Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Freshman Precious Gem: Alex Boukhvalova

Freshman Alex Boukhvalova reflects on her experience at the NYC Wakeup Tour and Uncubed Event.  Alex was sent by the University of Maryland Computer Science department to the two day Wakefield Media sponsored event.

Overall it was a really awesome and unique experience! The first day was a huge convention called Uncubed where over 80 startup companies and entrepreneurs that founded some of those startups came to give skills talks about how they founded their companies as well as talk about positions they are hiring for. I learned a lot about the nature of what it takes to get a start-up running, the mindset needed, as well as the technical versus business side for a lot of the companies. I got to talk to and visit the booths of companies like GrubHub, Buzzfeed, Gilt, and Birchbox and talk to their representatives about potential internships for next winter and summer. The convention center itself has a really cool layout with game centers to relax at, and picnic areas indoors and all of the companies were giving out free things and food as well as BarkBox who even brought dogs to play with. 

The second day was the Wakeup Tour, where all of the attendees of the convention from the first day chose one of four tracks where they would visit a set of four startup companies throughout the day and then everyone would reconvene at a reception at the end of the day. I have to say that this experience was beyond cool and really helpful. I cannot say that I had a completely solid idea of the inner workings of startup tech companies and after Friday, I was definitely a lot more informed. I got to visit Shapeways Factory, a 3D printing manufacturing company, in Long Island City where they showed us the factory set up as well as all of their various machines for 3D printing. After that we saw Amplify, a company that makes e-learning tablets for a wide range of schools across the U.S. I began to realize after Amplify that a lot of these companies are already really well established startups considering their body of work and clientele. Also, I realized that startup during this trip was a very loose term from a company that just started this year to one that has been well established for the past 7 years. At the Amplify facilities we saw how their workspace was set up, learned about their work environment and mindset in relation to product development, and got to go through a demo of their tablet product. After that, we visited Gilt which is a huge fashion flash-sale e-commerce site. I absolutely loved this one from the fashion aspect of  course, but also because I really saw at this company that every company needs a prominent tech group for just about all of the behind the scenes work. When thinking fashion, I don't immediately think tech but Gilt started out specifically as a tech company and they have a very strong computer science foundation. After Gilt, we visited Shutterstock offices (on the 20th and 21st floors of the Empire state building!). This company definitely reminded me of the Google tech stereotypes in terms of their offices. We saw their hidden conference rooms, massage rooms since they have masseuses come every Friday, multiple arcade rooms, hanging benches in the open hangout spaces, and more. At all of these companies after touring their facilities we got to have Q&A sessions with groups of representatives and talk about what they do specifically and what they think is necessary to become successful in the tech world. Finally, we ended up at the WeWorks company for the reception. I thought WeWorks was one of the coolest places I saw on the trip, aside from Shutterstock and Gilt,  because it was a tech incubator which I have never saw before. This trip taught me a lot about the startup tech world and gave me a chance to look into a lot of companies and make connections with the ones that I would possibly want to have job opportunities in the future.

-Alex Boukhvalova: Team SCOPE : Class of 2017

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