Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tufts students visit Second Wind

Former intern Nicole Slaughter is now a junior advisor for the CSEMS program at Tufts. This unpronounceable acronym is a mentoring program for students in Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (the final "S" is for Scholars. These students' workstudy job is to be mentored by faculty advisors and peer mentors, and to attend on-campus workshops and field trips. Second Wind was a good choice for a field trip because it's very close to the Tufts campus. The field trips are done during the students' lunch break, and the one van delivered them in two successive groups. Besides former intern Nicole, one of our current interns is a recent Tufts grad, and our founder and CEO Walter Sass is a Tufts alum.

It was awkward from the get-go because during lunch the office is underpopulated, so there aren't as many friendly faces to explain what they do. There was quite a bit of pointing at empty chairs. Walter toured the students through our production facility, showing them how we build and ship thousands of units from our fairly anonymous Davis Square location. He also showed them some of the Triton testing equipment, whereupon some brightened as they recognized familiar tools like the oscilloscope.

Intern Andrew toured them around the rest of the company. He spends most of his time in engineering and testing, so I filled in explaining sales. My quick summary: sales from the salespeople pay the salaries of the engineers, and if you don't want a Dilbert job as an engineer, you might look into sales or sales engineering. I also toured them through the admin area, explaining the harsh world of customer credit.

Generally, Tufts delivered us a bunch of introverts, except for one guy who not only got my "walk this way" Young Frankenstein reference, but generously walked that way. I'm not sure whether we are bad tour guides or that the students haven't learned to look interested in grownups. Hopefully we'll get feedback soon.


Nicole said...

So we talked to some of the students today who went on the trip, and many of them seemed to really enjoy it. They told us that they were unsure of what kind of questions to ask, so we gave them some suggestions for the future.
So no, you weren't bad tour guides... but we could have been better prepared with questions.

TuftsStudent001 said...

I agree. I enjoyed the trip as much as everyone else, and the tour was great. I really wanted to ask questions about the difficulty of building a start up company and what ideas/problems were involved in the design of the product. But I thought those questions were too general.

kory said...

I really enjoyed the tour. I was excited to learn that Visual Basic is actually used in the field. I liked seeing the upstairs office and the production/testing room a lot. The sales was interesting enough, just not quite what I am into. I thought the tour was great.

Walter's tonka computer made my day a little brighter as well.

I really liked the facilities and the closer group feel of the workplace. It reminded me a lot of when I worked at my high school managing the network (I'm from a small school).

It was great learning about Triton as well, my dad is interested in wind farms so it gave me something innovative to tell him about that he was actually interested in. Unfortunatly a family friend recently bought one of the collapsible towers for measuring wind (he needs to hire a crane every time he wants to move it and he paid more than Triton would have cost).

Anyways, I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed the tour a lot.

~Kory Thacher

PS: I walked in that way.

Jay said...

So I did think the tour was pretty boring. It's hard to act interested in a place that doesn't look all that interesting, let's be honest, and the 8 or so employees in the whole building looked like they could fall asleep at any time. Also, your introvert comment was very classless. What do you expect from of a bunch of engineering and computer science students taking they're field trip into an actual work space. Most of the technology there was over our heads anyways, so I'm sure a lot of the students were lost. I did think the Triton was very cool though.

Sara said...

Hmm. The above student clearly has yet to learn the meaning of tasteful feedback. Please do not assume all of us here at Tufts are equally tactless.

I also enjoyed the tour. As a person interested in computer science, it was nice to learn that the skills I am learning are useful wherever one ends up working. Also, your technology is right at the heart of the movement for environmental research. When I first heard how the Triton functioned compared to towers, I thought "this is so crucial. Why haven't I heard more about this?"

I appreciate the smaller work environment as well. To be able to walk through the office and greet each person by name comfortably - that is definitely something I will be looking for in a future workplace.

Please understand: many of us had just spent a good forty minutes waiting for the shuttle. We were not in the most uplifted of moods.

Furthermore, it is always a bit of a balance isn't it? If we'd been a bit too lively (quite possible, I assure you) we might have faced a reprimand back at base (no matter how old we feel we are). Respect versus energy. It's too bad it was read as disinterest.