THE 2012-2013 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
SustainX was my top choice out of all the energy storage companies, so I looked long and hard for a possible connection, but struggled to find one. I knew that they had received funding from GE, and so when a GE employee came to a cleantech investing panel at Wharton, I made sure to talk to him after the event. He provided me the contact information of his colleague who managed the investment, and who in return forwarded my resume to their general manager. Simultaneously, I also decided to cold call and talked to the VP of business development. He asked me to send him my resume, we talked about possible projects, and eventually I got the offer.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I worked previously in consulting, and never worked at a startup before. When coming to Wharton, my plan was to work at a cleantech startup and gain both industry and operating experience. I was excited about having the opportunity to shape the future of an organization, while getting significant senior management exposure and learning about this industry.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
My advice to students interested in working at a start-up this summer would be to leverage the Wharton network. You will have to network, and current Wharton students, former Wharton students, and Wharton career services are all eager to help.
Additionally, I would advise students to be persistent with their search and not to be discouraged if no opportunities arise early in the spring. Most start-ups typically recruit in late April or early May. Also, if they cannot offer you an internship in the spring, you should absolutely stay in touch for later opportunities that may arise. For example, Tesla e-mailed me only in late May with an offer. However, I already had started my internship with SustainX at that time.
Also, you need to be able to both articulate at what kind of start-up you want to work, and how you can add value. Most start-ups will not have predefined roles, so the more initiative you can show, the easier it will be for them to react.
Impact of the experience on my future career plans
My internship has confirmed that both the industry and the stage of the company at which I would like to work in the near and medium term. I genuinely enjoyed my experience – working in a small, nimble team was a welcome change from what I had witnessed before at Fortune 500 companies. I addition, it was exiting to have that kind of freedom and responsibility.
In addition, the internship has provided me with invaluable answers to some of the questions I had before, but also opened my eyes. For instance, I became aware of the value of the skills that I gained in consulting. On the other hand, this experience will also shape how I will approach my second year at Wharton, and what skills I want to work on. I am now working on a part-time basis for SustainX, continuing the project I was working on this summer.
Furthermore, I was toying with idea of starting my own company, and participated in the Wharton Business Plan competition during my first year. But now I see that joining a growing company is better suited for my risk profile.