Ilana Raia Interview (Part 1)

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In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt interviews Ilana Raia, the founder and CEO of Être – a mentorship platform for girls, and they discuss mentorship, empowerment, and creating opportunities during COVID-19.


VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. I am Dr Aviva Legatt, founder and elite admissions expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today I’m going to be talking with Ilana Raia, recently named one of the first 250 entrepreneurs on the Forbes Next 1,000 list. Ilana Raia is the founder and CEO of Être, a mentoring platform for girls believing that mentors matter as early as middle school. Ilana brings girls directly into companies they select like Google, Spotify, YouTube and the New York Stock Exchange to meet female leaders face to face as Être in French means “to be”. Her goal is to help today’s girls figure out who they want to be. Welcome, Ilana! 

IR: Thanks so much for having me! 

AL: Well, it’s great to talk with you, and I am honored that you were interviewed for my book, “Get Real and Get In”, and people get to hear about your college story soon. So I’m very excited to feature you there. But today I wanted to hear about what you’re up to with Être and what college bound students and their families can do during this challenging time. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Être girls and why you founded it? 

IR: Absolutely. I’m so happy to be here. I’m so honored to be in the book, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. I’m excited! From everything I’ve seen, it’s gonna be something that everyone’s gonna want on their shelf and need in their backpacks. Yes, I am the founder of Être, which, as you said, needs “to be”. And I founded it in 2016 because I was realizing that right around the age of middle school, and as girls were going into high school, I was reading that their confidence could drop significantly. And what I was hearing and what I was seeing was that right around them was when girls were quitting, the things that they loved and girls were putting their sport at twice the rate of boys. They might opt out of a harder math class. And that has implications down the road as they get to your audience, which is kids applying to college. I recognize that when my own daughter was in middle school and I was practicing attorney. She really didn’t know what I did every day. And you could see this sort of confidence gap in the age that these girls were in that middle school age. And you could just see that if you could stop it at that moment and say this is what I do every day. And more than that, this is what other accomplished women are doing every day. If they could meet women face to face and talk to them, maybe they wouldn’t quit the things they loved. Maybe they wouldn’t opt out of the harder classes. Maybe they would say, “Oh, I’m going to stay in that advanced math class because I just met an engineer at Google, and she just told me what she did every day”. So I built it originally as a resource site and it morphed very quickly into, as you said, these meetings where we go into companies and there’s something just truly impactful about having girls at a vulnerable time, meet Rockstar women face to face and get these early mentorship options. 

AL: Wow. That’s really powerful work. And one of the things that strikes me about what you shared is this power and potential in connecting people. And specifically at a time when young women are looking to figure out who the are, what they want to do. Do you have any stories to share about any students you’ve connected with companies and any results that have come out of that? 

IR: Absolutely. And what’s so cool is that we’ve really grown up with our girls. So Être is 4, almost 5 years old. Spotify was our absolute first company visit, and I actually didn’t think it was going to happen. One of our girls had said at the time we interview all these amazing women. “We post their quotes on our website. Why can’t we meet them? Why can’t we meet some face to face?” And at the time I was like a year and a half old, they’re definitely not going to come to us. Maybe we can go to them. I called someone a Spotify and they loved the idea. And we went in and one of those first visits where you could see middle and high school age girls who normally might be timid. They didn’t know anyone else on the bus. I made sure it was a group that really didn’t go to school together the minute they got into the room and they were talking to these executives really seriously about a platform that they were familiar with. They used the product, every hand was up. They were asking great, really substantive, deep questions. And I just thought, “this is something”. And then, as we grouped, see those same girls later, circle back to some of those women and say, “Hi, now I’m in college. Would you look at my LinkedIn profile?” “Can you talk to me about how I interview for an internship?” They’re coming to these companies, not with their hands out saying, “where’s my internship?” They’re coming to the companies with unvarnished, really great questions that the women remember. And later on at Morgan Stanley, at Goldman Sachs, they can reach back out to these women that they’ve met and know that there is a friendly voice at the other end of the phone or a welcoming email address to ask more questions.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.