Working for a startup!

Filed in From the Staff by on October 2, 2017


Hey y’all,

Hope your A term is going great and that you are all pumped up for Fall break! While you try and be productive over the break applying for jobs, let me give you some insight on working for a startup! This past summer, I worked for The Puffin which is an assistive technology startup aiming to give consumer electronic access to quadriplegics. Additionally my company was also part of MassChallenge Boston, which is one of the largest startup accelerators around the world! Unlike incubators, accelerators provide you with the resources and push to make progress that the company would normally make in a couple of years. My internship at the Puffin provided me with a well rounded experience but let me talk about some of the things that were most important to me:


  1. Ability to make decisions

While it may seem scary, but in startup companies usually you would make important design decisions which you would not have the chance at larger corporations. This may seem daunting at first but you have to trust the knowledge and experience that WPI has given you and know that you can find resources around you to help you make those decisions. At the Puffin, I was in charge of making decisions for the electrical components and the mechanical housing of our product which would create the function that our users desired. At first I was thrown a bit off balance since electrical engineering was not even my core major, however with help from our company mentors and other engineers at the MassChallenge office I was able to define the specifications of our product. This helped me validate my knowledge as well and gave me the confidence that you would rarely get working in larger corporations.

2. Duties limited to just job title? Try again.

If you think you would be strictly confined to the job title and description that you applied for, you are mistaken, my friend. At startup you would work on a different number of projects ranging from engineering work to business strategy, even at the same time. Even though I was hired as a Mechanical Engineer Intern, i was involved with the electrical design, determining wireless protocols and app design. Concurrently I also helped the company founder in the User Design process often collaborating with outside engineering companies like Draper and MITRE. This was one of my favourite part of the job as everyday I would come in and learn something new, even things that I would never experience in a classroom. If you want to hone not only your technical skills but also project management skills, I would highly recommend considering a startup for your first job!


   3. Networking

Some people think that since startups are small companies, you would not get to interact with many people in your profession. Wrong again, my friend! Due to the small nature of these companies, startups intensely participate in networking events, product demos and engage in partnerships with bigger companies. While at the Puffin, I worked closely with engineers from MITRE, Draper, Arrow electronics, Boston University and many other companies. Additionally I also got the chance to represent my company at networking events where I would pitch our product idea to representatives from engineering firms to social entrepreneurship organizations. This mix of networking opportunities provided me with confidence in my ability to effectively communicate ideas and gave me a wealth of contacts. If you would like to network with people from different industries and professions, working with a startup can provide you with the perfect opportunity.

All in all my experience with the Puffin was one of the most rewarding experiences to date. If you would like more information or have questions about what it’s like to work for a startup, feel free to shoot an email at and I would be happy to answer your questions.

Mans hand drawing Startup concept on white notebook

About the Author ()

I am a Mechanical Engineering Senior with a minor in ECE. On campus, I serve as a Resident Advisor and Peer Advisor for the CDC. In the past, I have also acted as the President for the Model UN club and the Squash Club! I have a passion for travelling, exploring new cultures and trying new food!

Comments (2)

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  1. jrlocke says:

    Wow this was very helpful and informative! Thanks Ali!

  2. Lauren Farris says:

    So glad this was such a rewarding experience for you, Ali!