The five of us were picked up each morning promptly at 10 am by Meg Nacios, the sister of our host Brooke Stevenson ‘01. Our Princeternship began with a tour of the office, which was large and spacious, especially considering that the startup had only 22 employees, but had a close-knit and comfortable atmosphere. In addition to the offices highlighted by brightly colored yoga balls, there was a kitchen area, a ping pong area, as well as a yoga and conference room where we would be working.
We spent the first two days immersing ourselves in the technologies. Given presentations from a couple of employers from Spry Inc., we learned about semantics and in particular, ontology triples and RDFs. Armed with information packets provided to us, we created simple RDF files and used online validation services to make sure that we were on the right track. From there, we moved on to learning SPARQL, a programming language similar to SQL for managing relational databases, and how to query for the RDFs we had just learned using OWL ontologies. In addition, we signed up for Knoodl accounts, which helped manage information using the technologies we had been learning. Through Knoodl we were first introduced to BioBIG, which was the focus of our final project that we worked on during our third and final day. In terms of technologies learned, this Princeternship was breathtakingly fast-paced. As soon as I began to grasp one concept or language, we quickly moved on to the next, all with the patient advice and help from various employees who took time out of their busy schedules to mentor and teach us.
This fast-paced learning was balanced with a number of breaks that occurred throughout the day. During the office lunch break when food was delivered and everyone in the office would come out and socialize, many of the workers would migrate towards the ping pong table. Although there were limited “ping pong hours” throughout the work day, over time many of the employees at Spry had clearly honed their skills and had become very impressive at the game. The playful, energetic atmosphere of this small startup company was most clearly captured during these ping pong tournaments, where large groups gathered to watch their friends and coworkers battle it out on the ping pong table.
We also talked to a large number of people, which was without a doubt the most valuable part of my Princeternship experience. Throughout the course of the three days we had at Spry, we came into contact and actually talked with every single person in the company! Some employees dropped by to give us a presentation, some came to explain a technology they were familiar with, others simply came to talk, and all of them answered any questions we had and offered us advice on college, jobs and life in general. Being able to talk to so many talented individuals, including our host Brooke, the directors and chairs, as well as a number of other Princeton alums, we learned more about what to do during college, life after Princeton, and the hiring process from the perspective of those recruiting and interviewing for those positions. It was an eye-opening experience to hear advice from people with such a range of perspective and experiences.
I would enthusiastically recommend the Princeternship program to everyone. Although the duration of the program was short, throughout the course of my Princeternship I learned more than I could have possibly hoped for and had a great time meeting and talking to so many wonderful individuals.