Thursday, September 18, 2014

Senior Year: Part 1 of 2

Coming back to campus this fall, I was excited to see what the year would have in store - but for a different reason than most of my class of 2015 peers. For them, it is the first of many lasts—the last first day of classes, the last course registrations, the last summer before real life happens. I normally do things a little differently and have recently decided that I would take five years to finish my undergraduate degrees instead of the normal four. It was a bittersweet moment when I met with advisers to officially change my academic status to a 2016 graduation date. Even though I’ll have a different experience this year during my senior year, part 1 of 2, I’ll be able to actually live my life instead of just surviving the rest of the days trying to get through all of my classes.
After transferring in to The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the end of freshman year, I had a quite a few additional classes to catch up on to complete my bioengineering and my Wharton degrees. I thoroughly enjoy both sides of my academic experience at Penn and wanted to fully pursue both sides with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree instead of a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree along with Wharton concentrations in finance and management. I came to Penn not wanting to have to choose between business or engineering, so instead I chose to do both and have loved it ever since!

Cathryn and her dog Zoey
I also realized there was more that I wanted to experience in college rather than racing through my classes and giving up other activities that I love like Chi Omega Sorority, SWE Educational Outreach, AWE Advisory Board, club volleyball, and running among other things. Although I am constantly learning through my classes, I feel I have learned the most through these other activities because there isn’t a textbook to learn from or a professor to ask for help during office hours. Instead, you are forced to learn as you go. Failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it! Whether it is solving Chi Omega’s tax issue with the IRS or piloting a new SWE Educational Outreach mentoring program, I am constantly challenged outside of the classroom to become a better leader and a smarter student. I couldn’t justify giving up these experiences and giving up what I wanted to explore in college.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Summer Internship

Here's Bianca Pham's summer internship experience in a small startup tech company:

My summer internship in the creative industry

            As a Networked & Social Systems engineering student, I had the option of going into software, consulting, product management, etc. just like the other kids in my major. However, I wanted to build up skills that would allow me to be more creative and allow more room for design thinking. Thus, I interviewed for a small creative digital agency in New York called Ivory Digital.
Ivory Digital

            Ivory Digital is made up of a small team of entrepreneurs who build products they love for small brands that matter. As a production assistant, I helped the production team on every facet of a digital project: from business and web development to the creation of a business class website; from collecting project requirements to creating design presentations; from browser-troubleshooting to producing HTML markup; I experienced the full cycle of crafting websites for a wide array of client sites Ivory Digital currently maintains. In short summary, many of my projects consisted of giving a “fashion makeover” for a company’s website. Although I had mostly only technical skills, my boss was willing to take the time to teach me design skills such as Photoshop and InDesign because I was in a small startup company.  

            Typically when I start my project, I would first meet with the clients to understand their brand goals and objectives for their new website. I would then strategize content, website features, and plan the architecture of the new website. Once that was approved, I got to the fun part which was putting together mood boards and concept designs for the new website based on inspiring themes. After my clients approve all of the steps above, we would code up our newly designed website and Voila!

Bianca and her coworkers
            At this internship, I found out both that I have a creative side as well as the value of being a Penn Engineering student. I had the skills to talk to clients, understand the coding behind the website and figure out what the developers wanted out of the final product. With these various skills, I was able to act as a middle-man between the various departments and translate the needs of each department to one another. It was difficult to find a balance between all of the departments, but I had the power to pick and choose what elements made sense to put together to build our final product. Thus, I really encourage students develop new skills that you have always wanted to develop and try working in a startup environment, because there, you can learn a lot about yourself and learn from the people around you.

Questions for Bianca? You can contact her at