zehra Naqvi