Final Reflection

The I&E certificate was a central tenet to my undergraduate education experience at Duke University. Through the program and its mix of experiential and classroom-based learning, I was able to gain many key insights into the workings, techniques, and mindset of innovation and entrepreneurship.

For example, in my engineering innovation class, I learned many methods of ideation, mixing technical design with creativity, and executed the complete engineering design process including writing an in depth technical design document, a skill which I continue to build upon when I worked my first and second summer experiences.

In my keystone class, diving into the case studies of startups and their challenges, innovations, and strategies helped me gain a new perspective on how entrepreneurs lead and develop their ventures, and will perhaps inspire me one day to launch a venture of my own.

In the capstone class, the opportunity to work hands-on with a client who was passionate about their product and readily gave feedback helped me learn a lot about client-focused thinking and how that might apply in various contexts.

When I entered the certificate program, I was fully committed to technical innovation, and nothing else. However, picking up a finance minor along the way as well as taking classes across multiple disciplines made me realize the value of a holistic picture of innovation and entrepreneurship and the various considerations that go into each initiative launched, whether that be one within an organization or and independently launched venture. I’m excited to use the skills in my coming roles and maybe as a founder myself one day!



The I&E capstone is a synthesis of all the experiences and skills gained in the I&E certificate. It represents an opportunity for a lot of students with diverse academic and professional backgrounds to come together and bring their unique perspective in an interdisciplinary manner. It primarily focuses on the application of skills learned throughout the certificate to a project involving an early stage startup company.


In this course, we had the opportunity to consult for a highly interesting early stage startup that seeks to revolutionize the world of chocolate with date based sugar instead of traditional cane sugar. In particular, we had the chance to help consult for the startup’s employment and retention future. Along with this capstone project, our readings had us dive into the concept of an employer value proposition, a concept that greatly influenced and guided our decision process.

Throughout the class, we had 3 separate meetings with the founders of Spring and Mulberry, which were valuable opportunities to engage and connect with the founders and their goals. By hearing directly from them, we were able to tailor our work towards the founders’ values, needs, and wants. This ultimately allowed us to maximize our time working towards exactly what the client was looking for. They were primarily interested in ways to make their recruiting strategy more effective, and come up with a cohesive strategy to tackle the problem of how to recruit applicants that fit their desired experience level, cultural perspective, and values.

Spring and Mulberry, like many early stage startups, had limited funding and relied on unpaid interns to do much of their work. Coming from a practical engineering and finance background, to me the recruiting problem seemed simple – no one wants to work an unpaid internship, especially at an unpaid startup. People need to pay the bills. Additionally, the applicant profile they were looking for an incredibly stringent requirements, which would prove a challenge to meet even normally, never mind the historic low unemployment and incredibly competitive hiring environment, which even highly desirable companies are struggling to hire in. Especially with my background being from tech, where capital investment is often a given because of the runway needed to get off the ground, it kind of seemed obvious to me they needed to even debt or equity finance to provide funds to pay their interns and employees.

Despite this up-front assumption I had, I decided to investigate the problem with an open mind and consider all aspects of their recruitment strategy, including culture and “fit”. The class split into several groups, each of which researched a specific facet of the overall recruitment environment and specifics to Spring and Mulberry. My group focused on building the profile of the “ideal employer” from the target demographic of Spring and Mulberry’s desired interns. By building a picture of what their recruitment targets were considering in job postings, the main push/pull factors that drive them to apply, and what they value in jobs, ranging from compensation to culture to physical work environment.

Through this entire experience, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work in an innovative and interdisciplinary manner with my teammates, both with my smaller subteam as well as the overall class to collaborate and coordinate on the initiatives we were working at in pursuit of the larger overall goal. I’m glad I got to work with a real-life client advising on a very real issue that affects startups and established companies alike.



I&E Capstone Client Update

2nd mentorship conversation

For the second mentoring conversation, after exchanging short updates on the state of our lives, I took the opportunity to get the inside scoop on how the current situation has affected his business. Jeff walked me through what had happened since our last conversation: his factories in China hadn’t reopened after the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday as expected, and demand for his clients’ products had cratered. Luckily, one of their small startup clients had been working with them to get their product line manufactured. Their product? Air filtration masks. Because of the huge jump in demand, his company has a relatively strong positioning in the midst of this economic turmoil.

