Maria Alcocer W’17, interned at Bay Sensors in Palo Alto, CA

2014-2015 Sutton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow

How did you find the position?
I found this position through Penn Career Services’ site: PennLink.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
As a freshman, I knew that it would be hard to find a job where my degree of responsibility would be high enough for me to have a worthy experience. Big companies, would rather hire upperclassmen with more experience and a more developed course work. In a start-up, however, because of its limited resources, an intern is considered like any other member of the team, and his or her responsibilities are worth the same as the others’.

The second reason for me to want to work at a startup was to see the whole production process of a product. By being in a small company, you are able to see and help in all the steps of the process. This allows you to really understand the operation of the company as well as to decide which steps you like and which ones you don’t.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
I would recommend that you look for a start up in a field in which you are interested. Although most start-ups are tightly related to technology, they are also related to another field to which they apply such technology. Whether you are coding, doing analysis or selling the product, because of the close knit nature of startups, you will, in any case, need to know the market of your product or service. Thus, since during your internship you will have to learn a lot about the field that your company focuses on, then you might as well chose one that focuses on a field of your interest.

Experience over the summer
Over the summer I worked at Bay Sensors, a retail analytics company in Palo Alto. I was part of the Business Development team, and was in charge of different responsibilities ranging from data analysis to sales to customer relations.

Something that I really liked from this experience is the trial-and-error-based approach to work. Indeed, since startups are creating something new, there is not an established pattern on how to do things; thus you have the flexibility to innovate, make mistakes and learn from them. This process was extremely enriching to me as it taught me resilience by giving me the option to fail and by constantly challenging me to look for different ways to accomplish my tasks.

If you are doubting…
Should I work at a startup this summer, or at a big company? There is no right or wrong answer for that, and it depends on what your career goals are. However, one thing that I can tell you for sure is that you will learn a lot by working at a startup, mainly because startups are so reliant on interns that they have a solid training and integration cycle.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at amaria@wharton.upenn.edu; I will be happy to chat with you about it!