How to start at a startup?


Blog post by ELP Fellow Julio Soldevilla (Mathematics | Class of 2022)


Forget about touch screen and fancy keyboards, the future lies within our minds. In the day and age of digital revolution, companies create autonomous and electric cars, reusable rockets, intelligent home appliances. But the biggest change to come with these technological possibilities are the possibilities for biological improvements in humans.


But, why would a pure mathematician be interested in this? I think mathematics gives you a great foundation to make an impact in almost any field you want. During my first year in the mathematics PhD program at the University of Michigan, I wanted to see how my technical knowledge could help in the revolution of the biomedical industry and impact the life of people. In this pursuit of opportunities for impact in industry and attracted by the amazing entrepreneurship community at UofM, I joined the Entrepreneurship Leadership Program.


This program includes the opportunity to experience entrepreneurship firsthand by helping us to get an internship in a startup. In this process, it is helpful to be proactive and reach out to companies that you are interested in. But in general, how does the interview process works? Clearly, it depends on the type of position you are looking for in the different companie you are interested. My experience concerns more technical position. In general, these type of positions will always require some general interview to get to know you better and at least one technical interview, where your probable manager will ask you questions regarding the type of work you would be doing for the company. Also, if your work will require some non-trivial coding, then you can definitely expect a coding challenge. In my experience, these are the general interview process that any candidate for a technical job should expect. I would recommend that if you see a position that you are very interested in and have quite a few of the qualifications the company is asking for, then give it a try. In general, talking to people about what you want to do with your skill set and talking about technical things in an interview setting is always helpful to solidify your knowledge and for personal growth. Besides the questions the interviewers ask, an important part of the interviews are the questions you as a candidate ask the interviewers, since these are the type of questions that will help you gauge your fit in any particular company.


In my case, after receiving my offer I was thrilled with this opportunity. It was not only the chance to use my technical knowledge for a high impact project that attracted me to the company, but also the opportunity of learning some more biology and neuroscience that called me. Soon after the semester ended, I moved to Boston and started in the internship. At a startup like Neurable, it was easy to meet the whole team in just a day and to get familiar with the company culture. The onboarding process and getting familiar with the project at hand definitely took a bit longer. Nevertheless, it is amazing how willing to help are all the members of the team and how welcoming they are whenever you have any question either of the science or the hardware we work on. During these first days there was a lot of changing equipment and getting settle; even more, I got to help the team move to a new office! This was a great part of the experience since I could witness firsthand how everybody worked together and how extremely organized the whole team was to make the change as fast as possible.


In general, working at a startup can be a  very different experience for everyone, depending on the situation of the company and your skill set. However, whoever is interested in the startup environment must be ready to do anything in order to solve the problems that come along the way. Even if it is coding, cold emailing or even moving furniture, in my opinion an entrepreneur is someone who is ready for taking on challenges and trying his or her best. Even if things don’t go right at first, then that person is ready to learn new things, try again and improve with every trial.