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ABT’s Role in Guiding my Career Path

9 Dec

As a recent graduate who struggled to decide what to do next, The American Ballet Theatre had a wonderful impact on deciding what I wanted to do with my career. I have interned with other for-profit companies, and I wanted to see what the nonprofit world was like. I wanted to experience what it was like working with people who were passionate about what they were doing and who they were working for. The thing I love about ABT’s mission is that they are looking to provide arts and culture to the largest community they can. Working for a company that works for their audience was rewarding.

I learned all about how nonprofit annual taxes work in various states in the US. I helped analyze financial processes on ABT’s accounting software and learned where and how this company allocates its finances. I helped out with some credit card expense reports and learned about DanceUSA – a community designed to help other arts companies around the nation. 

Godwin, Talisa, and Belzin were a lovely team of people who were willing to guide and teach me. I had a great Zoom call with Talisa one day discussing why getting a CPA was not for everyone. As someone who is pursuing my CPA, it was nice to hear from a woman in finance who told me why it was not always the best option for everyone. It was not a very long conversation, but it was an impactful one for me. I appreciate Godwin always checking in with me and making sure I understood what I was doing. He tried to make the best of this unique situation, and I am so grateful to him for that. I can tell Godwin knows how to be a good leader to his team and to me. He always provided clear direction and guidance, which is honestly a luxury as far as internships go. 

Dennis’ weekly meetings were also extremely helpful for me when I was deciding if the nonprofit sector was for me. He taught us what the company did, its different functions, and set up meetings with various people in ABT to learn a little about their role. Some of my favorite Zoom meetings were with Kara Barnett, the executive director, and Rachel Richardson, a company dancer. I loved learning about ballet and the inner workings of a huge and widely known ballet company. I am hoping that one day I will be able to visit 890 Broadway in person and experience an environment surrounded by talent and passion. 

Madison Ryan

Finance Intern

Fall 2020

Staying Connected in a Virtual Internship

6 Aug

I am not well-versed in the dance world, let alone the ballet world. When I was searching for a Summer 2020 internship, the opportunity to be the Finance Intern at the American Ballet Theatre intrigued me, as it would be a way for me to dive into an artform I admire from afar while also learning more about a field I am interested in.

At first, I dreamt about commuting to 890 Broadway and working in an ever-changing office space. Shortly thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world. The Summer 2020 interns became ABT’s first intern class to work virtually throughout the entire summer. My visions of working only a few blocks from Union Square Park now seemed trivial as I wondered what a virtual internship would entail.

My initial hesitations about this new type of internship experience dissolved immediately. During the first few days of my virtual internship at ABT, I realized that being a virtual intern would not make me any less involved. My supervisor, Godwin, introduced me to the accounting software I would use for the remainder of the internship while Belzin and Talisa walked me through how to record the ever-increasing influx of student refunds and donations to be processed as the Summer Intensives went virtual. By the end of the first week, I began working on a project that would later be used as part of ABT’s application to the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. I was only a few days in but already learning about and given opportunities to help coordinate ABT’s response to the pandemic.

When I look back at the past ten weeks, I see the strong community at ABT. Godwin, Belzin, and Talisa called me over the phone or on Zoom and were always open to having conversations to stay updated on my progress and answer any questions I had. Furthermore, when looking back, I see the lessons I learned at ABT. The international reach and scale at which ABT operates contrasts the smaller local nonprofits I have prior experience with. The trust the Finance team placed in me gave me the room to grow and learn about internal accounting and financial statements. I completed independent projects using Excel relating to expense reports, the Form 990, and other finance-related tasks. While I learned with each task, I also knew that my work meaningfully contributed to ABT.

I sincerely thank Godwin, Belzin, and Talisa for being supportive mentors throughout the internship program even though we have not yet met in person. I would also like to thank Dennis for his efforts to create a community among the intern class with our weekly Zoom meetings. I am looking forward to the day I can visit 890 Broadway and meet the individuals who made this internship an unforgettable and invaluable experience in person.

 

Simrit Grewal

Finance Intern

Summer 2020

A Family of Finance Stars

21 May

The doors open and I exit the train at Union Square getting swept up into the flow of people rushing, or dawdling, to get to their offices as a new day begins. Two blocks to the doors of 890 Broadway. People begin to disperse as I cross 17th street at the top of the park passing the familiar, yet ever changing, store display. Another street closer to the office and soon I fall in line with those I recognize as dancers, people I’ve admired as stars since I was four years old, and office staff. Together, we enter beneath the waving marker of our home and pile into the elevator that carries us to our destinations and give our thanks to the elevator operator and to Roseanne’s warm smile before we part ways within the building. Down the hall and into the room that holds the lively finance team. 

