Illustration by MUTI
Odds & Ends

My Mindtribe Internship

I’m always curious to hear about other people’s internship experiences, so this post will be dedicated to describing my summer internship at Mindtribe.

When I arrived on the first day, I was met by my onboarding buddy, Angela, who showed me around the office, helped me get set up with a laptop, and walked me through some of the software I would use during the summer. Onboarding is meant to get new employees acclimated to Mindtribe, and each new person is paired with an “onboarding buddy” to show them the ropes and answer questions they might have. During the first week, I attended a few meetings to introduce the Mindtribe process, company values, and the general product timeline (with descriptions of which stages Mindtribe is generally most involved in and how we collaborate with other companies or manufacturers to bring the product to market). All in all, it gave me a high level understanding of the work that Mindtribe does as an engineering consultancy and where I fit into that.

Those first few days I also met most of the staff and began to fall into the daily rhythm of work. That rhythm was marked by daily syncs, in which everyone in the office takes 10 minutes to share any accomplishments or challenges they are facing, voice calls for help if they are stuck, and offer help if they have time or experience to contribute. Each weekday also has a rotating topic, such as weekly project updates, descriptions of personal projects, discussions on interesting news in technology, etc. The impression this gave me was one of a group of people who are passionate about the work they do and strive to help one another learn and grow. This initial impression was reinforced throughout the summer in the weekly ME sync (where mechanical engineers share the work they’re doing, give a “spotlight” presentation on a new prototyping or manufacturing technique they’ve picked up for a project, brainstorm ways to improve the ME shop, or plan trips to places like the cable car museum) as well as over lunchtime and happy hour conversations.

I started work the first week with an onboarding project, which is typically a few weeks in duration and helps introduce a new employee to project work at Mindtribe. Interns are treated as full-time team members, and I immediately had the opportunity to work on a client project, a smart dog bowl, which helps dog owners monitor their pet’s eating habits. I worked mainly in SolidWorks to refine the latest prototype, making it more robust and easier to manufacture. After a few weeks, I switched to the project I would work on for the rest of the summer. As this project isn’t public yet, I can’t give a detailed explanation of my role in its development. Still, I’d like to share my experience working on the team and a few of my takeaways

During this project, I worked with small internal team consisting of firmware, electrical, and mechanical engineers. We also collaborated with industrial designers and engineers from other companies. We were working toward an end-of-August deadline, at which we would give a batch of prototypes to the client for user testing. Most of my work was a cycle of designing prototypes in CAD, building prototypes (making heavy use of our in-house 3D printer and laser cutter), testing the prototypes for user experience and robustness, making modifications, and repeating.

From my experience with the team, I can offer the following takeaways:

Frequent and open communication is beneficial to a team. This was the most technically diverse team I’ve worked on so far, and it was interesting to figure out how to incorporate the mechanical design with the electrical and firmware side of things while still making an aesthetically appealing product. Quick daily meetings and an open floor plan helped us stay on the same page regarding the design and timeline, communicate restrictions that design features in one discipline imposed on another, and address any issues that surfaced in a timely manner.

Iterative design helps keep a project moving in the right direction. Creating rapid prototypes helped us make modifications and verify design concepts; it also helped us communicate with our clients. By showing them the latest prototype, we could get opinions on what they liked or disliked often and more reliably than if we tried to describe our work through words or pictures. This helped ensure we were creating a product that everyone would ultimately be happy with.

Quick and simple user testing can be insightful. This goes along with the previous point, but if it is unclear how a user will experience part of a product, it helps to throw together a quick test and try it out in an environment that simulates use scenarios. It doesn’t need to be extensive or complicated testing to offer good insights into how effective the design will be.

This summer, I enjoyed experiencing work in an engineering consultancy and further developing my rapid prototyping skill set. I also got to work with a very cool group of people. On my team, each person was passionate about their work, was excited to learn new skills on the job, and felt invested in the client’s success. It made for a stimulating work environment and a fun summer.