“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar
(Photo: Testing out the equipment and study we created in VR)
Good quotes are a double-edged sword. On the one hand they summarize in a concise way everything that you want your audience to understand, on the other hand, they prove to you again that their short truth could have saved you months of emotional struggle and complications. And yet, that is the biggest gift I have learned from my time in Germany: that although I know what overcoming challenge is, and how every start can be hard, experiencing that journey myself, that emotional rollercoaster from hardship to success, is one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences.
As this internship comes to an end – I enjoy looking at it to understand the process I have experienced. The goals I had initially set for myself for the summer were to help me clarify my direction – and that was definitely accomplished. After long hours of coding and figuring out the correct technology for our experiment to finally finished the pilot study and finding significant results, I recognized three main career points that I learned:
- Having Inspiring Co-Workers Makes A World of a Difference
I have been incredibly inspired by the awareness, intelligence, and care that the people around me in the lab have. This is not only prevalent in their incredible work, collaborations and projects, but also in their global awareness and care about issues that I would love to see more Americans talk about (healthcare, employment agreements, environmental action, etc). The result is a work culture that is fun and therefore more productive, but also one that impacts your attitude after work and your daily interactions.
- I Need Direct Customer Interaction
I recognized this summer that direct customer interaction is something that I really value and care about. I want to see the smile when I hand someone a product they care about, I want to share the passion of producing a result that actually improves someone’s life, I want to be able to deliver happiness and satisfaction through shared human emotion. In a laboratory setting or when coding, the feeling of personal accomplishment is huge, but the direct-to-customer interaction is lacking. When I got to running subjects and talking with the people doing the pilot study my energy was so much higher and my motivation skyrocketed. I believe this internship helped me refocus my search for the type of work position I want in the future.
- Embracing the Intersection of Disciplines
The project I am working on is a dream for me: combining VR and an audio simulation study. The pilot we conducted with a few subjects showed really interesting trends and made us think of new hypotheses to test. Although I did not have enough time to see the full project through, it is something that I am so grateful for being able to work on and I really hope to see more of this intersection between disciplines work in the future.
(Photos: Ehrenfeld wall art, Hamburg Speicherstadt)
In summary, when looking back I am incredibly grateful for the lab for embracing me into their “family” and being my guides for the duration of my time here. Their support has given me power to continue taking steps forward and to embrace the learning process. After finding positive trends and results from the initial pilot data (which is really exciting) I completely trust the team here to lead the project forward with the professionalism, humbleness, and hard work that they do. I believe the best advice I would give a student coming here would be to reach out for help and challenges when necessary and be open to recognizing where you need assistance and learning to maximize your own productivity. This is similar advice that I have seen across the software and technology field, internships are supposed to be a view into the real – world post university, where your own initiative will determine your success and work satisfaction.
I am ready to go back to Brandeis University with these new ideas – and to apply the energy, European mindset, and perspective I have been exposed to here while in Germany. There are so many small moments when abroad that cause you to appreciate how varied human society is; how fortunate I am to be in a place like Boston where I can grow, be challenged, and feel at home all at the same time.