Editor’s Note: Interspersed throughout this blog are quotes from Clara’s fellow Exponential Center interns, as they too reflect on their summer at the Computer History Museum (CHM).
People often ask me why I chose to intern at a computer museum when I am not planning to major in computer science nor museum operations. Good question. For one, I was attracted to the idea of learning outside my field. I knew that technology was interdisciplinary, but I didn’t realize to what extent that was true until taking on this internship at the Museum’s Exponential Center for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Tech isn’t just for geeks. If you use a computer, if you have Instagram, Snapchat, or even just use a smartphone, you are a part of this story and a part of this history. I may not be a computer geek, but that is all the more reason why someone like me belongs at CHM. There is naturally an emphasis on the tech side of innovation, but it is just as critical to know the people behind the machines and their stories. Integrating the human perspective is where I was able to contribute, with my journalism background, and supply an interpersonal context.
Despite my initial insecurity, over the course of the summer I learned so much more than I could have ever imagined about semiconductors, venture capital, entrepreneurs, and more. During my work as an intern I gained life lessons and approaches to problem-solving, I learned how to be a good team member, how to prioritize and work on multiple projects at once, and how to take initiative on projects and assert myself more effectively.
When I first started, I was immediately surprised by how much freedom I was given with the various projects. On my first day, I was given a few broad assignments with general guidance and was told “Go!” At first this scared me, but it ended up being the greatest gift. I was able to choose the direction of my projects and was able to come up with new projects along the way. Some of my favorite projects included interviewing and writing profiles on various Silicon Valley founders (VCs, entrepreneurs, etc.), compiling video clips of insights from venture capitalists for online content, and assisting with Museum events like former Apple SVP Scott Forstall’s interview, his first public interview in five years!
I found the Exponential Center to be one of those rare places that not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk when it comes to fulfilling its mission of informing and inspiring the next generation of innovators. Every single day I saw CHM and Exponential Center staff embody the Valley’s culture of risk taking, learning through experience and failure and honoring collaboration with trust and teamwork. The mentorship I was given and the opportunities I was presented with to learn and network will continue to inform and support me throughout my eventual career.
Before meeting my fellow interns in person, I only knew them for their accomplishments on paper, of which there were many. Months later, I am able to see them for who they are as kind and intelligent people. They are my friends.
In high school, I dreaded group projects because it sometimes meant one person doing most of the work; here, it meant an opportunity to interact collaboratively with incredible individuals. Each one of us had something unique to offer, whether it was a background in information systems, digital humanities, or media studies. What we accomplished together is so much stronger than any of us could have done on our own. I can’t imagine this internship with any better team members.
So, what exactly do we have to show for after these past few months? We kicked off the summer with some general project ideas in mind, but over the course of our internship, they were quickly fine-tuned and finessed, with new projects developing along the way.
We broke into teams to tackle our projects: Silicon Valley Founders (researching and creating in-depth profiles of company founders); Insights (creating discussion guides and compiling insights of prominent figures in Silicon Valley from Exponential’s collection of video content, including oral histories and events); Tours (researching and designing an original tour with 25 unique stops); and Venture Capital (researching venture capital firms and VCs for the Museum’s VC and women in tech initiatives). We worked closely together and frequently collaborated across teams. In true Exponential Center fashion, here are five numbers to give you an idea of just a few of the tasks we took on:
I was asked to reflect on my personal experience as well as be a voice for all of us interns, and I could go on and on describing our many intern outings, team meetings, and the unique opportunities made available to us, but I’ll let pictures do (most of) the explaining.
As I sit here writing this on my last day as an Exponential intern, I can’t help but feel a certain sadness realizing my last official assignment is coming to an end. The time has gone by so quickly and has made such an overwhelmingly positive impression on me. When I first told my best friend’s dad where I would be interning, he asked me about Fairchild and the Traitorous Eight. I remember looking back at him with a blank expression because I had no idea whether Fairchild was a person, company, or concept. Today, that memory makes me laugh when I think of how much I’ve learned in just a few months. I leave the Museum a more confident and informed individual. I am proud of the contributions I have made at the center, and I am excited to return to the Museum to see the results of my work.
It is said that you should choose a job that you love so that you don’t have to work a day in your life. After completing this internship, I realize that while I might not have a career in computer science or high tech, this experience has made me realize that enjoying a job and loving what you do is very possible, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from this internship experience.