Olin students tend to do many interesting things over the summer. Rising senior Allison Patterson is living in Somerville, MA this summer and working for the prescription management startup company PillPack, instead of returning home to central California. We were curious about her experience there so far, and here’s what she had to say about it.
Allison and Felix
What is a typical day like at PillPack?
I usually roll into the office at about 9am, make myself some coffee and maybe some oatmeal (there's a kitchen there, it's awesome). I pick up work where I left off the day before while I eat my breakfast. At 11am, all the developers have a standup Agile meeting. That's usually the point where I warn certain devs that I'm going to need their help that day because of problems x, y, and z. I bug the other devs for help a LOT. But they tell me it's okay, because learning from them is kind of the point of the internship. So I spend most of the day working one on one with various other devs. A lot of my work has been focused around designing and building admin-facing tools for the business side of PillPack’s web application.
One thing that’s especially cool about that is that I get to directly interact with the pharmacy technicians (super sweet people!) who will be using these tools that I build. It’s a great chance to get some practice with user research, collaborative design and direct user feedback. Plus it’s really satisfying getting to see in person exactly how the tools I build every day help to improve the pharmacy workflow. Oh, and I also have lunch somewhere in there (from the super awesome convenient kitchen) and then I usually head home around 5 - 5:30pm.
Do you have time for fun? What do you like to do?
I certainly have fun at work. There doesn't really need to be time set aside for it. I love working on cool projects with the awesome, funny, brilliant, patient, friendly, wonderful people I work with. And naturally I have plenty of spare time on the weekends, which is when I like to go for walks and hang out at some of Somerville's lovely public parks.
Felix hanging out on the couch
How has your time at Olin prepare you for the real world?
Oh goodness, without Olin, I'd be petrified of the real world. There's no way I could learn what I need to know for my internship by burying my nose in a book and shutting myself away with my computer. It's ABSOLUTELY necessary to collaborate with the other devs on pretty much everything, which would be really intimidating if Olin hadn't prepped me so well for teaming experiences. It's still a little intimidating to work with the devs here because they're older and more experienced, but I just kind of have to pretend that they're my buddies and/or professors from Olin, and then it's not quite as scary. Coincidentally, one of the devs at PillPack also has a voice so similar to Mark Somerville's, it's uncanny. He makes it REALLY easy to pretend I'm just working with a professor. Then it just feels like an average day at Olin!
Which courses best prepared you for your current work?
Definitely, DEFINITELY olin.js is the course that I've referenced most with what I'm currently working on. Interestingly enough, olin.js is actually a student-taught class. Of course we have a ton of brilliant professors, but one thing Olin knows is that we have some truly brilliant students here too! I think it’s awesome that Olin gives real class credits for these kind of student-led courses to encourage us to share our skills and take advantage of the great resources around us, including our peers. I'll be honest, olin.js was one of those courses that I went through feeling like there was just WAY too much knowledge to cram into my brain. Even at the end of the course, I still felt pretty dazed about it all. But once I started my internship with PillPack, suddenly I had the chance to APPLY what I'd done in olin.js, and WOW! It was a whirlwind of a class, but I learned so much more from it than I'd realized!
Turns out your head really does stop spinning after a while.
Do you feel that there are any advantages to working at a startup company rather than a larger established one?
I definitely am loving the small-company feel. It really promotes an atmosphere where people are friends and mentors, not just co-workers. It's actually a very Olin-like feeling. You take a bunch of smart, funny, talented people, throw them into an awesome environment to learn and explore and do great things, and BAM! You get magic. Plain and simple.