As I started asking more specific questions about the lessons he had learned and the specific decisions he’d made as the CEO, he often circled back to a central theme of personal ethics in business. During the last two years, the trade war had hit his company very hard, and then the pandemic and associated lockdown had hit them when they were already down. This had led him to make some hard decisions, including laying off a significant chunk of his workforce in October 2019. However, one fact he is especially proud of, and mentioned in this conversation and the last, is despite the layoffs, no one who they hadn’t cut jumped ship when they could plainly see the company wasn’t having its best days. Especially during Fall of 2019, unemployment was at all time lows, and the job market was blazing, he believes the fact that people hadn’t left could be attributed to good management and actually caring about people. Flash forward to April, when his company wasn’t struggling as hard as many of his friends’ companies are, in large part due to luck by his own admission, and I asked him whether he would take advantage of any of the stimulus loans. Without hesitation, he replied he wouldn’t apply, as although his business could probably benefit from them, other companies needed it more and he wouldn’t feel morally right taking the loans instead of them. Jeff emphasized the role of ethics in business decisions and remarked that there may be some who don’t care, but in management, it’s a consideration that often comes into effect.

Coming from a software/tech background myself, I was curious to learn whether his manufacturing company had contracts similar to SLAs in the IT industry with uptime specifications and penalties for unplanned downtime, and if so, how he was working around those. While he noted that kind of contract didn’t exist, he also said that most contracts signed in his industry had a vis major clause buried in their wording. A concept previously unfamiliar to me, he explained it meant “act of god” and these clauses allow an “out” for parties in the contract if something crazy happens. He said there has been buzzing in his network about how this might likely be the first time since WWII these clauses come into play in court. With regards to his clients, he said they’d been exceptionally accommodating for this situation. During the long backlogs due to lockdowns and missing labor, which normally would have been a huge deal, the depended on his manufacturing production were understanding and even encouraged his company to take as much time as they needed. He speculated they had been so flexible partly due to dried up demand for the products anyway, as well as mutual understanding. He had felt heavy disruptions through his own supply chain as a result of the pandemic, however. Labor, which he considered an important supply chain element, was in short supply for about a 5 week period after the Lunar New Year, and now they were facing shortages of materials.

Through this conversation, the most valuable takeaway for me was the personal factor in entrepreneurship, and I was again reminded of the important of flexibility, which he mentioned in the last conversation, with real world examples of what his company had gone through and overcome in the last year.

1st Mentorship Conversation

In our opinion, the number one soft skill Duke students are apt to acquire during our four years here is networking — amidst countless coffee chats, informational phone calls, and literal events with the sole purpose of creating connections between students and mentors. However, the whole process can become, well, rather robotic and removed. That’s why our mentor Jeff Muti has been such a breath of fresh air. 

We started off our call with Jeff very professionally: introducing ourselves and backgrounds, highlighting our appreciation for his time, the usual. Before the call, we had discussed amongst the two of us (Jimmy and Miranda) some of the questions we would like to pose to him. Our first, the most important in our eyes, was, “What do you hope to gain from serving as a mentor?” Too many mentorship pairings we’ve seen have been parasitic rather than mutually symbiotic.

And Jeff’s response to this question is when we realized this wouldn’t be one of the mentorship-style interactions we’d been used to. He essentially said, in language we would likely be scolded by the Career Center for repeating, that the Duke Giving body had referred him to become a mentor, he had participated last semester with a less than ideal experience, and found himself back in this position again as a last chance effort. In short, he had nothing to gain, but has a number of entrepreneurs whom he mentors in other spaces and thought he should do the same for some students of his alma mater. While both of us students quickly realized the need to impress Jeff enough to stay on as a mentor for future students, we also came to the realization a) that impressing Jeff in other regards (like overly professional jargon) wouldn’t be effective in building a relationship with him and b) he must really have something to offer as a mentor if Duke has been practically begging him to come back for another semester. 

While Jeff’s successes have been abundant, his failures have provided him with the more interesting lessons in entrepreneurship, namely the importance of building his brand. He had reached out to friends, family, and connections as potential sources for funding for a venture in private equity; due to his reputation, a decent number said yes and provided the funds. However, the private equity firm went kaboom, and many of these family-and-friends turned investors lost their money. Fast forward a few years, Jeff had the business plan for his current venture, a phone-case manufacturing company focused on facilitating better supply chain operations between American companies and Chinese factories. Rather than hide from his former investors with his tail between his legs, he went back to this same network of friends and family to pitch his new startup. While he admits he received some cold shoulder responses, he still managed to get the funding he needed without institutional financing. The lesson learned here: people invest in people, and failure is a natural part of a person’s entrepreneurial path. 

