My Story

I grew up in the wonderful state of Utah, among mountains and lakes that fostered my love of the outdoors. I competed in mountain biking and swimming in high school, and today, they are still hobbies I’m passionate about, along with hiking, coding, electronics. My upbringing was certainly unique compared to most of my peers; my family was one of the only families in our community that wasn’t white and Mormon. To offer some perspective, my high school of over 2500 students was over 90% white, and over 93% Mormon.

Although I had a great community growing up and value my friends back home, I yearned to experience diversity of backgrounds and experiences, and this ultimately pushed me to look out-of-state for college, although I do see the draw of the mountains bringing me back to Utah in the long run. One thing nobody seems to catch about me is I’m a really sentimental person. To be honest, I chose to apply early decision to Duke because I didn’t expect to make it in, but at least I could tell my parents I’d tried to apply to a “top” college before choosing a less selective university. Out of the top schools my parents wanted me to apply to, Duke was the only one that seemed remotely cool to me mostly because of its basketball program, so that’s where I sent my long-shot application that somehow ended up working out.

I love the experiences and opportunities I’ve had at Duke, as well as the meaningful connections and relationships I’ve made here, and am extremely grateful to be here. I’m majoring in electrical and computer engineering, with a minor in finance, and of course, the innovation and entrepreneurship certificate. I’ve always been interested in imagining, building, and designing solutions to problems, and studying engineering has always seemed like the logical path to do that as a career. I’d like to pivot into engineering project management, and in the long run, scaling my ideas into new business ventures to optimize efficiency of various processes around the world, and solve problem for a profit and a net benefit for society. Because of this desire, I’ve decided to pursue the certificate. I’m also interested in understanding financial markets and economics, which I feel will fit in nicely with the certificate.

In the long term, I’d like to work my way up from being an engineer to some kind of project management role, and ultimately starting my own company. I feel the coursework I have chosen in the certificate, which mainly revolves around the technology and design pathway, gives me the most background knowledge possible for these career goals as possible coming from my undergraduate experience.

I interned at a startup (300 hour experience) which develops tailored energy business workflow applications to large scale utilities, and there, I was given a lot of autonomy to build a project to allow “smart searching” of data while participating in discussions to maximize its business/client value vs cost, implement security constraints, and enable flexibility to adapt to different customer applications and use cases.

I currently work for a friend’s tutoring startup as the chief technology officer, where I cut costs for his website by over $250/month, integrated PayPal payments into an open source booking application to develop a tailored application that was much cheaper to use than licensing similar commercial software, and have used data to generate useful business insights.

This coming summer, I’ll be interning as a software developer at Amazon, and am excited to see how innovation works in a big corporate environment compared to the startup environment I’m used to. As mentioned before, my long term goal for my career is to solve problems for a profit and net benefit for society, and this is my mantra that drives my decisions in the short term to work towards that.

300 Hour experience: Internship at ANB Systems

Description

This past summer, I interned at ANB systems, a startup that develops innovative workflow management solutions for the energy industry. This was an amazing opportunity to work in a startup environment, as the office was located in a WeWork, where I got to interact with employees and entrepreneurs from various startups in many different industries. Although I had a few smaller projects, I spent the majority of my time designing and implementing an indexing and search service to provide intelligent responses to customer queries and allow new, efficient ways to retrieve and gain insights on workflow data for clients. I was in charge of this from the initial brainstorming, to specifications, implementation, deployment, and testing. I chose this experience to fulfill my 300 hour requirement because I wanted to have the opportunity to experience the intersection of entrepreneurship, innovation, and engineering.

Reflection

For my project, I was faced with several problems that affected the design and constrained and eliminated some of the traditional solutions involving implementing search. One of the biggest considerations was the nature of the company’s platform was modular and based around configurability and as such, the data was asymmetrical. There was no pre-defined schema that the data could be indexed against, as the data formats were customer defined and dynamic. I worked around this by creating and deploying a service that intelligently creates models of information that work with ElasticSearch, the engine we chose.

Another innovative concept was creating an intelligent search experience that catered to various query forms from clients and worked with context to create the most relevant results possible. In the age of search engines such as Google being so ubiquitous, it was important to us that the search engine be able to match misspelled words, utilize synonyms, and search through various data types such as dates, and numbers from input strings. I worked towards these goals by carefully managing how the service generated the models and indexed data into the backend search service to enable such functionality, while being cognizant of resources and cost.

One specific failure I remember was getting the service I deployed to communicate with another service on our cloud platform. With the help of at least 3 other coworkers, we periodically worked on debugging this issue for almost a week, with no success. I was finally able to track down an obscure security setting that was preventing the network requests from going through. Through this, I learned and solidified my strategy for finding solutions to problems by learning to research tangentially relating topics and following up on clues that sounded similar to the main problem.

With regards to I&E, I think the most important things I learned through this experience was the considerations that are made when making decisions, whether it’s a business or product decision, or implementation detail in engineering. Keeping the client’s perspective in mind, and always being aware of the costs of resources and manpower were some of the things I learned through the various meetings, both formal and informal with both company members and other entrepreneurs at the WeWork we were located at.

Artifact

Whitepaper about the service I worked on

EGR121: Engineering Innovation

Description

This class consisted of a lecture portion which provided introductory knowledge to various manufacturing, problem solving, electronics, and product development techniques. In addition, “design challenges” would be assigned to groups that were randomly created. These design challenges involved utilizing lab time to research, plan, and execute solutions to given design challenges.

Reflection

I chose to take this class for my elective because I wanted to explore how innovation relates to engineering, which I plan on majoring in. In addition, I wanted to explore the intersection of electrical and mechanical engineering, and look into solutions that involve both fields. Because this class is primarily for mechanical engineers and I am an ECE major, this put me in a position to have a unique perspective and think about problems and solutions from both an electrical and mechanical context.

I think the most valuable thing I learned from this class was how to be flexible while iterating and not be fixated on one solution. There were several instances where we clearly saw a better solution while in the middle of our prototyping process for these design challenges, and “jumping ship” to a better solution took some risk, but it was worth it. In addition, it taught me how valuable lower fidelity prototypes are because if we had tried to go straight into high quality prototypes, it would’ve been a lot harder to change solutions.

Artifact

Written Report

Description

This was a written report for a solution to one of our design challenges. In it, we explain the purpose of the solution, our ideation and design methods, and our execution.

EGR101: Engineering Design and Communication

Description

Engineering design and communication involved a semester long design process where groups were assigned a design problem. Throughout the semester, groups completed the various stages of the engineering design process, including research, ideation, low-fi/high-fi prototyping, etc. These design problems were derived from the needs of a client, and at the end of the semester, the client would be presented with the solution.

Reflection

For my gateway elective, I chose to take EGR101 mostly because it’s a requirement for all engineering majors. However, I was also intrigued and excited by the idea of applying critical thinking and innovating through iteration and ideation to solve a design problem.

I think the most valuable things I learned in the course was how to effectively work in teams and take advantage of the diverse strengths we had in our group. This experience also taught me that sometimes being a leader means being a follower — there were times I felt I was definetly leading the team, but there were also times where I could contribute the most to the team by following someone else who knew more about the specific aspect of the project. In addition, it taught me how important it is to communicate clearly and make sure everyone is on the same page with not only the status of the project, but also our goals and feelings about what we wanted out of the project and the direction we wanted to take it. I felt our group dynamic worked very well overall and that’s because we all put effort into contributing to the project and staying informed about other group members.

Artifact

 

Description

This was a status update to one of our project sponsors towards the end of the semester that showcases our design.