 

Even on my first day I felt that I was part of the family. Beginning day one Godwin gave me my first assignment, which was to pull financial information for the 2018 Cultural Data project (CDP), and was very helpful and happy to answer any questions I had. As my days in the office with the team went on, I was able to help with projects, such as competing tax Form 1042-S’s, helping prepare for the annual audit, and other projects for Talisa and Shawn. Birthdays were celebrated within the small group with cakes added to the sweets table and I quickly grew accustomed to my morning commute, saying “hi” to Belzin as I entered the finance space, Sandra’s laugh, Darrell’s friendly smile, Talisa’s “good morning” and yoga mat near her desk, Shawn and Godwin’s frequent hockey chat, and Marianne’s voice always keeping things entertaining. But then hand sanitizer hit our desks and soon after I wasn’t seeing the team three times a week as normal. 

 

After 890 Broadway closed its doors in response to the pandemic, I found myself away from the office, communicating through email instead of my usual 45 degree turn to Godwin. Despite the distance between us, however, I still feel that I am part of the family. I have been able to work on projects remotely, such as working with Belzin on Summer Intensive 2020 refunds for students and know that I am just an email away.

 

Even though my experience as an intern didn’t turn out as I had expected I am very fortunate to say that I was able to gain new experience and knowledge and meet many wonderful people. I believe that every experience brings us new knowledge and I will be closing my internship experience and moving forward with nothing less than positive and abundant knowledge that I did not expect. When you become an intern at ABT and, more specifically a finance intern, you are not just an intern, but part of the family. As a finance intern, you will be relied upon to complete projects correctly, but always under the aid of incredibly knowledgeable people like Godwin, who are there to help you succeed and teach you everything you don’t know and more. 

 

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work and learn with the finance team at ABT. My younger self aspired to be the dancers I recognize on the street and rode the elevator with, but now, with no disappointment, my dream has moved down the hall to the finance department whose members I now aspire to be. And the amazing part about being the finance intern at 890 Broadway, is that you are allowed to see how it feels to be one of them. A star. 

 

Leeann Minard

Finance Intern

Spring 2020

Lots of First’s

18 Jul

American Ballet Theatre has a special place in my heart. Seven years ago, I walked up the infamous steps to my first summer intensive. I remember waiting in line for my placement class number and eyeing all of the other dancers like any other audition setting. I wanted to prove myself as a little twelve year old in a sea of older, professional dancers. That summer was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned to be independent and challenge myself. I met incredible people that I am still friends with today.

This summer, I walked up those same steps again, but this time, to my first internship. I sat in the dancer’s lounge waiting for my ID and eyeing the other interns as they trickled in for our first meeting. The intern program coordinators, Dennis and Brendan, eventually started the meeting and introduced what the next two months would be like. It seemed like a whirlwind of assignments, time sheets, and performances. I wanted to prove myself in the group and the office. I would be working in the finance department, which was made up of six or seven people, under Godwin Farrugia, the Senior Director of Finance. So the following week, I got to work.

As an intern, I have been surprised by how much work I have been given by the team. I assumed I would be given exclusively intern-y things to do, like scanning and filing papers. Don’t get me wrong – I definitely have those jobs, but I also have bigger responsibilities. I work with Godwin on journal entries for the Met season. He was extremely patient while teaching me how to do jobs dealing with bank reconciliations and V9J reports. He helped teach me the importance of speaking up and taking ownership of mistakes. Sandra, the Payroll and Benefits Manager, gave me assignments to help with payroll. Marianne, the bookkeeper, always kept the office loud and lively so you are sure to never get tired. Darrell, though I never helped him with any assignments, always brought positivity and laughs to the team. And Talisa! As the finance associate, she does everything in the finance department. Whenever anyone took a week off, Talisa would step right in to fill that void. And she was incredibly approachable and helpful – if you ever get scared, ask her for help! Not only did I learn about office life in general, but I also got to learn about it from a great team.

I was the only intern in finance, but fortunately, I made friends with a few others in development and education thanks to intern program. To celebrate the summer, a couple interns and I took trips to the beach. A little later in the program, the interns were given the opportunity to go backstage at the Met. We saw everything from the sets to the rosin box. It was my first time standing on the beautiful stage. I can’t tell you how legendary that stage is for me! I dreamed to dance on that stage one day, and I finally got to stand on it. As an ex-ballet dancer, I was sort of hyperventilating. No worries. I’m fine. Totally chill.

