We code, we sprint to meetings, we plan, and we work some more. As we move farther along our careers, our college and internship experiences move farther down our resumes. But we don't forget the good (and bad) times we had at college-- hopefully we learned how to "adult" during those four years. ;) When my alma mater, the Macaulay Honors College, invited me to speak to students about working in NYC tech, I happily accepted. I spoke alongside very insightful panelists who shared their journeys, passions, and hard lessons learned. Keep reading for my favorite questions and collective thoughts of the night.
How did you get involved with the company you work for?
After college graduation, I was hired as a community manager at a small startup that owned an online dating app. As the eleventh hire (and first woman!), I picked up many valuable skills. I left the company four years later, after learning about minimal room for advancement. I found touchlab when I saw Kevin's (touchlab president/founder) job post for a part-time meetup coordinator. I immediately applied and was hired full-time to help run operations.
What solution/challenge is your company addressing?
touchlab is the top Android design and development shop. We pride ourselves on creating and building beautiful Android experiences. We've worked with startups like Timehop and Minibar Delivery to larger clients such as The Jane Goodall Institute. We built a Google Maps app to track deforestation in Africa. Our most recent project involves the Android interface for the LinkNYC wifi kiosks that are going up in NYC. How do you network and meet these tech companies? I feel like my resume goes nowhere. Go to tech meetups, search for and sign up for NYC tech newsletters like Gary's Guide, and scour the internet for contacts on that company's human resources team. Don't forget about the traditional avenues too. I searched Hunter's jobs database frequently and worked with their internship coordinator. Also tailor your resume for each position and use keywords from the job posting itself. Resumes are skimmed for a few seconds only, so make sure your text is eye-catching and relevant.
What are you passionate about, and how did this company allow you to cultivate your passion?
I started a student organization at Hunter College during my sophomore year. I really enjoyed running a team, organizing tasks, and advocating for the underfunded Asian American Studies Program together. It's not a typical passion, but I love organizing anything, be it events or tasks. My bosses trust me to do my job. This allows me to help the team run efficiently, whether it's assisting with project management, acting as HR, or ordering infinite bags of coffee for the office. :)
I thought I wanted to go with one major my whole life, but now I'm on another track. What do I do if I don't know what my passion is? Pressure starts really early these days - I feel like high schoolers are pressured to know exactly what they want to do! The fellow panelists and I repeatedly emphasized that college courses and internships are for exploration. You test out an internship for a few months. Even if you don't like it, you'll have picked up skills along the way. Most people don't find that dream job until well in their 30s-40s -- so you have time!
What do you think is the appeal of entrepreneurship?
Being an entrepreneur is sexy. Look, s/he started something and s/he's taking it all the way through... Literally the American Dream! There's much more to it behind the scenes though. If you want to start your own business, be prepared to work for it. I've met and worked with quite a few startup founders. They are tireless, even when they are exhausted. Long days with packed meetings, anxious nights thinking about fundraising/payroll, and alas, the never-ending search for new clients. What does vacation mean? If you embark on your own startup, make sure you are 100% devoted, passionate, and willing to sacrifice. Your passion will fuel you if all else fails.
I hope you gained some insight from my thoughts, no matter where you are in your career right now. I enjoy talking to and mentoring college students, so feel free to direct message me on Twitter!