I wrote this essay as a cover letter for a co-op position at MIT's DeepTech Venture Firm.
I cry every time I watch Apollo 13. Near minute 128 of the movie, every NASA employee in the war room is holding their breath, wondering if the heat shield lasted long enough to bring the three astronauts home. When they hear, “Hello Houston, good to see you again,” everyone jumps up for joy. The NASA crew exchanges high-fives and looks of relief. The astronauts salute each other for a safe return. The wives hug their children, crying.
This intense feeling of joy after accomplishing a problematic, mind-twisting task excites me about working at The Engine. I imagine this reaction often happens because of the complexity of the problems portfolio founders are working on.
Working on complex problems daily is the core reason I’m applying for this position. I spent two years at The Knowledge Society, an accelerator program for high school students who wanted to learn how to solve the world’s biggest problems, and each week I’d learn about new emerging technology (AI, Quantum, Synthetic Bio) and a problem area (drug discovery, food waste, carbon emissions). After the sessions, I’d nerd out with the program director and students about tactical ways to implement a solution. I deployed challenging tech-like projects in Senegal, India, and Washington. I’m researching developing countries where brownouts are common and finding ways to connect CFS technology to their grid. Tough tech meets developing countries is my m.o.
Startups, especially tough tech, require ambitious thinkers. Usually, like in the case of The Engine, founders self-select into a community where other ambitious thinkers are. In the program co-op, I’d like to build a community for ambitious thinkers either through hosting events where they get to step away from their companies and think about a problem another company is having or through casual dinners where one CEO’s vision will up the bar of the other CEO’s vision, giving them a new injection of energy to deliver to their team. I saw this energy at the MIT Tough Tech Summit and am still high on smiles. In TKS, I built a community with squad syncs where four people sharing similar ambition and focus paired up for an hour a week (over eight weeks) to share updates on their work, health, and focus for the upcoming week. Not only did the syncs bring clarity for each person, but they were also an opportunity for people who’d already completed a milestone (ex: finishing a machine learning project) to coach another person in a similar way a founder who hired a VP of the technical team can coach a founder in the executive search process. I want the ambition at The Engine to increase so rapidly that the founders and their teams laughed at their purpose two weeks ago.
The current administration has passed several bills affecting The Engine's founders. In the program co-op, I want to be there before the founders need to ask. For example, the Inflation Reduction Act includes several lines about tax cuts and subsidies for climate tech founders. Before the Osmoses team approaches any member of The Engine team with questions about the bill, I’d like to send them a memo outlining how it affects them. In some sense, be their external brain so they can focus on building core technology. When I PM’ed projects at TKS, I’d work double time, writing memos to consolidate group research or coordinating with project advisors via slack so my team could focus only on the building. Though it can sometimes be annoying to be surrounded by people who only think about one thing, it's the place to be if that one thing is what you're trying to do.
There’s something oddly selfish about what motivates me to make an impact. I enjoy challenging things; it gives me the confidence to move up the difficulty ladder and do something more challenging. I want to provide the developing world with the same access to technology, abundance, and richness as today's developed world. I strongly desire to work at The Engine; in some ways, the Tough Tech Summit made me feel at home. Everyone is working on something complex, smiling while doing it, and always open to helping another founder.