Last spring, I joined the internship stress-fest, frantically applying to every biomedical engineering internship I could get my hands on and fervently hoping that I would get an offer. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do—work in industry for the summer in order to get real-world experience with my major and get a better idea of what I want to do post-graduation.
Cue the Viterbi Startup Garage Summer Smasher program, a summer program that provides students with experience in entrepreneurship by matching them with a startup and having them work there over the summer. I had learned about it in my Engineering Honors Colloquium class and thought it was interesting, so I applied on a whim and somewhat forgot about it amidst the rush of internship applications. However, as soon as I opened up the acceptance email and learned about the startups offering internship positions, my plans changed entirely. I realized that although I still do want to work in the medical device industry once I graduate, this was my chance to experience being part of a startup, and I found some really cool ones that I was eager to work with.
After a series of interviews with various startup companies, I was left to choose between two startups that I was extremely excited about: OpenSesame, which was working on a 5-G social experience application, and Launch, which was creating an AI-based chatbot for companies. Unable to decide, I took on both! I had completely different roles in the startups I was working with: I worked on marketing for OpenSesame and product development for Launch.
Some tools I learned how to use/improved my knowledge of this summer
Unlike established companies, there wasn’t really a vertical hierarchy in the startups I worked with: as part of OpenSesame, I worked directly with the founder, and it was so empowering to have my ideas heard by him and see my input being incorporated into the final product. Before this experience, I was nervous to share my ideas, especially with the CEO of a startup, but the founders that I worked with were incredibly kind, supportive, and approachable. I was given a lot of freedom to pursue my ideas and I left the program feeling like I had made a tangible contribution to both companies I worked with.
One of the many interesting Oceanside Chats put on by the Summer Smasher program!
At the end of the program, each Summer Smasher participant got the chance to present what they had done that summer in front of all the companies in the Viterbi Startup Garage! Summarizing my experience at each startup made me realize that I had learned so many new skills and greatly improved my creative thinking abilities by spending those 8 weeks in the startup sphere (not to mention, I met a bunch of super-cool people and made some new friends!). Summer Smasher was definitely a smash in my books, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in entrepreneurship or even just learning something new!