Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.
As my classmates were getting ready to traverse the globe, dabble in entrepreneurial ventures, prep for recruiting season, or taking short MIT classes intended to broaden your horizon like ice sculpting — I had other plans of how I would spend IAP. For those not familiar with it, IAP (Independent Activities Period) is an MIT-wide month-long hiatus where the university lets you do practically anything you want. I headed for a winter internship at the last place I’d expect a high-tech enthusiast to go… Utah.
I had never set foot in the state and had no idea what I was in for. How did I end up here? Through an MIT matching algorithm. Back in October, I had encountered a random email that explained the MIT university externship program. MIT alumni from all over the world sponsor current MIT students to come work full-time at their companies for the month of January. The positions are posted, students submit their resumes to companies/roles that interest them, companies rank students by their preference, and then an MIT algorithm matches students with opportunities. The program is available to all students (undergrad, grad, and every discipline — #OneMIT). I figured I’d give it a shot – and that’s how I found myself matched to a product management role at Lucid Software, a ~70 person startup in Salt Lake City. I came in thinking 1 month? It’s pretty low risk. And, it’ll allow me to try my hand at product management before committing to recruiting for PM summer internships. I wasn’t expecting what happened next.
When I talked with family or friends, they were pretty skeptical about the value someone at an intern level could bring in 4 weeks. To an extent, even my colleagues at Lucid weren’t expecting too much. But the startup world moves fast, and my previous life in management consulting allowed me to move even faster. I had never stopped to appreciate the on-boarding skills I’d picked up from my time as a consultant: the job grooms you to hit the ground running with any project thrown your way. Some client engagements only last a few weeks, and you’re expected to be an information-sponge day 1 and productive day 2. By the end of my first week at Lucid, I had already come up with initial wireframes for a revamped product website, uncovered a major bug in the product, and created preliminary thoughts on what the product’s 2015 marketing strategy ought to be.
The more work I was getting done, the more work they threw my way. I was on professional Cloud Nine — the impact and speed and challenge in the workplace I was craving, I was getting. My colleagues at Lucid were pushing me, and the learning I was getting on the job was furthered by the learning I was getting at home from my IAP roommates (MIT engineering undergrads who were also interning in Salt Lake City).
From these MIT engineering undergrads I learned about cool internships they’d had at Facebook and other impressive companies, design classes offered in the computer science department, stereotypes they faced, etc. We chatted about startups and new technologies, and laughed at silly inventions. I told them about my experiences working in Silicon Valley and Manhattan before coming to Sloan, and explained business strategy and terminology. I’d heard many times during Sloan orientation and beyond about the #OneMIT initiative, but this month was the first time since I came to MIT that I was truly making strong interdisciplinary friendships.
Lastly, I found myself actually liking Utah, thanks a great deal to the members of the MIT Club of Utah and the adventures they would take me and the other MIT interns on. We had ski lessons one weekend, Sundance Film Festival screenings another, and private plane rides over snowy mountains and hiking through Zion National Park the next.
It’s hard to believe that IAP is coming to a close and that it’s almost February already. I used to believe that IAP period was just a bizarre MIT concept intended to get students out of campus when the winter weather gets rough, but I appreciate it so much now. I don’t know any other institution that gives you such a luxury – an entire month to work on exploring/developing yourself whatever way you please. The spring semester is just around the corner, and I am so very EXCITED to see what crazy opportunities life throws at me next!