An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Each year during IAP, the MIT Alumni Association places hundreds of MIT students in short-term alumni-sponsored internships through the Student/Alumni Externship Program. In this post, Sunayana Rane ’20 shares her experience working at Foxtrot Systems, an MIT-founded startup that uses real-time data and algorithms to optimize delivery routes.

When I arrived in San Francisco to begin my externship with Foxtrot Systems, I was thrilled and terrified all at once. My train ride to work was rather scary, the relentless rain was worse than my hometown of Seattle, and everyone seemed to be in such a hurry! I was, after all, a freshman who had just finished one semester of college, so everything seemed extra intimidating.

My first trip to the office included walking through a dark, wet highway underpass. As a young woman working alone for the first time in the city, I was naturally less than comfortable. But as soon as I told my alumna mentor, Phatty Arbuckle SM ’15, she not only suggested an alternative walking route but also offered to walk me back from the station if that made me more comfortable. My talk with Phatty was my first impression of Foxtrot, and I felt good about joining a company that truly cares for its employees.

When I ask myself what made Foxtrot—and my externship—so special, the simple answer is the people that I worked with. But three more details also stood out.

  1. The Trust. Every member of our team trusted one another. The team was so small and everyone knew that they were essential to making the entire company succeed. The culture was relaxed but extremely productive because everyone focused on their work and trusted everyone else to do the same.
  2. Quality Over Quantity. This mantra applied to everything, from work to meetings to personal connections. A small amount of excellent code is more valuable than a 1000-line complicated script and one quality friendship is more important than how many people you know. I learned a great deal from our business team, who was so good at making connections.
  3. Investment in Your Work. Initially, there wasn't a project that directly matched my skill set. However, Phatty and the team made sure I could design and chose a project that I loved, and that helped the team as well. I always felt invested in my project because I and since I designed the project myself, I always felt invested in my work.

At Foxtrot, I gained mentors and friends who reminded me how important it was to treat people like people and have the courage to try new things because fortune favors the bold. After IAP, I returned to MIT with a suitcase full of happy memories, a brain full of new algorithms, and most importantly, little snippets of wisdom from one of the kindest, most brilliant teams I have ever seen.

Read more externship-related stories on Slice of MIT.