An Intern In EdTech

By Kunal Nayyar WG’16, Dr. William Zucker Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow

I’m two weeks into my grand experiment for the summer: an internship at Zaption, a seed-funded education technology (edtech) startup that’s making video learning interactive. The goal of this experiment, like that of most internships, is to learn about a new type of work and figure out how I like it. The experiment isn’t particularly well-designed, in that so many variables have changed relative to my previous job—but so far it’s been illuminating and fun in a variety of ways.

This is what working at a startup looks like: Kunal Nayyar WG'16, at his standing desk at Zaption.
This is what working at a startup looks like: Kunal Nayyar WG’16 at Zaption.

For comparison, my previous job was at Booz & Company (now Strategy&, a member of the PwC network), where I focused on my lifelong passion, aerospace. I loved serving clients that built jets, particularly when the typical day of Excel acrobatics and PowerPoint “artistry” was interrupted by a tour of a humming factory where amazing machines are born. Due to the nature of the industry, I worked primarily on operations strategy projects, often on the East Coast or in the Midwest.

But now, as a Partnerships and Product Marketing intern at Zaption, I’m experimenting with a new industry, a new function, a new location (San Francisco), and a new team structure (tiny). Everyone says this, but it’s amazing how quickly you can have an impact at a company that’s small and growing—I’ve already started to support new partnerships between Zaption and other education companies, as well as to influence their pricing structure, website design, and sales tactics. I can’t speak highly enough of the team—the perfect combination of sharp and down-to-earth. Plus, we had lunch at the San Francisco Exploratorium the other day—how do you beat that?

As MBA Career Management will tell you, it wasn’t straightforward to make such a drastic switch. It definitely would’ve been easier to stay in the aerospace realm, or look for operations roles in tech. But, with the support of Maria Halpern and Michelle Hopping, I decided that since I was only going to get one shot at an internship, I might as well shoot for something as different as possible, so I could maximize my learning. I decided on education technology not just because the space is “hot”—which it is—but because I wanted to work in an area that’s helping solve societal problems. Improving access to quality education via interactive video really fit the bill.

My unsolicited advice for Wharton MBAs looking to get an internship or job at a tech startup—especially from outside the industry—is this: Be specific in your search, and know what you can offer before starting it. Focusing on edtech from day one was absolutely critical, and figuring out in advance how my skills translated from aerospace consulting made conversations much easier.

Looking forward to the rest of a great summer as a Zaptioneer!

Kunal headshot smBio: Kunal Nayyar is a 2nd year MBA at Wharton and will spend the fall 2015 semester in Wharton’s Semester in San Francisco program. At Wharton, Kunal is a Tech Club Co-President and plays ice hockey for the Wharton Wildmen. Prior to Wharton, Kunal worked at Booz & Company, serving clients in the aerospace and defense industry. He holds a B.S.E. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University.