Over the course of our talk with Jeff, we learned many lessons from his experiences and his straight-shooter demeanor. But arguably the most important for us was the realization that while it is great to speak to Jeff in the capacity of students wanting to learn, it is even better to bring a concrete project or entrepreneurial venture you’re working on to him for feedback. He’s heard countless pitches and mentors entrepreneurs working on their own startups: asking him advice for the future is great, but his action-oriented nature leans more towards steps for the present. So, for our next steps, Miranda will use her individual call to run her Hacking4Defense startup pitch by him, given his military background, and Jimmy will use the opportunity to run ideas for expansion and new market acquisition in a growing startup he holds an exec position in, as well as seek to learn more about how Jeff identified niche opportunities, and start thinking about how those lessons might apply for the new venture he’s been thinking of pursuing.

Robotics Class Demonstration

This is a demonstration of skills I’ve learned in my robotics class that shows a simulated UR5 robot drawing my initials in the air. It’s controlled by a custom script and math. Based on ROS, Gazebo, and MoveIt.

Motion planning code using MoveIt:

# Python 2/3 compatibility imports
from __future__ import print_function
from six.moves import input

import sys
import copy
import rospy
import moveit_commander
import moveit_msgs.msg
import geometry_msgs.msg

    from math import pi, tau, dist, fabs, cos
except:  # For Python 2 compatibility
    from math import pi, fabs, cos, sqrt

    tau = 2.0 * pi

    def dist(p, q):
        return sqrt(sum((p_i - q_i) ** 2.0 for p_i, q_i in zip(p, q)))

from std_msgs.msg import String
from moveit_commander.conversions import pose_to_list

rospy.init_node("hw4", anonymous=True)
robot = moveit_commander.RobotCommander()
scene = moveit_commander.PlanningSceneInterface()

group_name = "manipulator"
move_group = moveit_commander.MoveGroupCommander(group_name)

display_trajectory_publisher = rospy.Publisher(

# We can get the name of the reference frame for this robot:
planning_frame = move_group.get_planning_frame()
print("============ Planning frame: %s" % planning_frame)

# We can also print the name of the end-effector link for this group:
eef_link = move_group.get_end_effector_link()
print("============ End effector link: %s" % eef_link)

# We can get a list of all the groups in the robot:
group_names = robot.get_group_names()
print("============ Available Planning Groups:", robot.get_group_names())

# Sometimes for debugging it is useful to print the entire state of the
# robot:

joint_goal = move_group.get_current_joint_values()
joint_goal[0] = 4.3187
joint_goal[1] = 4.7583
joint_goal[2] = -1.7291
joint_goal[3] = 3.2517
joint_goal[4] = 5.8886
joint_goal[5] = -3.1393
# The go command can be called with joint values, poses, or without any
# parameters if you have already set the pose or joint target for the group
move_group.go(joint_goal, wait=True)

# Calling ``stop()`` ensures that there is no residual movement

pose_goal = geometry_msgs.msg.Pose()
pose_goal.position.x = 0.3
pose_goal.position.y = 0.3
pose_goal.position.z = 0.3


plan = move_group.go(wait=True)
# Calling `stop()` ensures that there is no residual movement
# It is always good to clear your targets after planning with poses.
# Note: there is no equivalent function for clear_joint_value_targets()

print("After setting pose")

waypoints = []

wpose = move_group.get_current_pose().pose

scale = 1;

# J
## Move up
wpose.position.z += scale * 0.05;
#wpose.position.z += scale*0.30;

## Left Top part
wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;

## Right Top part
wpose.position.x += scale*0.05;

## Back to middle
wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;

## Back down
wpose.position.z -= scale*0.05;

## "hook" part of J

wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;
wpose.position.z += scale*0.025;

# I
## Move Up
wpose.position.z += scale*.05;

## Left Top part
wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;

## Right Top part
wpose.position.x += scale*.05;

## Back to middle
wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;

## Back down
wpose.position.z -= scale*.05;

## Left Bottom Part
wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;

## Right Bottom Part
wpose.position.x += scale*.05;

## Back to middle
wpose.position.x -= scale*0.025;

# M
## Move up (left part of M)
wpose.position.z += scale*.05;

## Down right (moddle part of M)
wpose.position.z -= scale*.05;
wpose.position.x += scale*.025;

## Back up right (top left)
wpose.position.z += scale*.05;
wpose.position.x += scale*.025;

## Right side of M (go back down)
wpose.position.z -= scale*.05;

(plan, fraction) = move_group.compute_cartesian_path(
    waypoints, 0.01, 0.0  # waypoints to follow  # eef_step
)  # jump_threshold

display_trajectory = moveit_msgs.msg.DisplayTrajectory()
display_trajectory.trajectory_start = robot.get_current_state()
# Publish

print("before move_group.execute()")
move_group.execute(plan, wait=True)

print("============ Printing robot state")

print("============ Printing robot jacobian")
current = move_group.get_current_joint_values()
matrix = move_group.get_jacobian_matrix(current)


