2014-2015 Ambassador of Entrepreneurship
Sutton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow
Charles Wetherbee (W ’15)
New York, New York
How did you find the position?
A recent alumnus from my fraternity came back to Penn for the Startup Fair., and I dropped by to hear about the team and the projects he was working on. I had been focused on supply chain and operations roles, but hearing about Updater made me consider working at a tech startup—something I had never considered before. Updater was hiring a DataOps analyst, which slotted nicely with my quantitative and process-based interests, so I applied.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I wanted to take a risk and dive into a new industry (internet technology) that I’d never dreamed of entering. I also wanted to challenge myself and work with a dedicated team on a specific product rather than consulting or advising from afar. Finally, it has always been a goal of mine to live and work in New York, ever since I was a kid growing up in California. Updater’s office is an awesome 9th floor loft in the Flatiron, a short ride on the subway from Times Square, where I could crash on the trundle bed at my friend’s studio. All in all, the chance to spend a summer in Manhattan at a growing startup was too exciting to pass up.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
The most important lesson I learned this summer is that the people on your team are far more influential in determining your satisfaction at work than the company you work for, the pay or benefits you receive, or the type of projects you’re working on. As the intern on a fifteen-person startup team, it was inevitable that sometimes I would have to tackle menial tasks. It’s also inevitable that on a fifteen-person team, everyone has to pull above their weight, all the way up to the executives, because there’s always three times as much work to get done as there are team members to do it. Working long hours out of the pure desire to make as much progress as possible was incredibly rewarding, especially when the sun set and nine o’clock rolled around with more than half the office still hard at work. My teammates and I would take a quick break to order Seamless or run across the street for takeout, finish up what we were working on, and grab a drink on the way home from work before coming back eight hours later to do it all again the next day. Each week was exhausting in the best way possible, and having a great team around me made it that way—it doesn’t matter if you love the company, the perks, or the tasks, the team is what makes the experience.
I also learned that a huge part of working in a startup environment is being able to adapt to fill whatever gaps the company is currently experiencing. My official title at Updater was DataOps Analyst, but halfway through the summer I became the de facto Head of Talent. As a side project, I began to explore the new applicant tracking and hiring platform Updater had just subscribed to, and during my free time away from data-related tasks, I worked to fully build out the new software. I ended up designing and optimizing the company’s hiring process, from structuring job postings and managing correspondence with applicants to determining which sources in our recruiting pipeline led to the highest quality candidates. I had no experience in people operations or recruiting, nor was I remotely interested in the subject prior to starting work in May, but that ended up being my largest long-term contribution to the company. The system I designed has resulted in at least three hires since I left to return to Wharton three months ago. In short—keep an open mind, and view every project you have as an opportunity to learn, grow, and make a key contribution. Sometimes you need to carve a great opportunity out of something you initially view as a simple task or an experimental project.