Hope Lorah ’17, Wattvision

Hope-LorahMy Princeternship took place right on Nassau Street of Princeton in a space used by numerous startups called TigerLabs. I am not sure what I expected to see when I walked inside, but it was not the open, modern, and comfortable space where I spent my next four days.  Although my Princeternship was only meant to last three days, the other Princetern Grant and I were invited to come back for a fourth day and gladly did so.  Among the tables of startups sharing a large common room was a section for Wattvision, where Grant and I would use our laptops and work on the projects that the founder, Savraj Dhanjal ‘03, gave us over the following days.  Savraj shared with us his fantastic history in working with computers and technology and answered some questions of ours about finding employers and getting off the ground with a career in the area.

The first day at Wattvision, Grant and I started off by having a meeting with Savraj to discuss ideas for the company, critiques of the website, or questions we might have.  Right away it made me aware of the flexibility and adaptability of startups; he was immediately ready to hear our ideas and critiques of the Wattvision website and use them to improve and add to the effectiveness of the site.  I also had my first look into the collaboration that seems to be a big possibility with startups, which interests me.  Throughout the week we would bounce ideas off of one another, get second opinions, and together come up with the best solution to a problem. At any point, suggestions about how the company could be more effective in any of its areas was welcomed and noted so that they might be used in the future.  The first day Savraj also oriented us to Wattvision’s space in TigerLabs and the tools that the company uses to stay organized.  I learned how to use a company communication/management site “Slack” that lets employees access different channels of conversations, allowing a level of organization for the communication that happens about different projects. Before long there was a new channel named “interns” for Grant and I with a list of projects to accomplish over the following days.  I enjoyed being given real tasks within the company instead of simply watching others do work; I had the chance to make an impact on the progress of Wattvision in its product release.

One project to accomplish was setting up the Amazon page for the latest version of Wattvision’s product.  I learned how being a company works with Amazon and after a few conversations with people from the company had a submitted set of product details waiting to be accompanied by a sample of the product sent to Amazon. There were more steps and complications to the process than I would have imagined, but I enjoyed working on something that will be used for the marketing of the product.

Grant and I also helped in the assembly Lorah 1and setup of a batch of Wattvision gateways, which ispart of Wattvision’s product. We worked to get the gateways associated with their respective MAC addresses and check that the configuration of the gateways was correct. I learned about how the process of Kickstarters with backers works and that they would be receiving the first of the new version of the Wattvision sensor.  Getting the product to the customer was another project that needed attention. Grant and I learned about an online shipping label generator and the API it used.  We ended up coding in Python, a language I had no prior experience in at the time.  Between some tips and some online research I made progress in developing my coding skills. Savraj helped by teaching me some of the basics of Python and pointing me in the direction of a new text editor that I quickly learned to love.

Part of each of my days was walking to a restaurant on Nassau for lunch, a great break to get good food and talk to people from the other startups within TigerLabs.  I got the opportunity to hear about some fantastic ideas in progress that I hope to see launch in the future. I loved the open community space and feel to TigerLabs, and we even celebrated the birthday of someone from one of the startups over lunch our first day!

Another project that I worked on was designing an energy competition in which the residential colleges within Princeton University could compete with each other.  This meant considering the most effective ways to compare energy usage between colleges that have different numbers of student and buildings as well as different innate efficiencies based off of various ages of the buildings themselves.  It also meant deciding how the current Wattvision online model could be adapted into a competition for all of the students to see updated data. For Princeton to like the competition implementation that Wattvision presents meant that Princeton would become a client of Wattvision for all of its residential college dorms.  After Grant and I constructed a presentation outlining a set of guidelines, visuals, and formulas for the competition, I created an image to advertise the energy competition with the name under which we decided to present it.  It will be exciting to see my work and Wattvision’s product having a presence on Princeton’s campus!

Lorah 2Another highlight of my time at Wattvision was having the opportunity to have Savraj teach Grant and I about editing a webpage. It was something I had little knowledge about before but am glad to understand now, and it was interesting watching the interaction between the live webpage and how Savraj edited the version just on his machine. He was generous in taking the time to explain a lot of helpful tech tips and tools to Grant and me throughout the week that I hope to make use of in the future! Among this was research that I did into creating a responsive webpage, one that will work appropriately for desktop, tablet, and smartphone viewing.

Overall, being at Wattvision was a great experience.  I feel like I got an accurate feel for what a startup and particularly a tech startup is like.  I learned about important skills for someone in the IT field and saw the business side of a company, including getting the chance to sit in on a business call with an in-progress partner for Wattvision. Savraj was extremely helpful in introducing me and Grant to useful skills and resources as well as giving us the opportunity to use our skills to impact the company.