What it’s like to be an MIT extern at BlinkTag

For the last month, we’ve been holding MIT undergrad Michelle Wang hostage as part of MIT’s 2012 Student/Alumni Externship Program. Now that she’s safe at home in Boston and free to speak, we thought we’d publish her thoughts on what it’s like to be an MIT extern at BlinkTag’s office in San Francisco. Thanks for putting up with us, Michelle!

Here are her answers, unedited. (Photos and captions by Trucy Phan and Brendan Nee).

Externing with BlinkTag = Michelle in a food/work coma.

What was your first impression of our office space?

Arriving at the warehouse was like stepping into one of those I Spy books. An eclectic miscellany of things decorated every surface while the murals and programmable LED table were fondly reminiscent of MIT’s east campus culture of creative hacking and building. The nets strung across the walkways just begged to be climbed on. My first thought was that there’s no way I could ever get bored in this space. And yeah, I was pretty excited to be here.

BlinkTag visits Google

What’s your favorite thing about working at BlinkTag?

The BlinkTag team (Brendan, Trucy, Brendan’s moustache, and Jed) and the flexibility to both work and play with multiple project options to work on and hundreds of little things to do in the city.

Michelle in a ball pit on a Google visit

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on so far and why?*

Visualizing accessibility data for the EJToolkit. It was cool mostly because I’ve never worked with data visualization before and graphs are always pretty. It was also a chance to work with the d3 library and finally do some PHP. Woo.

*not including top secret BlinkTag projects

Part of Michelle's work with d3

What is the most creepy/interesting thing you’ve seen in the Mission?

I’m not sure what this counts as or if it’s even relevant and I don’t know why I’m bringing it up but I think I walked past a man who appeared to be defecating on the pavement kind of close to the warehouse. Although he could have just been chilling there.

As for actual things, Paxton Gate was interesting and only slightly creepy. A store with ridiculous displays of nature and taxidermy. It was carefully curated and an impressive collection of natural history. Not to mention the pirate store right next door.

How many burritos have been consumed?

Too many.

Would you recommend working at BlinkTag to other MIT students?

Yeah, wholeheartedly. It’s an awesome way to see the SF tech scene and Brendan and Trucy are more than enthusiastic about taking you around, introducing you to people, making you eat, and providing just enough guidance for you to learn a bunch of useful web stuff along the way. And you get away from the cold harsh winter that’s happening in Boston.

Outside Yamo, one of many places we took Michelle to eat in the Mission

Other thoughts

I have eaten so much great food in the past month. I will probably won’t be hungry until May.

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