If you’ve ever encountered a bronchoscope, its controller may not strike you as the most intuitive tool. When performing a bronchoscopy, a doctor must navigate a camera affixed to the end of a flexible tube through the tortuous and constantly moving path of your lung’s airways. Further complicating matters is the endoscope’s controller, whose job can best be described as a 3 dimensional etch-a-sketch, with multiple dials each controlling a different degree of freedom. The doctor must also consider how to get the diagnostic tools (tools that can gather tissue for analysis) up into the lungs, which sometimes necessitates inserting a needle through the patient’s back to reach tissue at the lung periphery.
Now, imagine you were a doctor and wanted to perform a bronchoscopy with the intuition and ease of a video game controller, and with minimal intrusion to the patient’s body. This summarizes the endeavors of the Auris robotic platform, Monarch, which it is developing to revolutionize endoscope technology. And they’re doing it with the help of several Olin alumni.
“Ask more questions. Please... ask more questions.”
That’s the advice of Erica Chin, one of the first Olin alumni to join Auris Health. After graduating from Olin as an Engineer with a BioE Concentration and attending Stanford for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Erica landed a job with Auris, a medium-sized startup with approximately 100 employees.
Erica describes her team (then) as sort of a startup within a startup, since it was 7 people and they worked in a separate building. Three years later, and that team is now around 400 people and still growing quickly.
You’d be correct if you assumed, then, that Erica is well versed in the hiring process. Her advice for applicants? Communicate well, and ask more questions.
With 10 Olin alumni as employees, Erica describes how the Olin education has prepared these engineers for a fast-paced company like Auris, and how one alum tends to bring in the next.
“Because of the ambitious goals our company has, we need people, and we need them fast,” said Erica. “And one of the best ways to find the right people is through referrals.”
After the introduction is made, however, Erica believes that what really compels the fit between Auris and Oliners is their mature sense of their own abilities, their strength in communicating in the workplace, and Olin’s open-ended, project-based approach that emphasizes quick iteration cycles.
“I think we [Oliners] tend to have… a strong sense of our strengths and weaknesses.” Olin’s small community and academic framework helps to drive a lot of feedback home. When reflecting on her transition from Olin to Stanford, Erica said that at the time, “I didn’t really appreciate my own strengths. Like project planning, for instance. It still surprises me sometimes.”
Erica also highlighted the efficiency with which many Oliners conduct meetings, thanks to the combination of abundant projects and ambitious students that they have experienced. It’s no surprise that these skills are highly desired at a fast-growing company like Auris.
A key component to Auris’ interview process is a presentation where candidates are required to discuss a technical project that they worked on. This format allows candidates to demonstrate both their technical knowledge and communication skills. “It’s not like they had to have always presented or done the perfect thing in their presentations. So much is being able to communicate the decisions that they made, why they made them, and what they might change the next time.”
From the very beginning of her job, Erica was involved with the hiring process. During her first interview as an employee of Auris, the candidate asked her, “ ‘So how long have you been here?’ and I held up two fingers. ‘Two years,?’ he asked. I replied, No, two days.’” By immediately becoming involved in her team’s interviewing process, Erica has observed how interview strategies evolve as the team multiplies in a short period of time. She’s also picked up a lot of knowledge about the interviewing process, and has some advice for job-seekers.
“Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. It shows that you have the drive to better understand what you are being asked.” Sometimes the interviewer will pose a question that they don’t necessarily expect you to know the answer to. Their intent is to understand how you would go about solving a tricky problem, and how you communicate your thought process. They also might be interested in how you would go about scoping a project (identifying stakeholder’s needs, key challenges, etc.). By having these skills and communicating them clearly in your interview, you put yourself in a strong position to be hired.
On the topic of internships, Erica described that Auris seeks interns who exhibit self-sufficiency and self-direction. “It’s great when you have an intern who knows what questions to ask and how to find the answers without bugging you constantly, and who also raises questions and suggestions about where to take the next step. I think Olin provides a lot of good training in these areas because of their project focus.”
Read more here about Erica’s Olin-focused advice on nailing that internship interview!