Cue…”Hunger of the Pine” by Alt-J.
The program started with a make-a-thon at the Harvard Innovation Lab in March 2014. There were 160 of us multidisciplinary Harvard students – across backgrounds like comp sci, business and design, and we were tasked with making a Fidelity starter kit for someone who is new to saving. My group targeted free-lancers and built a kit that enables them to save for themselves as well as their business, without muddling the two in the earliest stages of the process.
A month later, I found out that me and my immediate teammate from the make-a-thon, Joey Kim, and I were selected to be intrapreneurs that summer. I was debating between this opportunity and Spotify. This program was a 9-week pioneer accelerator lab created as joint venture between IDEO, Harvard University and Fidelity Investments. The 16 of us chosen would be broken up into 4 teams of 4, working on: social media, data visualization, artificial intelligence and wearable technology for Fidelity, in the iLab, with the leadership of IDEO mentors and process. We would have classes in the morning that teach us about different phases of the design thinking and building process. I saw this as a chance to work on a super small team, in a very supportive environment, to learn about design thinking and then later see how it applies to the music business. Even though the Spotify opportunity was huge and I had worked hard to get it, I was so attracted to how supportive the Intrapreneur Lab was, and how one of its main missions was to make sure we were learning at all times. That is so hard to find in a summer internship.
I am so happy I chose the Intrapreneur Lab.
Immersing myself in Boston’s subcultures for the summer, living close to where I work, not being in an office, learning raw skillsets like prototyping and graphic designing and getting really close to my team were experiences I cherish so hard.
I worked on a team of 4 to build a data visualization tool that enables Managing Directors at Fidelity to better teach their client plan sponsors about how to align their 401K plan offerings with their workforce strategy, thus attempting to position Fidelity as a strategic business partner rather than a mere vendor.
My favorite part about the 9-weeks was how we had many different people from IDEO’s Cambridge office and teach us about venture creation, human centered design, prototyping and pitching, for example. I really have always imagined innovation as improving a technology or a tool that already exists. I never thought about looking at the journey map of the user, for example, and seeing where she is struggling throughout her day, and then asking the right questions to unearth an answer about how best to solve a problem for said human. It is so simple and yet so far from how I ever conceptualized problem-solving and inventing.
It was a summer of creativity, positivity and power. I learned discipline this summer, what it means to be a loving and caring teammate, what it means to do good work to support your teammate, what it means to brainstorm effectively, to be a leader and a listener simultaneously, to be free to think and create, to work with very few limitations.
It set the barometer high for the kind of work environment I now know I want to have when I graduate.
On the final day, we traveled to Fidelity office in the Boston waterfront to pitch our final concepts to top-level Fidelity executives to see if they would bring our concept to market. I opened our prentation: Industry at large –> opportunity space –> why Fidelity should care –> where and who we are solving for –> why data viz –> what we hope the product will achieve. I used the Myo armband to control the presentation remotely with just the swipe of a hand right and it was sick! It was liberating to be able to control the slides while moving around the room! Then Joey and Chris unveiled the stunning 3-module prototype while Markus finished strong with our recommended go to market and implementation strategy. Pitching felt good. The pressure and the rush and the nerves felt good. I liked having the practice especially since the stakes were relatively low but the opportunity was huge.
At the final lunch following our pitch I teared up a little bit. We had everyone gunning for us that summer. We had our mentors at Fidelity and IDEO genuinely thrilled with what we had delivered after 9-weeks of hard work and I felt like we were set up to win. I always thought our twenties were supposed to be a time where the world kicks our ass and we learn discipline the hard way. This summer though, I felt supported and cheered on, and inspired to go into the second year of my MBA empowered and ready to work even harder.
Speaking about the experience at an HBS Webinar.