After only a few weeks, American Ballet Theatre has given me so many new great memories I can add to the books. I felt challenged and met great people along the way. I learned more about finance in eight weeks than in my first year at college. In addition, the finance department was so welcoming as to offer me a full time job after the internship program was completed. I am incredibly honored and excited to work with them for a couple more weeks! I could not speak more highly of the finance department and my experiences there!

Angela Sheehan

Finance Intern

Summer 2019

Finding Finance

7 Dec

I’m not going to lie, trying to come up with a post about my experience has been hard. I know most people write in regards to a specific event, and I guess I could. I could write about waking up ridiculously early to decorate sailor hats with little kids and how it warmed my heart seeing them learn ballet. Or how eye-opening and fantastic my first ballet was, or even better the second when I got to stand on stage. I could write about the panel I attended on Fancy Free and the appreciation I gained for the history of that show. And although these experiences seemed once in a lifetime for me, it does not help summarize my day to day life in the Finance department.

Let me start by saying I learned an incredible amount of stuff, about non-profits, about accounting, about people. Every day I would walk into the office wave hello to good ol’ Marianne, and sit at my little desk positioned in between my boss Godwin and Talisa, who worked in student billing. Now my desk was small, but I don’t think I would have wanted another. It was great being right in the middle of everything, where I could turn and talk to anyone to ask for help, or just to see how their day was going. Then you can’t forget about Sandy and Shawn. Sandy works in Payroll and Shawn is the CFO. These people shaped my experience and really welcomed me into the office with open arms. Now, we do a lot in Finance, we process the bank statements and payroll entries, we form the budget and execute the absurdly long tax form for non-profits, we process checks, and make sure that every student pays for the classes that they take.

Somehow, among all of that there are always these breaks in the day where everyone’s crazy kind of comes out a bit. Now my boss always jokes that everyone there is crazy but it is hard to believe until you look up and see him playing with a light saber (of which he forgot what it was called) at his desk. Or anytime Marianne talked about Estonia, or well anything. She also keeps a hammer on her desk to hammer down the staples on really thick packets of paper. Or when you hear Sandy shout about something or sing out to her 90’s tunes. Talisa, I would say is pretty normal but I am waiting for it to come out. They kept me on my toes, and helped the time go quick while learning a lot. Because, under all of this “crazy”, they are some of the most genuine people and were so patient and helpful in teaching me. It’s unfortunate that my semester is coming to an end, it’s probably the quickest one I have experienced. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to work with such crazy yet incredible people.

Alissa Santolo

Finance Intern

Fall 2018

Deciphering the Form 990

11 May

When one thinks of ABT, finance is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. It is a world away from the stage, the perfectly poised dancers, and the glitz and glamour of galas frequented by those talked about in The New York Times. And yet, it is a crucial part of operating America’s National Ballet Company®, indeed any organization. Like the support beams that beautiful Venetian houses sit on alongside the canals, if forgotten, it could be eroded away leaving the organization sinking!

One of the best things about an internship at ABT is the opportunity to get an insight into the different departments into the organization, through various workshops and talks that occur each Friday. On one recent Friday, Godwin Farrugia, ABT’s Financial Controller, spoke to us about finance and helped us to decipher the various elements of the Form 990. The Form 990 is the annual report that a nonprofit organization, as determined under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, must submit to the IRS. It provides financial information of the organization’s activities over the preceding year, including its revenue, expenses, assets, details about its endowment (if any), and details of its personnel. These reports are disclosed to the public and are made available on helpful sites like Guidestar. However, like all things published by the IRS, it almost requires a degree to decipher each question, and what it reveals about the organization.

Godwin stepped us through the report, highlighting important questions asked by the IRS, what each section means, and basically why things are the way they are. For example, what’s the rationale of following a calendar year over a June-July fiscal year, the differences between “temporarily restricted” and “permanently restricted” endowment (Hint: one is akin to deferred revenue), and what may sound alarm bells! Reading Form 990s is a crucial skill when working with nonprofits as it gives you important information about a nonprofit organization’s programs, how much revenue is generated from its programs (and how much they cost!), and generally the financial health of an organization. The juicier part is finding out who are the highest paid employees as well.

While Form 990s and finance are about as sexy as a ballerina’s feet after a performance of Giselle, it is nothing to dismiss. Like firm feet can support a dancer en pointe seemingly forever, a ballet company with strong financial health helps to ensure it will continue to operate well into the distant future!

Jeremy Leung

Spring 2015

Institutional Support Intern