Open Letter to Future Graduates

The result of Ariana's 6.111 project

The result of Ariana's 6.111 project

Written by Ariana Eisenstein, LeafLabs, Member of Technical Staff

Hello Soon to be College Graduates,

I have advice for you, especially if you’ll soon be graduating in the next year. I am a recent graduate from MIT starting my career at LeafLabs, working on sensor interface and FPGA design. There are so many students who are starting to think about life beyond school so I wanted to share the knowledge I gained when trying to enter the workforce. I really enjoy what I do and what I am working on, but while I was still in school, I was very uncertain about how to find a job that would be right for me. With the combination of exploring options in and outside of school you can prepare yourself and feel more confident leaving school behind.

First, I suggest having a variety of different experiences under your belt. I tried to take part in many different things while in school that eventually cultivated my interests. In both my Master’s of Engineering [MENG] research and my classwork, I had explored FPGA design and sensor integration. These were fun and interesting projects, but I had also enjoyed working on other topics and with other technologies. Second, I suggest talking to a lot of different people.  Talking to both friends and colleagues at MIT gave me a sense of what opportunities existed. For example, my MENG research began as a project recommended to me by my 6.111 instructor Gim Hom (those who have taken any classes at MIT that meet in the 5th and 6th teaching labs of Building 38 floor know Gim. He is generally ushering students out at lab close). We often spoke about projects or ideas in the digital design space. This is just one instance of how I found inspiration for where to take my engineering interests.

Once I had an idea of what areas I would like to explore I employed a similar tactic when I was interviewing with several companies. In order to make an informed decision, I talked to many different companies and accepted many interviews. While I mainly focused on the digital and firmware design areas, I also talked to a couple places out of these areas just to be sure that I didn’t like them. So my third piece of advice, is to remember that companies are not only interviewing you; you are interviewing the company. There is a difference between finding a job and a finding a job that you will enjoy. At career fairs and in the subsequent weeks, you will see and meet with many types of companies in many different industries. The important thing to remember is that while these companies are assessing whether you are a good fit for them, you also need to be assessing whether the company is good fit for you.

Once you start conversations with these companies, there are some additional thoughts you should be aware of. The first and biggest is whether you enjoy the work the company does! Working on something that is uninteresting to you will quickly become boring and your job will be no fun. To find this out, I asked a lot about the type of projects I’d be involved in and what the company was currently working on. Secondly, will you enjoy the environment you will be working in? Considering whether you like where the company is and the people you are working with is very important. Third, is getting a sense of how the company operates and what your role in your team or group would be. When undertaking your own job search, you may find additional factors that affect your decision, but those 3 points should definitely be a part of your considerations. Fourth is to make sure any questions you have about get answered in your interview or communication with the company.

The final thing to remember is that no decision is truly final. You can start a career and then later change and do something different. You’ll learn a lot through trial and error but by continuing to strive for fulfilling projects and work experiences, you will know whether you are at the right place at the right time.

I hope this advice helps you all when trying to make the best decisions, as you near the end of your time at school.

Best of Luck!