Integrating the Olin Experience with your Summer Internship, Marco's Story


When
I arrived at Olin three years ago I quickly decided that I wanted to be a Mechanical
Engineering major. Oddly enough, all of my summer internships have had to do
with software development, most recently as a User Experience Designer for
Microsoft Startup Labs in Cambridge, MA.

When
I was hired to work at FUSE Labs it was still called Microsoft Startup Labs.
Microsoft Startup Labs was recently merged with two other Microsoft Labs to form FUSE Labs, also the Future Social ExperienceS Lab, whose
goal is to apply research in social computing for products that span the areas
of social productivity and entertainment.  Despite not having had any
exposure to web software development  through any course work at Olin, I
had spent a considerable amount of time outside of class working on web related
projects and research. These projects outside of class were the motivation for
attending an event in Boston called Web Innovators Group, a product demo and networking event which
centers around Boston's Web and Mobile innovation community. Through this event
I was able to speak with someone from Microsoft Startup Labs, and landed an
internship as a User Experience Designer in the month that followed.

In
the year leading up to working at Microsoft Startup Labs I had taken a leave of
absence from Olin College with five of my classmates to work on an
entrepreneurial venture called Alight Learning. Through this project, and a general
interest in tinkering with the latest web tools and services, I was exposed to
all kinds of tools that fit into the target area of social productivity and
entertainment that FUSE Labs was exploring. Through rapid concept prototyping
and regular user feedback and suggestions the team at FUSE Labs works on a
number of different web projects that seek to deepen the social nature of many
other Microsoft products.  An example of this kind of enabled social
experience within Bing can be seen in the Bing Twitter (Beta) search. Bing's continuing emphasis on
providing in depth search results inside the Bing Experience has led to the
incorporation of current Twitter discussions in a way that lets you use the
Bing search similar to how you would search Twitter itself. While this example
doesn't necessarily show a full complete product or service that FUSE Labs is
actually working on, it does show some of the kinds of projects and exploration
into social productivity and entertainment that is being done.

At
FUSE Labs I was involved in a number of different projects and my role for each
project was always adapting and evolving, something I had only experienced
before in a startup environment! I loved every aspect of my experience there
that summer, something you don't always get even in the best of
internships.  I was able to bike to and from work, travel around Cambridge
and Boston, attend local technology and startup events, and had the freedom to
self-direct much of my work. For some projects I could dive deep into software
development research, while at  other times I was consumed with making
visual mockups and sketches for that next week's product revision. At times my projects
involved deep dives into researching and understanding current web tools, or
building a common language and understanding for the breakdown of a product. It
took this summer experience and three years' time since I arrived at Olin to
realize that a big part of what I enjoyed doing had little to do with what most
people define engineering to be. At Olin our definition of engineering is
stretched to incorporate design, user or customer interactions, and a number of
other disciplines here and there. It turns out that that last bit of
"integrating bits from here and there" is why I was able to have an
amazing internship experience at FUSE Labs.

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