150 Hour Experience: Internship at Amazon

My experience was a summer internship at Amazon. I’m not sure how to describe what the company does at this point, because well, it does anything and everything. I was on the consumer side of things (generally the company is split between AWS and CDO, CDO standing for consumer, devices, and other). My team oversaw Seller Central, the website sellers go to post and manage the items they are selling on

My role was a software development engineer internship, and I was responsible for executing a software project that catered towards the user’s use-cases and considered the broader team’s context. I was responsible for participating in team meetings such as standup, sprint planning, and also went to weekly meetings about operational excellence.

At Amazon, I was given a broad problem statement, but was given a lot of autonomy to innovate and find the best solution. My project was to lessen the burden of our team by enabling other teams to easily mock up and visualize how their information would look displayed on Seller Central. I was the owner of my project, which meant that I was fully in charge of the design, implementation, documentation, and overall execution of my project (with oversight). This gave me a lot of room to innovate, and I took advantage of the self service culture within the company by exploring various technologies, and ideas. I chose to use some of the cutting edge technologies within the company that were brand new, and not particularly well documented because I loved to see what boundaries these tools could push and how they could benefit my project in practice.

I chose this experience because previously I had interned at a tiny startup, and I wanted to see how innovation could still be possible in a giant company. I expected to encounter bureaucracy everywhere hindering innovation, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that was rarely the case. Change is embraced at Amazon, unlike my friends who work at some other big companies where I hear “that’s how it’s always been done” is used as a regular excuse to not try new things. While I did find it a bit cult-like how into the leadership principles a few people were, they have 16 principles governing their work, and they are readily prevalent in the culture at the company. As it relates to I&E, I think having a bias for action was absolutely the most important leadership principle. During my internship, I found that waiting around for others to get back to me about how to do things was not usually effective. It took a while because their work life didn’t revolve around me, and sometimes in the meantime I found a better solution than what my team was used to doing and I could bring that back to them.

I also had to cater my design towards the customers of my project (in this case internal teams) and was encouraged every step of the way to think about the business side of my project as well as the technical side, considering use cases and implementation cost. I discussed with program managers as well as software experts about the user’s wants and needs and the pros/cons of various implementation strategies.

Overall, I was very glad I could experience the innovative culture at Amazon. It was far from the bureaucratic nightmare I thought working at a big company would be, and for better or for worse, their growth is absolutely staggering, probably due to the entrepreneurial and scrappy culture.

My learning objectives for this experience as it relates to I&E was to discover how innovation can exist at a big company compared to the tiny startup I had interned at for my 300 hour experience. I can safely say I achieved that by witnessing the vast amount of cutting edge projects, ventures, and more than Amazon is launching. For this company, it isn’t enough to just be at the top, it’s critically important to continue to expand and introduce new ideas to the market, and it shows in the company culture (on the corporate side, at least).

This experience relates to my pathway, technology and design, in that the role itself was completely centered on software. I saw first hand how the business side of software projects influenced decisions and market forces drove innovation within software. I had many insightful discussions with my manager about the business side of the role as well as discussions with some PMs. Through my coursework in I&E 352, we discussed a case study of Dropbox, which I thought this experience was really nice to have as a context of innovation in the tech sphere while learning and discussing the case.


150 hour experience

I&E 352: Strategies for Innovation & Entrepreneurship


This Course covers component elements of developing skills needed to launch a venture. Starting at the point of need identification, course covers lean methodology; innovation and entrepreneurship strategy; creating needed financing and resource structures; effectively marketing/communicating innovation and its associated benefits; leading, managing, and working effectively within teams; creating a positive and ethical work culture; and evaluating success.



When I started this course, my view of a “problem” solvable through entrepreneurship was very different than it is now. Before, I viewed it from a purely technical perspective. I thought if you could create something that makes people’s lives even slightly easier, or slightly improve on the existing status quo, the business side of the equation would solve itself. However, through the case studies, lectures, and discussions we have had in I&E 352, I’ve come to realize business plan viability is an integral part of not only the long term success of the product, but also ingrained in the very problem itself.

