Sophia Velasquez’s (C ‘21) interest in the bartending industry began during high school, which is why she decided to look for mixology courses as soon as she set foot on campus. After taking one and passing the bartending certification exam, she decided to interview for a position as a bartender in Penn Student Agencies during her freshman spring.
Sophia is currently in her third year studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Even though she joined PSA Bartending during her second semester at Penn, it continues to be a major part of her life.
“When I was interviewing for the position at Penn Student Agencies the bartender was just graduating at the time, so she asked me if I would be interested in a management position and I was totally stoked,” Sophia says. “So, that’s why I ended up joining PSA Bartending as their manager and I’ve been there since then.”
Sophia continues to hold a managerial position in the agency, which is currently only run by her and an additional manager. Her responsibilities entail reaching out to clients, re-writing the manual, updating and teaching the mixology course offered to students, and bartending on– and off–campus, among other tasks.
Her involvement with Penn Student Agencies continued her interest in the bartending industry and business over all, which led her to join other organizations on campus to help her grow in these areas.
Sophia is currently a member of Phi Chi Theta, a new business fraternity on campus. She says that, even though she was initially anxious to join a business fraternity, she was surprised by the people she met and the organization’s focus on wellness.
She says that she enjoys the fact that the organization is made up of individuals with diverse entrepreneurial interests, including not only finance and consulting, but also other industries like entertainment and energy.
“I found [that] Phi Chi’s wellness aspect was really all–encompassing and really central to who they are and so it’s been really great. The diversity of brothers in the group has been amazing,” Sophia says. “So, it’s been a really supportive group of very niche and, I guess like, non-traditional individuals just supporting each other entrepreneurially, but also socially.”
She is also a member of the Wharton Alliance, which advocates for LGBTQ representation in the workforce. The organization provides a welcoming environment for students, and gives them business and social resources and opportunities.
Sophia is a member of the case competition committee, in charge of organizing a case competition for students from Penn and other schools on the East Coast.
“As an LGBT person on campus, especially being a minority, Hispanic, it’s been kind of difficult for me to find a group that was just happy with who they were and whatnot. So I would say that my experiences with them have been great too,” Sophia says.
Even as a member of other organizations, a lot of Sophia’s time continues to be dedicated to PSA Bartending. The agency consists of six bartenders in addition to the two managers who meet once a month. On top of these meetings, the bartenders get to spend time with each other when working events.
Sophia mentions that bartending comes with a set of unique experiences. From facing stressful situations, such as dealing with rowdy clients, to meeting extremely interesting people during nights on the job. She says that one of her favorite events to work includes bartending for the Fisher Fine Arts Gallery.
“It’s really magical ‘cause you get a very particular crowd—very artsy, very willing to talk. So, it’s really fun when someone’s coming up to you and asking for a wine recommendation. You could give them a wine recommendation and often times they’re like ‘oh, cool, let me tell you a little bit about the exhibition tonight’,” she says.
In addition to working events, Sophia also enjoys teaching mixology courses to students. Two course dates are offered to students each semester, in which they get the opportunity to learn mixology in a small environment of around 20 students. The agency also recently made a payment plan option available to make the courses more accessible to students.
Through her experience with PSA Bartending, Sophia realized that she wanted to pursue a career that is related to the industry. This summer, she is going to have the opportunity to intern at Anheuser-Busch, a major brewing company. Sophia enjoys the possibility of pursuing an opportunity like this full-time.
“I really love talking to people as a bartender, that’s something that’s really important and I obviously love the subject matter. So, I think combining my two passions into a marketing career with Anheuser-Busch or maybe like a wine company down the line, like, who knows? [That] is probably where I want to go,” she says.
Sophia says that even though bartending has taught her a number of invaluable soft skills, her biggest take-away has been learning the importance of finding an industry that she is truly passionate about. At a school with a prominent pre–professional culture which usually pushes people to go after more traditional career paths, it’s important for people to know that searching for a different path is okay. At a recent Phi Chi Theta career panel, Sophia talked about the experience of finding something she truly loves to do.
“The main message I was trying to tell the Penn community and our rushes is that, I think that, when you’re at Penn, it’s important to find something that you’re passionate about, you really care about, and you want to learn more about for a good portion of your life and just not be afraid to do something unconventional and just run with it,” Sophia says. “So I would say bartending really taught me that it’s okay, you know, to be yourself and to be interested in something that maybe not a lot of people would be.”