Sarah Kaplan W’18 interned at Glass-U in Philadelphia, PA

2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund

Whenever someone asks me how my summer internship was, I’ve developed a pretty standard answer. I’d like to flesh my answer out further in this reflection. This past summer, I worked for Glass-U, which is a startup founded out of a Penn dorm room by recent Wharton graduate Dan Fine. By the time us 8 interns arrived in late May, the company had grown into its own office space and supported 7 full time employees.

Now for the standard answer to “how was working at Glass-U this summer?” This summer, I discovered that if I’m going to work in an unstructured environment as a full-time career, I need to be passionate about what I’m doing. And in case it wasn’t implied, I am not passionate about folding sunglasses. That is not to say Glass-U is not something to be passionate about, because it is, but I personally struggled to find deeper meaning in the work that I was doing. The lack of both structure and passion meant that when I needed to be self-starting, I struggled to do something productive because I wasn’t excited by the work that needed to be done.

I was, however, passionate about the people I was working with. I was able to overcome my lack of passion for the work because I wanted to be a productive member of the team for my coworkers. It really was a unique experience to be in an office of a successful, growing business with an average age of 23. All my coworkers were people that, at some point throughout the education system, I could’ve been in the same school building as them. And here we were, growing this business, with such little real-world business experience ourselves. I made a noticeable effort to get to know each of my coworkers—where they were from, where they went to college, what made them excited and what made them angry. I found this was incredibly helpful in knowing how to work best with them, but also in developing lasting friendships that exist even though my internship has ended.

So when asked for advice to give to students looking to work at a startup, that is why I would advise to find a company that has either purpose or people that excite you. That dual-passion spectrum is what I found was really definitive of my summer experience.

Questions:

How did you find the position?

I heard about this position through attending the Start Up Career Fair during the spring semester last year.

What was your motivation for working at a startup this summer?

I wanted to work for a startup to gain industry experience. I was pretty confident that I would be unhappy in a more corporate job so I thought a startup was the perfect summer experience.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a startup this summer?

I would tell them to try and find a startup that has an idea they’re passionate about or that has people you enjoy spending time with and learning from. In a perfect world, you would find a start up with both, but a job at a startup lacking both of those components would be miserable.