Iteration is a concept familiar to me, as it is hammered home in engineering design classes. However, the idea of iteration in business was still a new idea to me, and I was surprised to learn how entrepreneurs can iterate on every step of their business plan, and every facet of their operation. One example that highlighted the effectiveness of testing ideas was the case study on Rent the Runway. Rather than forging ahead with a preconceived business model, they ran focus groups and were able to pivot rapidly in response to customer feedback and events that impacted their business. For many, it is tempting to get pulled into the sunk cost fallacy and become too invested emotionally in an aspect of the product or business plan to make rational decisions on the direction the venture should take. Out of the many case studies we interacted with, the ventures who excelled seemed to all have a heavy emphasis on getting feedback through focus groups, customer complaints, and product testing.

As ventures are always a result of collaboration between multiple people, it’s essential to maximize the efficacy of the team, and in the readings and discussions we saw many guidelines on every aspect of teamwork and leadership in business. It was interesting connecting these with my personal experiences in working with various teams in both my professional and personal life. To me, the themes of embodied by Google’s research into attributes into successful teams ring true. In both pseudo-leadership and assigned positions, the “five keys” we mentioned in class affect the personal and professional relationships have affected personal and professional relationships within the group and directly contributed to success.

As leaders of ventures, entrepreneurs have a very prominent role in putting together a competent, driven team, that shares the vision they do. One important trait I observed in the founders of successful ventures in our class was the ability to step back and realize they were not well suited for a task. As we saw, the startup world was one where an entrepreneur could often end up (and should be willing) to be flexible with their role, jumping from courting investors one day to boxing up orders the next. At the same time, hiring a marketing expert or web developer instead of trying to hack it themselves was an important decision that could make or break some of the companies.

This was a theme that I saw with many topics in class: unlike some other subjects, there often is no “right” or formulaic answer to problems and tasks in the entrepreneurship world. Everything comes with tradeoffs, and often entrepreneurs were held “under the gun” by market factors such as short runways, high burn-rates, and shifting demands.

In business it is often heard “cash is king”, to what extent are the means justified? Ethics in entrepreneurship is a nuanced issue, and one we confronted a lot in this class. From studying social entrepreneurship initiatives, such as Envirofit, to evaluating and suggesting workforce cuts in our case recommendations, this class brought us to think critically about our personal values and their role in business management. My mentor, who I met through this class, also shared extensive real-world insights on the decisions he’s had to make as an entrepreneur and how ethics has played a role in every step of the way.

In the class, we saw a classic example of profit being chosen over ethics: drug companies abandoned research and development of drugs that still showed potential because of reduced projections of future cash flows from the product. It’s easy to point to that and say the pharmaceutical company should’ve chosen to continue development to ensure people can receive treatment and better living conditions. However, the case also made sure the present the statistics and money involved in just attempting to bring a drug to market. Certainly, even if the biggest pharmaceutical corporations attempted to follow through every drug to the end of its development cycle, they would go under. Inherent in the field of business, leaders must choose to draw the line of ethics somewhere to maintain some level of fiscal viability, and the cases and discussions in this class drew me to think about the nuanced issues regarding implementing ethics in business.

Just as many decisions are left up to the agency of the entrepreneur, so is the decision to include personal values in business decisions, and the extent to which it comes into play. It is no coincidence that silicon valley, a place filled with tech startups, also has a reputation for disregarding ethics. Ethics in business can also mean different things to different people. It is a pretty logical conclusion to say an entrepreneur might have an ethical calling to uphold their fiduciary responsibility to shareholders above all, while others might argue for the value of a triple bottom line, which I personally believe in.

Being personally very passionate about environmental issues, especially with regards to emissions and climate change, I could never see myself disregarding that in favor of the bottom line. My first job, at In-N-Out, also instilled in me the value of caring for employees, as their wellbeing and happiness contribute to their drive and productivity for the company. In addition, being an associate also taught me the importance of ensuring customer service was a value-add and a point of differentiation for the company, a lesson I will be sure to bring into my future endeavors.

This course solidified my interest in the entrepreneurship and startup field and taught me the value of having an educated and credible background. To gain a better understanding of the financial side of business and economy, I plan to enroll in markets and management and finance courses at Duke. After hopefully commissioning and serving in a management/leadership role in the Air Force after Duke, I would like to pursue an MBA down the line to dive deeper into the topics touched upon in this course. Many concepts from this course, including lessons on teamwork, finances, and critical analysis transfer over to my daily life, and I’ve already started incorporating the skills learned.



Mentorship Reflection

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


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.


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.


Whitepaper about the service I worked on