From one “for America” to another
Going into Northwestern, I wanted to become a product designer. No, not a digital product designer, but rather an industrial designer. I was fascinated with consumer products – I wanted to design pens, chairs, and toothbrushes. That didn’t exactly pan out seeing as I’m currently a product engineer with a UI/UX focus, which is another story in itself. One thing that did stick with me though is my love for design, particularly design thinking. I joined Design for America (DFA), a student organization that uses design thinking to create social impact locally. I learned a great amount through DFA, and was able to teach and mentor project teams. I was also fortunate to meet students leaders from different universities in DFA.
That’s where the other “for America”, Venture for America (VFA) comes in. There are a handful of students in Design for America who joined Venture for America after graduation. A few of them told me to apply, but initially I wasn’t sold on VFA. The majority of my computer science friends were going to Seattle and Silicon Valley to join companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. Joining Venture for America and going to a Baltimore, Columbus, or New Orleans didn’t seem to be in the cards for me. However, I still applied to VFA to keep my options open and fortunately I made it in.
As a software engineer, VFA Match was a rather intense process due to the number of software roles available as well as requests I got from companies. It was a good problem because I had been searching for UX design/engineering roles for the last few months and been struggling to receive interviews. What really sold me on VFA was not the number of matches, but going to the Cleveland job fair. I had booked a flight on Thursday night and I would leave Friday night back to Chicago. I wasn’t fully invested in VFA and only wanted to make a quick trip to Cleveland then return to Northwestern. The VFA job fair process was nothing like I had experienced before. First, I met with startup founders and fellows that were genuine and down-to-earth, nothing like the disconnected and fake vibe I got from Silicon Valley. Second, these amazing people were excited to meet me and get to know me. They had looked through my resume, my Match profile, and even liked my design portfolio. That whole day was a such a refreshing change from the job search the previous months. I was excited about being a VFA fellow in a scrappy startup.
I did not find Leverege from the Cleveland job fair. We connected over the traditional online match process. What really drew me to Leverege were three things.
I was definitely impressed by the promptness Leverege had throughout the whole process as well as the complexity of the software challenge. From the site visit, I could tell the everyone on the team is a high achieving collaborator, and I wanted to part of that team. Second, Leverege allowed me to write software, work on my UI/UX skills, and learn design from other designers at the company. Finally, the Internet of Things field is bound to get bigger and bigger over time, and I wanted to be part of that. I am extremely happy to join Leverege and grow over the coming years.
Sameer is a Product Engineer at Leverege focusing on UI/UX. He graduated from Northwestern with a degree in computer science and mechanical engineering. His passions include design thinking, traveling, comics, and ice cream.
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