My internship combined two unique interests I’d like to pursue post-grad: French and Computer Science. The founders of the startup, Kirsten and Moi, received one of Macron’s new “French Tech Visas,” which aim to draw talent to France. I had the fortunate opportunity to work with them this summer, gaining knowledge and experience on what it’s like to start a company from the ground up. I learned about the “do-it-all” attitude, which people working in startups learn to embrace. No day was the same, but I liked it like that. We worked on always moving forward and making progress, which somedays felt like I accomplished that, and others not so much. I also got to experience when they made the big decision to “pivot” their company into a difference industry. Their first business was called Deskless, which paired freelance engineers with companies that needed project-based engineering work. When I arrived in France, they were in the middle of making a tough decision: continue with Deskless or pivot. They included me in this decision. Having studied French for 7 years, and studying abroad with the Skidmore in Paris program, I helped by giving my opinion on if they should pivot or not. The freelance aspect is a fantastic idea in France because it is extremely difficult to fire people, therefore making the “freelance” aspect enticing. However, the freelance and work-from-wherever movement is slightly ahead of its time in France. In a couple years, that business will be perfect, but in my opinion, it wasn’t at its optimal time.
The pivot was to a company temporarily called Vert, which pairs professional running coaches with trail runners that are looking to train for long races and ultra-marathons. My boss, Moi, is a professional trail runner and has already been training people for years. Not only was this business a better concept for right now, but the co-founders have more passion and knowledge for this industry. It was slightly defeating to work hard towards one concept only to pivot later. At Vert I began writing a Java program to auto-generate workout schedules based on certain rules for what time of workouts can be which days. The next project I worked on was figuring out everything to do with email automation, then how to encrypt our site with an SSL certificate. That was extremely complicated and intricate, but I learned a lot about the attitude “if one thing doesn’t work out, then try the next.”
Language wise I spoke French with everyone except my bosses. Making friends in Lyon was different than the last time I was living in France during study abroad. I had no formal setup for having friends by default (ie other study abroad students like in Paris), so I had to make friends on my own. Especially by the end of my first week I was feeling pretty lonely, so I went to a couple of French/English language exchange meetup groups. From this I learned how to make friends from scratch and how to truly immerse myself in Lyonnais culture. My internship experience in Lyon this summer gave me French business, startup, and expat knowledge that I know will benefit me in my nearby post-grad future.