Written by Sage Corps 2017 alumnus, Michael Umenta.
Why Sage Corps?
It was during the Spring semester of my senior year at Vanderbilt University when I stumbled upon an email from Sage Corps with a subject that read: “Intern Abroad with a Tech Startup - FINAL Deadline Friday”. I didn’t remember seeing any emails before this one, but curious, I decided to explore Sage Corps to see what it was about. Quite honestly, it was an answer to my prayers. As a Computer Science major with my senior year coming to a close, I was caught in between a number of potential post grad options, from pursuing a startup dream with some good friends, to pursuing an engineering role at one of a few large tech companies. The thing was, none of those options seemed like exactly the right fit at the time, so I still hadn’t felt settled in what I was doing until that email came along. By allowing me the opportunity to both intern for a startup and travel abroad—two things I’ve had a burning desire to do but hadn’t yet—I had one last chance of exploration before committing myself post grad. Thus, I took the risk and went all in, and I couldn’t even tell you how perfect of a decision that was.
On the Ground
While a fellow, I interned in Berlin for a music tech startup named Soundbrenner. As a software developer, my primary task involved improving the accessibility capabilities of their iOS app, to make it more usable for visually impaired musicians. This turned out to be hands down one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on, because nothing beats reading the grateful reviews of users who are now able to use an app that they were previously unable to. But the impact didn’t stop there. After moving on from my work with accessibility, I was able to help refine the UI for Soundbrenner’s iPad version, as well as guide the transition of the company’s coding language from Objective-C to Swift!
Though the technical growth was amazing, the part where I felt like this internship benefitted me most was being able to play an active role in the progression of Soundbrenner as a company. Through daily stand ups, bi-weekly sprints, and monthly company wide meetings (Soundbrenner was actually headquartered in Hong Kong!), I was granted a birds eye view into the happenings of the company, where my fresh insight was appreciated and oftentimes sought after.
Workdays were packed, but with the unique opportunities that present themselves when abroad, of course I took on the challenge of trying to learn as much German as possible! Some of my fondest memories were the hours spent practicing speaking the language either with people in my cohort, or fellow enthusiasts at meetups. Time would fly because learning the language would flow as a natural byproduct of just spending time getting to know people from all walks of life, and it was a experience that I’ll forever cherish.
Where is He Now?
Since I had already graduated by the time my internship with Sage Corps started, my mindset going into it was to not make any obligations to any companies prior to starting so that I could be open to any opportunities that arose during my internship, whether in Berlin or back in the U.S. After my internship, I ended up deciding not to stay in Berlin (though I came close!), but the experience gave me mental clarity on what opportunities I wanted to pursue back in the U.S. This led me to set up interviews with a number of the recruiters I had been corresponding with before Sage Corps, ultimately resulting in me taking on a full time role doing iOS software engineering for Google - a position I would not have gotten if not for all the iOS experience I gained developing with Soundbrenner.
Overall, my experience interning with Sage Corps was invaluable for all the reasons mentioned above, but perhaps the most unexpected side effect from my time working abroad was the newfound identity I now have as a citizen of the world, something that I will carry for the rest of my life.
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