Why I Go To the Startup Fair

The 2014 Career Services Startup Fair will be held on Thursday, February 20, 11:00 am-3:00 pm in Houston Hall, 3417 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

By Chenyang (Ray) Lei ENG’16

Last year, I went to the Career Services Startup Fair. I was only a freshman, but I knew that I wanted an internship at a startup that summer. And I got one.

It wasn’t an easy process. As a freshman without any working experience, I received countless rejections. I suspect that many companies didn’t even bother to read my resume. I almost booked flight tickets back home to China (Thanks StudentUniverse.com! It was too expensive.) Heavily disappointed, I decided to take another approach.

From the Career Fair, I was familiar with SaleMove, and I was excited about the work they did, replicating an offline personalized sales experience in an online environment using cutting edge technologies. I called up Daniel Michaeli, the CEO of SaleMove, and I told him about myself: what I was studying and what I was looking for. I did everything I could to show him my passion for entrepreneurship.

Daniel told me later that he was surprised by the amount of confidence shown by a freshman—and he decided to give me a chance. I was assigned a coding project. The only problem? It was due during midterm week. I pulled a couple of all-nighters and finished the project with the help of some friends. After that, I went to New York for an onsite interview. And as you already know, I got the internship.

I was successful in negotiating a stipend for the summer from SaleMove. The problem was the high cost of living in NYC, so I applied for a Wharton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship and was award a Cai Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow (Read my Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow report here!).  I highly recommend that people apply for these fellowships.

My path to getting an internship at a startup wasn’t a straight line. It was hard, and I had to do more than just send out resumes and wait for the phone to ring. But it was worth it. I want to start my own tech venture in the future, and a real startup environment pushed me towards being a better technician and a potential entrepreneur. My experience at the startup did change me a lot. I had an awesome time in New York City, with all the great experiences offered by the Big Apple. I built up my career connections, technical skills, and self-confidence.

I’m going to the Startup Fair again this year, and I encourage you to do the same. You’ll meet people, talk to them, learn about opportunities—and you never know when those connections may come in handy. I’m already interviewing for some engineering summer intern positions on the West Coast, but last year’s experience taught me that the process of getting an internship can be complicated, and I want to see who else is hiring. I may need to cold call one of them.

Ray LeiBio: Ray Lei is a sophomore in the Engineering School. He studies Networked & Social Systems Engineering and researches computer poetry paraphrasing. An associate member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, he is also an active member in his bible study group. He co-runs PennApps Accelerator and Penn Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs. In his spare time, he snowboards and Skypes with his family.