Thursday, July 18, 2013

What I'm doing on my summer vacation Part 2: Working at a small start up!

I applied for internships at a lot of the big companies. I was rejected by some immediately, never received a response from others, and went through the interview process with a few, only to later be rejected. And, in retrospect, I could not be more grateful that none of these opportunities panned out. Because of my lack of success applying to the bigger companies, I was forced to broaden my search and look for less obvious summer opportunities. My summer job search was completed after I received an email from my mother with an article attached to it. She had come across the story of a company recently started by a Penn systems engineering graduate that was developing a healthcare IT system. After doing research in medically-related fields the past two summers, I have started to imagine myself using my systems engineering degree to try to improve healthcare systems, so this company seemed like a perfect fit. I looked over their website, but there were no internship opportunities or even anything about looking to hire. I reached out anyway, sending an email inquiring about the possibility of interning with them for the summer. After a phone interview and an in-person interview, I was informed that I would get the opportunity to work with the startup this summer. And it has been the coolest experience.
            There are a lot of great things about working at a startup. The company I’m working for has 12 people total. I talk to the CEO/president/co-founder basically every day, both about work and about a mutual interest of ours, sports. I’ve had the CCO text me and I’ve given him a ride to pick up his car from the shop. There technically is a hierarchy, but because it’s a startup, everyone does a little of everything. There was one day when there were 5 or 6 of us crammed into an office stamping envelopes and another when we all took a break from our work to assemble our new desks chairs together. Your stereotypical intern jobs are everyone’s jobs because everything moves so quickly that, as was said on my first day, each person has do to the work of four, including me. The best part about interning for a startup is that I’ve been able to work in all the different areas of the company, such as helping with the entrepreneurial aspects by working on grant applications, working with the marketing team to create training modules, or going through data that the technical team needs for product development. I have truly gotten to see it all, while having a ton of fun along the way.
            Going into the internship search process, I hadn’t really considered looking into startups. But now that I’m 5 weeks into my summer experience, I could not be happier with how everything played out. I guess what I’m trying to say is that finding a summer job can be hard, so don’t be afraid to branch out and look for opportunities off the beaten path or that don’t seem to exist. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with as great an experience as I’m having as a result.

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