2012-2013 Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
I was fortunate enough to win the right to have my resume sent to Davis Smith (WG ’11) of baby.com.br through the WEP Startup Auction. Very quickly after the auction, Davis contacted me for an interview over Skype. Approximately a week later, I had a second interview with the COO of the company and a few days after I received an email from Davis with an offer. I would definitely recommend using the Startup Auction, but be sure to do all your research quickly. I did not know I had an interview until about 24 hours before, so there’s not necessarily a lot of time to prepare between when you find out you have been granted an interview and when it happens. Separately, for other start-ups, I relied heavily on connections via LinkedIn. Don’t be shy to ask people for introductions; if you have friends who work at VCs or startups, start reopening those connections now. While you need to keep an open mind and be flexible, it’s helpful to have examples of the type of companies you want to work for along with your motivation for wanting to work in such a place.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I had spent four years working at a bulge bracket bank; I had some great experiences and learned a lot, but I also learned that bureaucracy is extremely frustrating – I just don’t have the patience for it. So while I did at times consider large technology firms, I also believed that on some level they would suffer from the same ‘big company’ problems. Additionally, I felt that one of the things I missed most in my prior job was the opportunity to be helpful by working with different functions. I wanted to be in a company that would value suggestions in areas that weren’t necessarily connected to my job description. I felt that that ethos would be engrained in startup culture, and I wanted to make sure that this belief was based in reality and not a ‘grass is always greener’ type sentiment. Finally, like many people at Wharton, I am very used to structured environments. While a more unstructured role has always appealed to me, I was unsure whether I would be as successful in that sort of environment as I was in the kind of structured environment I had at the bank.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Commit to working at a startup now if that’s what you really want to do. I’ve seen plenty of people who wanted to work at startups and then give in to the temptation of working for a bank or consultancy. Recruiting is tough on everyone, but it’ll be tougher on you if you try to simultaneously do traditional and startup recruiting. As mentioned above, if it’s what you want to do, start opening up those connections now. Most places won’t give offers until the spring, but it’s good to get your name in people’s heads as soon as you can. Also, both in sourcing your job and when you get it, follow up. Part of what makes working at a startup fun and flexible is that there is always too much work for the group of people that are there. Hiring an intern is likely not anyone’s top priority and your emails can fall through the cracks. Even while I was interning, I had an experience where someone thought I had a great idea while we were chatting, and I mentioned that I had written that in an earlier email. Two final pieces of advice: think like an owner and have fun!
About the summer experience
My summer felt like it went by extremely quickly, and I think that’s because I was having such a great time. Baby was a great environment to learn about Brazil, e-commerce, and how to run a business. While I could probably write pages about why I enjoyed Brazil, startups, ecommerce, and Baby specifically, I think the best part of my experience was the trust that was placed in me from day one. There were some challenges in inventory management, and that was most of my summer. That said, it allowed me to work with website design to make it easier to find products that weren’t selling as well and marketing to better understand our non-standard inventory needs. I felt like I was doing 10 things at once, and that’s exactly what I loved about my experience. By the end of my summer, I felt like I was a trusted advisor to the co-CEOs as well as others. You can really have a large impact on a startup in a few weeks – I highly recommend it.