I now finally have a chance to write about my time in Detroit. Having been back for a couple of weeks, I feel as though I am in a better position to properly reflect on the experience. I can’t help but feel a sense of personal and professional growth after my eight weeks in the Motor City.
I came in hoping to get a glimpse of what life in a startup environment would look like, and I feel as though I got just that. As my partner and I mentioned in our final presentation, it seemed as though our project was unique in its size and positioning relative to the other placements. We had a proper product that was being sold, and the team was composed of essentially four people in the office. Progress was tangible, and the work was sometimes erratic. I think the free-flowing nature of working with Mitten Bites is one of the biggest takeaways from my summer. After the first week, it felt as though we had a grasp on the product and what was going on. From then on I felt less like an intern focused on a particular task and more as a member of a team hoping to contribute in a variety of ways. I remember sitting down with Jake, the director of the project, where he outlined the next steps for the product and I helped introduce what I felt could potentially work. It was this personal connection and close-knit environment that allowed for this collaboration, leading to this diversity of work on a day to day basis.
While it would be unrealistic to generalize and assume that most startups operate in this fashion, I can imagine some level of flexibility is required to adjust in a young business environment. Reading up on how the most successful startups came to fruition, the general story goes as follows: someone comes up with a solution to a problem and begins working on it. Somewhere along the line, they realize that it is a much bigger problem or that they are focusing on the wrong thing entirely. They then pivot. I hope to get my foot in the door more in this field as I move forward and confirm (or deny) this understanding.
Participating in DukeEngage Detroit gave me a chance to get my foot in the door in the professional world, particularly in the startup environment, providing me an invaluable experience as I move forward. I am excited to return to Duke and pursue this interest as much as I can.