Startup v. OXO

By Eric Tepper C’17/IPD’18

Over the past year, I interned at two very different companies: a medical device startup that I interned at part-time at Penn, and OXO, who make carefully designed cooking tools and housewares, that I interned at this summer. These experiences highlighted for me what I truly value in a company.

OXO product testing
OXO product testing

In the startup world, offices can be nonexistent and hours can be fluid. There are not always set times or locations. While interning for Daylight OB, the medical device startup, during the school year, my tasks were assigned and completed during my free time. A significant portion of the work was done independently and the team came together for small amounts of time to integrate the information. Working in an office with teams during business hours is different.

Working at OXO has much more structure—and actual regular business hours. Most of the business day is spent on completing projects, researching, meetings, or new explorations. But there is also time for social interactions. Many Oxonians (as OXO employees are called) eat lunch together in the kitchen and talk about their lives outside of work. There are also different email groups ranging from rock climbing to gaming nights for Oxonians to spend time with one another after work.

OXO is a well established company with 100 employees in its main office and tens, if not hundreds of times, the revenue of many startups; but it has a startup-like feel. Oxonians work in shared coworking space; whether you’re the president or an intern you sit at a desk in a long row of employees in a bay with your team. The president rides a scooter to get around the office, and typical corporate hierarchy is nonexistent.

There’s no typical day at OXO, even for Oxonians who have been there for more than 20 years. Some days, I spent most of the time researching a product or product category; other days, I might have tested a product or mocked up a concept in the engineering lab. Startups often work in similar fashion, but at more established companies, most of the daily structure is more similar day to day.

Most of the work Oxonians perform is focused around a mission of making products that abide by universal design, which means that products should be easy to use by a broad spectrum of individuals. Startups often focus on one product or narrow method, such as Daylight’s medical device, but with over 1,000 active products, OXO has much more happening. I felt the difference between these two functions while interning at OXO and it helped to give me insights on how to be able to handle many tasks and work on efficiencies wherever possible.

As my time at OXO came to an end last week, I look back at all that I have learned and the relationships I have formed. I realize that it’s not just company size or stage, or even the job description or tasks that are important for happiness at a job, but coworkers and culture as well. Even if I’m not working at a startup, I like one with a startup-like feel. And awesome coworkers.

etepper_headshotBio: Eric is a rising senior studying Health and Societies and first year Integrated Product Design student from northern New Jersey. He has experience in product design and product development interning at medical device startups. At Penn, he is on the Undergraduate Assembly, PRISM, and involved in Hillel.