Jan 5, 2012
One Thing I Love About MIT…
Posted in: Miscellaneous
January is IAP (Independent Activities Period) here at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). And it’s AWESOME. Significantly less homework means significantly more time to be creative and pursue passions (at least for me).
I’ll be spending my IAP playing ice hockey for the MIT team, taking 16.810-- a 6-unit class called ‘Engineering Design and Rapid Prototyping’ (more on that in my next post) and interning with a company in Kendall Square in Cambridge-- a global innovation hotspot (and in MIT’s backyard). I'd like to share how I found myself working for this 1.5 year old startup, because it highlights why my classes are helping prepare me for life after college, and how following leads and networking can help land internships and jobs, whether you attend MIT or not.
This fall I took 2.96 (Management in Engineering). Our class was split between graduate and undergraduate students which made it quite fun—grad students often have different perspectives and are usually more grounded in their ideas (both good and bad). The term-long project (and ~40% of our grade) was to write a detailed business plan as if we were about to start a company. This involves brainstorming, doing tons of market research, forming ideas and designing a plan to move forward and become profitable/successful.
Anyway, my group wrote a business plan for a hypothetical startup called “Slate Design and Engineering”. I uploaded a copy of the 16-page plan here if you want to take a peek. To summarize, we wrote a business plan detailing how we would start an engineering consultancy centered around MIT engineering students (and then scale it up to other technical universities). Companies would pose small-scale engineering design challenges to Slate E&D. Slate E&D would then upload a project summary onto it’s website where only authorized MIT engineering students could view the challenges. Students were to form teams of 2-4 students and go to work designing (mostly with Solidworks—the 3D modeling software most common at MIT). All teams would be paid a small amount by the company, but at the end of the competition one team would be selected as a winner and be given a large bonus. Companies would have their problems solved while also meeting and ‘testing out’ smart MIT engineering students for potential future employment. MIT students would earn decent money, have fun designing with their friends, and begin to assemble a design portfolio for use in job/internship applications.
Anyway, long story short—While I was doing market research, I stumbled upon GrabCAD. GrabCAD is a community of 73,000+ engineers who upload CAD (computer aided design) models and interact, sharing constructive feedback and spurring fresh ideas. Groups and teams can use the site to collaborate on multi-person CAD projects privately. But GrabCAD also connects companies which have engineering challenges to capable engineers. It's free and pretty cool, but I was quite thrown off! This was pretty much exactly what we were designing Slate E&D to do, excect we were planning on only using MIT students! Bummer.
In the closing few weeks of the term (deadline approaching…), I decided to see if I could meet with someone from GrabCAD to present our business plan and solicit feedback. A few days later, I found myself in an office with Hardi Meybaum, co-founder and CEO. He cracked a few jokes about Slate’s financial projections being overly optimistic, but was overall very impressed. He noticed my brass rat and asked me to send him my resume. A few emails and one more meeting later, and I was offered an internship for January.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So that’s what I did. We got a 90 on Slate’s business plan in 2.96 too!
Lesson learned: If you have an idea, pursue it. Share the idea with everybody you can. Solicit feedback. You could end up with a job.