Blair’s internship was made possible by the M&T Intern Fellowship Award. Blair is a fourth-year computer science and finance major, who will be pursuing her master’s in computer science after she graduates in May. Herewith she reflects on her time in the M&T Program and why she liked working at a start-up.
Q: Why did you apply for the Intern Fellowship Award?
BB: I spent the summer working as a software engineer/data analyst intern at Assembly OSM, a company that is making urban development scalable and sustainable and run by CEO Andrew Staniforth (M&T’13). I heard about the company from an M&T alum and was interested in the opportunity. My previous internship was in real estate, so I wanted to experience the property technology space. I interned with two other M&T students. We each had a different position, different managers, and different teams, but we came together to talk about what we were each doing, and as a result, we learned a lot about how the company was structured and how everything worked. It was a very authentic experience.
Q: What does Assembly do?
BB: They are a modular construction company. They make each apartment in a facility off-site. It’s much cheaper and faster than traditional construction so you’re able to put up more buildings in urban environments with less neighborhood disruption. The goal is to use this technology to help solve the housing crisis. By building homes faster and for less money, they will be more accessible to more people. This is a goal we were always talking about and working towards.
Q: What did you do in your role?
BB: I had two different roles. For the first half of the summer, I worked strictly with the software team, and then for the second half, I worked with the manufacturing team.
With the software team, my main role was to develop a bunch of data integration pipelines and collect data to help create more precise models for future project location. On the manufacturing side, I worked with the technological integration of factories by using existing machinery and tools and integrating them with a software system that could be used by managers to have more control over the manufacturing process without having to stand on the floor.
Q: Why was working for a start-up a valuable learning experience?
BB: I worked in finance the summer before I worked at Assembly, so I was expecting a similar experience when I first started, but the reality, is working for a start-up is different. At Assembly, being able to have an individual role while working toward of a collective goal of pushing the bounds of innovation made a super unique experience. I was working on a product that was much greater than me and there were more implications beyond being profitable. It was very motivating.
Every start-up has their rough spots, so being able to sit in the room and see what the issues are was unique, and learning how to navigate them was a good learning experience. Seeing the dynamics of an early-stage company really opens your eyes to how these types of companies work, and it makes you want to be an entrepreneur because you can see the growing pains. It was an amazing experience.
Q: Where do you see yourself after you graduate?
BB: I want to be in a role where I’m going to learn a lot and be pushed to learn as much as
I possibly can. I learned a lot last summer at Assembly and learned the value of asking questions, working hard, and exploring something that’s completely novel to me.
Q: How has the M&T Program prepared you for where you are today?
BB: I think the program administrators are so supportive and they will sit down with you whenever you need them to. Having meetings with them to talk through ideas and goals and challenges is the most valuable thing about M&T, and I had conversations with them that go beyond the conversations you would have with traditional Penn Career Advisors.
When I was a younger student, the older M&T students were there as great mentors.
Additionally, the program offers so many talks with M&T alumni, which allows you to learn about new industries and gives you the ability to meet additional people. The M&T network is so interconnected, and I know that if I do have a question about jobs or open positions, I can reach out to an M&T alumnus and they will at least talk to me about it.
Q: Do you have advice for younger M&T students now that you’re in your final year?
BB: Try as many things and do as much as possible. Go to see the speakers, go to the events – even if you don’t want to. Talk to as many people as possible and learn as much as you can from the people around you. Most of the things that have brought me to where I am today happened because I was in the right place at the right time, and I showed up.