Finding community as a transfer student with Anna Drabovskaya | Humans of Ladder

Belicia T. Tan
Published in
5 min readMar 17, 2021


Ladder is filled with thousands of students & new grads from all walks of life trying to navigate their careers together. On Humans of Ladder, we highlight a member on the platform each week to share their story and journey.

This week, we chatted with Anna Drabovskaya, a community college transfer and recent USC grad, who is an active user of our entrepreneurship and product management communities!

Give us a little background about yourself!

I graduated from USC in May 2020, where I studied business, entrepreneurship, and applied analytics after transferring from a community college called West Valley my sophomore year. I grew up in the Bay Area, and initially thought tech was never what I wanted to do, but quickly changed my mind when I got to college. During college, I mostly pursued product management, but I also tried consulting — honestly, I tried a lot of things. After graduating, I was supposed to join VFA and work for one of their partner startups, but COVID derailed lots of things. Eventually, I decided to pull out of the fellowship and take a few months off after graduation, and began my job search again over the summer. I recently landed a role as an Operations Associate at On Deck and am also working on launching a new program in the Health Tech space.

We also saw that you started Lean in USC, tell us more about why you started it!

Starting Lean in USC came out of a need I saw for myself. As a transfer student, I didn’t get the freshman year experience of meeting new people, and I wanted to find my community and find ways to meet people and women across campus who weren’t just in my classes. I wanted to connect with professionals in a more intimate environment, where I could have that exposure to listen to their stories and talk to them, and as I talked to more people, I realized so many people wanted something similar.

After I returned to campus after the summer of my first year at USC, I noticed I still wasn’t finding that community I wanted, and thought to myself, “Maybe I could start this.” I didn’t have a framework as to how it’d look like — it was just me at first, but by the end of the semester, we were recognized by the university and had a team of 4. We still focused on building up the foundation, and by end of the second semester we had events and our leadership team grew to a team of 8.

It was a process that was one foot after another, but with time it became a lot more structured. I eventually started running it more like a startup than an organization: the organization itself was the product of the startup, and I learned a ton about how to iterate and collect data on qualitative things to scale.

Looking back, what was the most difficult and most rewarding part of building Lean in USC from the ground up?

The most difficult thing was definitely interviewing people! I had never done it before and I didn’t know what cues to look for. There were a few people we brought on that ended up not working out — at one point, we had to have difficult conversations to tell them they needed to step down, and I had to learn not to always be everyone’s best friend. It was difficult.

But seeing everything come to fruition and seeing the impact it was having on the students was very rewarding. There were some girls who met another student at one of our speaker events, met a mentor, or ended up getting an internship from it. Seeing all the hard work pay off and evolve into what I wanted it to be and seeing people get opportunities that they would not have gotten otherwise were the best moments, and I met some of my closest friends at USC from building this.

Going from the Lean in USC journey to your own journey — how did you navigate your personal career growth?

I started getting on Twitter and used it way more for networking, but I was still looking for a place where I could find all those cool opportunities and events for younger people that I was not hearing about everywhere else.

Eventually, I started using Ladder — I don’t even remember how I heard about Ladder, but I’ve applied to a ton of roles posted on Ladder and shared a ton of events on there, and I think it’s such a great alternative. It’s so casual and transparent, and on Ladder you can be like, “I need help for this.” Of course, there’s people who toot their own horn, but there isn’t this feeling of, “I have this question I’m going to ask and it’s dumb and everyone’s going to judge me.” Instead, I think transparency is something Ladder is doing a really good job of, which is really important to our demographic and generation.

You mentioned how you wanted to find more casual career events to attend. What were some interesting ones you came across?

I love the candid, but curated enough conversations where you’re getting to learn about what goes on inside, like how and why they’re doing certain things. One of the entrepreneurship courses I took at USC brought in a company I was obsessed with for an event, and he brought in one of the founders to speak to us. Getting insights into that was so interesting to learn from and helped me to understand what interested me, especially since I want to start my own company eventually.

But I do think more people would prefer more job-search focused talks, like how do I interview etc., and other similar content, because you can’t just google that and get answers. But for me, I love learning about why people are doing the things they do. I’m a very mission-driven person and it’s very important to me to understand why and how you do these things. If there’s no purpose behind it, I’m going to be like why are you doing this aside from making money.

Any advice for other students on how they can engage in more candid, curated conversations?

I think just paying attention to the “buzz” on campus or being open-minded to attending talks that you otherwise would not have attended — I did that with one of the first talks I attended with Ladder.

Because of that experience, it made me reach out to more people from there and continue these types of conversations, and this positive experience made me want to share about it with others. At the end of the day, I want to be able to share with people content or insights from a particular event or platform, especially if it’s something they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise!

Join Ladder for access to more opportunities to meet amazing students and recent graduates like Anna!



Belicia T. Tan
Writer for

Product Ops @ Indeed // Founding team // Founder @girlswhoconsult