Internship Grants Empower Tufts Students to Gain Entrepreneurial Experience
Interning is a valuable experience for students, giving them the opportunity to get real experience in the fields of interest to them while gaining knowledge and skills they can’t cultivate in the classroom. However, especially when it comes to startups and new ventures, internships are often unpaid or can’t offer enough working hours to cover a student’s expenses. Many students who want to pursue highly relevant internships in an entrepreneurial setting struggle with the need to spend their summer working and saving money for the school year.
The Derby Entrepreneurship Center’s Entrepreneurial Internship Program seeks to resolve this issue by offering grants to Tufts students who wish to intern for qualifying companies over the summer. Students can receive $4,000 for a 10-week internship at a young company that has not yet raised significant funding or does not currently generate significant revenue. In addition to the funding, the Entrepreneurial Internship Program also guarantees students valuable weekly 1-on-1 mentorship sessions with their employer.
We reached out to some of the entrepreneurial interns who received a grant for Summer 2022 for a quick Q&A to hear how their internship experience went and what impact the grant had on their decision. Matthew Amuguni interned as a Software Engineer/QA Engineer for the event hosting platform Markit Social, founded by Tufts alumnus and member of the 2021 Tufts Venture Accelerator Jonathan Chang. Maya Pockrose interned as a Development Intern for Maven Screen Media, a media company dedicated to increasing representation for women in front of and behind the camera.
Q: What did you learn through the internship experience? What skills did you gain? What was your biggest takeaway?
Mathew Amuguni: In general, I managed to improve my coding skills in all areas through the internship. Things were very much hands on and self-driven, so if I wanted to get something done, it was up to me to learn and improve. I overall gained a better understanding of how testing infrastructure is made and I got better at problem solving. I learned I was much more capable than I thought I was.
Maya Pockrose: I learned how to write concise, effective script coverage, how to work independently and remotely on tasks, and what constitutes a good film script. I learned that I'm interested in pursuing a career in the film and TV industry – that's really my biggest takeaway.
Q: Was there a particular experience or opportunity during your internship that was especially impactful or instructive?
Mathew Amuguni: Because the entire company was a part of the Techstars Boston startup accelerator, I managed to make connections with many other startups in Boston as well as others in the field. Personally, I found that really cool.
Maya Pockrose: Participating in team meetings with my supervisors and fellow interns was a truly valuable experience. We got to share opinions and ideas on scripts, and I felt that my contributions and feedback were listened to and valued.
Q: How did receiving an internship grant impact how you decided to spend your summer?
Mathew Amuguni: The grant really determined where I wanted to go work over the summer. Since I was interning for a startup, I wasn’t going to be compensated normally. The grant allowed me to bypass that issue and work where I wanted, which I really appreciated.
Maya Pockrose: Receiving the grant funding from Tufts made a big difference for me because I was able to fully dedicate myself to my internship assignments without worrying about finding a paid job during the summer to save for future expenses.
Q: What advice would you give to another student seeking to gain entrepreneurial experience over the summer?
Mathew Amuguni: Honestly, you know way more than you think you do, and when you apply yourself you never know what might come out.
Maya Pockrose: I would say to apply to anything that looks interesting to you, and a few things that don't. You never know what might spark a new interest.
Many of the students who receive a grant spend their summer interning for ventures founded by Tufts alumni. One such venture is Tellescope, an all-in-one digital healthcare and wellness solution cofounded by Tufts alumnus Sebastian Coates. During his time at Tufts, Coates earned the Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement and later participated as part of the United Healthcare Techstars Accelerator 2020 cohort. Now, Coates and Tellescope are returning to their roots by hiring Tufts interns.
This past summer, Tellescope hired three Tufts interns: two software engineers and one marketer. Coates explained that his goal for these interns was to provide them with the opportunity to broaden their perspective and gain experiences applying their skills in a real working environment. “Our interns had a chance to learn something they wouldn’t in a classroom,” he said. “Our marketing intern learned B2B marketing skills by actually doing it, and our engineers got to work on real, active projects that our customers use every day.”
Coates also highlighted that the Entrepreneurial Internship Program was just as valuable for him and his organization as it was for the students. “I was blown away by how well our interns worked independently,” he said. “They were eager to get stuff done, and they absolutely helped us to perform better as a company while they were here.” When asked if he would hire Tufts interns again if given the chance in the future, Coates said absolutely.