Gavriella Berk is, at 21, ahead of the curve. Before she graduated with double degrees in economics and political science from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, she’d already secured a position with Scottsdale company Axon, which manufactures Tasers and body cameras for police officers.
Now, Berk says she feels like a secret agent as she enters through the futuristic office’s automatic doors complete with retinal scanners.
Berk is an avid yoga enthusiast and travelled to Israel as part of a yoga-themed Birthright trip about a year ago. She practices creative writing for fun, and has recently fallen in love with travel.
Whether she’s flying to New York to study Torah or to Seattle to visit friends, Berk is always on the move.
How did you manage to graduate a year early with double degrees?
I skipped a grade in elementary school when I was younger. I could have graduated from college a year earlier if I had just done one major, because I had a lot of credit from high school, but I definitely would call myself a big nerd. I love school and love learning, so I wanted to take advantage of the full four years, which is why I decided to do two majors, but it was definitely a lot of work. I did three semesters in a row of 21 credit hours while also working, so it was a stressful but rewarding time.
How did you get your job at Axon?
When I was a senior, I went to the fall career fair at ASU and spoke with a lot of different companies. I knew that I wanted to find a company where I supported their mission and where they felt more engaged in what they were doing.
I met Axon — at that time they were called Taser International — and started interviewing for their leadership development program, which is a business rotational program. In general, those are becoming more common for recent graduates to go into after college because you don’t have to pick one specific job, but you get the opportunity to try various things before you end up in a more focused role.
I went through a really rigorous interview process, like a nine-hour interview. Then I got the job offer in November of my senior year of college and I had to wait nine months to actually start.
What have you been working on at Axon?
I’ve taken on a focus on people operations, which is what we call our human resources department. My manager is the head of the people operations department, she’s the senior vice-president, and since I’m in this program and I don’t have a more focused job description, I get to work on a wide variety of projects.
For example, I’ve done an audit of our international benefits and compensation. I’ve been working on including a new culture handbook for all of our employees. We’re implementing a human resources information system and I’m working with people on that.
It’s really awesome because I get to work on such varied things and also because it’s a smaller company. We have just under 1,000 employees total around the world. I get to work on higher-profile things than you normally work at
in your first job out of college, so it can be stressful but it’s definitely a great learning experience.
Tell me about Axon’s mission and why you support it.
The ultimate mission of Axon is to make the bullet obsolete. We’re still trying to get there. They’re working on developing Tasers to make them a more sufficient substitute for guns. That is the ultimate mission.
For me personally, I was really interested in working at this company because I think that in a lot of ways you get the engagement of what you would at a nonprofit that has a mission that’s very social-oriented and looking to help people’s lives, but it’s a for-profit company so there are the fun challenges with that.
With all the recent events going on, with issues with gun control and with events like Ferguson and things like that, it’s definitely amazing to be working at a company that is trying to make an impact in all those things.
You recently participated in Torah study at a Manger Winter Learning Seminar at Hadar Institute in New York. What was that like?
It was four and a half days. We had like 12 to 13 hours a day of learning. Mechon Hadar is a really incredible organization. It’s probably the most religious institution that I’ve ever studied at, but at the same time, it was completely egalitarian. Men and women were doing all the same things during times of prayer and Torah study. It was really intense. We prayed three times a day, which was very new to me, and we read text from the Torah and tried to understand it with different educators who really opened my mind to these different subjects.
The theme of the week was Beyond Biology and the focus was what does the Torah say about our interactions with family — things like honoring your parents, intermarriage, all sorts of topics. It was a really incredible way to kind of enhance my learning experience now that I’m out of college. JN