8/29/2014– Paige Cote
Choosing a startup for my first technical internship was pretty scary. While the benefits of working for a very small company are definitely large (I’ll get to that in a minute), I knew that this was going to be jumping into the deep end. Looking back at the end of the summer, I can say that while I was definitely justified in my anxiety, I would make the same choice again.
Jump Right In
The best thing for me about this summer was that I could make an impact from day one. While my other friends shared stories about weeklong onboarding processes and intern projects that would never see the light of day, I was immediately pulled into the craziness of shipping Technical Machine’s first product, with all hands needed. Any worry that I would not be making a significant impact this summer was quickly put behind me. We were working on bug fixes from the first day, and as soon as our customers had Tessels in their hands, we were the first line of support.
After the first few weeks, which included surviving shipping, things hardly slowed down. I eventually got involved with every facet of the company. From web development to firmware to support, I was encouraged to find projects that were interesting to me and tackle them. Because Technical Machine is so small (7 full-time and 3 interns), there were always projects that were genuinely important. I could simply express interest in working a specific project and then start working.
This freedom encouraged me to attempt to solve problems that would have intimidated me a month earlier. It also highlighted a huge benefit of startups. At Technical Machine, everyone who made the product is in the same room/building as you. As I worked to solve problems, I knew I would have the support from the team if I needed it. If something strange was going on with the my project, I could just ask the person who wrote the entire section of code or designed the circuit that you’re having trouble with. It was a pretty awesome introduction to a professional engineering environment.
Back to The Real World
Considering that Tessel didn’t even exist as a concept until about a year ago, the amount of quality product that the team has been able to produce is amazing. I am so close to being in a similar position, and it is incredibly encouraging to see how much I could do with the knowledge I gain in the next few years.
Contributing to Tessel this summer gave me a new perspective to take back to school with me this fall. It gave me insight on what problems I look forward to solving, and what I need to focus on improving if I want to make an impact on similar projects in the future. Working in the startup space feels like the best parts of school mashed into one, there are always new things to learn, and you learn new skills with the purpose of immediately applying it.
This fall you’ll find me back at Olin taking classes, Tessel-vangelizing at medical hackathons in Boston, and trying to learn C on the side so that I can more successfully tackle firmware problems next time I’m presented with that opportunity.
If you have any questions about my summer, feel free to get in touch!