3 Months Later, Here’s The Important Question I Learned To Ask

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3 months marks the end of my Software Engineering Internship at burgeoning DC tech start-up, Aquicore. The summer internship gave me an opportunity to dip my feet into an untraditional workplace where employees (we call them Aquicoreans) stepped forward to serve in too many roles to count. It was also a workplace where Aquicoreans brandished an Aquicore shirt and jeans combo on a regular basis- you could dress nicely while still sporting tennis shoes. I saw an untraditional workplace at its finest, while I got a taste for:
  1. Agile Product Development: A widely exercised set of principles utilized by teams to efficiently push out a product with the utmost value to its developers, and its users. Agile is a practice that can be compared to bees swarming as a team to reach their target goals with refined quality and incrementally improving productivity.
  2. The craft of creating a product from scratch, but consistently delivering customer value that is also aligned with business value.


Aquicore is in the business of metering: measuring the water, gas, and electricity being pumped through the veins of buildings. They empower building overseers to see the gallons of water and whatever else is gushing through their building. The best part about it is that they can learn what makes their buildings tick by combing over years of data in Aquicore’s platform or see what is happening behind the walls of the buildings on a real-time minute by minute basis.


Whether I was learning the intricate details of kWh’s or BTU’s (units for energy and work, respectively) or how creative minds decided to run meetings, the 1 question I heard myself saying aloud time and time again was: What exactly does ___________ mean to you? 


I found myself repeating these words not because I was in unchartered waters, but because Aquicore provided an always-on, always-learning, environment where you could strive for excellence, and where you had the support to do just that.

1 instance of this question is relevant to college students (and even high schoolers) more than any other experience. When out at coffee one day with a seasoned entrepreneur and family friend, I found myself asking What exactly does internship mean to you?


He said:

Internship is a word that has infiltrated high schools, colleges, and young minds, alike. Internships are rightly an important character in your life.


As I heard his recommendations for internship programs, my automatic conclusion was that his recommendations were: “for internships he thinks I should do in order to position myself for a home run when I finally applied to my first real job upon graduating from college,” but I learned that it was not quite so simple. Let’s summarize what else came from popping the question: What exactly does internship mean to you?


He finished answering my question with:

Internships represent a new life experience outside of all the structure that comes with high school and higher education in college. It illuminates a new thought process that does not come with the 20 years of schooling that you experience during your early days. Rather than hitting the books and test taking, you jump into learning about how people can put their heads together to solve a problem. Other than that, internships grant an inside-look into the fact that “career” and “job title” are very bloated words. When you have the chance to experience the narratives and stories of like-minded individuals that were once, like yourself, in college, but have since went off and made a career decision, you can benefit tremendously.

Although the importance of the question, “What exactly does internship mean to you?,” highlights the blind spots that every conversation inevitably risks, Aquicore operated in a fashion that made the best sense given their current circumstance. The presence of Aquicore’s business savvy managers and team leads across the board translated to a transparent company vision that every Aquicorean could retain and visualize. This employee-level company vision could very well be attributed to the small size of Aquicore, but I am confident that it originated in a culture that dripped down from team leads. I am grateful to have had the chance to be a part of a team that was constantly light on their foot and always moving forward. A special thanks to the Product team. Go Aquicore!


Aquicore Product Team (Photo Credit: Chris Smith)
Aquicore Product Team (Photo Credit: Chris Smith)

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